REMEMBERING ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM
Interviewer: B.J. Major
This interview received in email on
Q. Arnaldo, I would like to begin by asking you how long you knew Tom Jobim personally?
A. The first album I ever purchased was a LP titled Brazilian Beat Vol.2, by the legendary arranger Meirelles. I was four years old and I was walking in a street with my father, in Copacabana, when I heard a sound that hypnotized me. It was coming from the speakers of a record shop. They were playing one of the tracks from that Meirelles LP, a beautiful recording of Jobim's Desafinado. I immediately asked my father to buy it! From that day, I became a fan of both Meirelles and Jobim, and started to look for any of their albums. That's how I knew Jobim's music. But I only knew Jobim personally in 1980, when I published a review about his Terra Brasilis album in my weekly column in the newspaper Tribuna da Imprensa (Press Tribune). Someone told him about that review and Jobim himself gave me a call just to say THANK YOU! I couldn't believe I was receiving a phone call from one of the world's leading artists! After that occasion, we met several times between 1980 and 1987, mostly in the backstage after his concerts in Rio.
Q. How would you characterize the way he was personally with others, both musicians and non-musicians?
A. It would be unfair to say that we were close friends. He was a big idol for me. And he always have showed respect for me both as an historian (the two of us hated the word critic) and as a producer. Like all the geniuses, he had a very special personality, he was a very special character. I know people that hated him, I know people that loved him. He was frequently very importuned by other musicians who were always asking to show him tapes etc. So, sometimes he needed to be rude with those people.
But he was a very special human being, someone who always worried about ecology long before this term became fashionable. At the same time that he loved New York, with all that urban chaos, he loved nature and the peace he could find in some hidden places in Rio de Janeiro.
In the business aspect, I always heard many complaints about Jobim, regarding mostly his attitude with the musicians. For example: when that Tom Jobim Apresenta album came out in Brazil, in 1965, with a big sketch of Jobim on the front cover (instead of crediting Gaya and Deodato as the album leaders) it seems that Jobim did nothing to amend the mistake--when a phone call to the album producer (his friend and partner Aloysio de Oliveira)--would have been enough to correct the info.
I suspect that that was the reason why, after that date, Gaya never accepted to work with Jobim again, because they had been friends for many years, they had studied with the same music teacher (Koellreuter), Gaya had done the arrangements for the legendary Sylvia Telles' Amor de Gente Moça album (in 1959) which consisted of Jobim's songs exclusively. I mean to say that they had collaborated in many projects and [then] suddenly they split.
When the aforementioned Tom Jobim Apresenta was released in the USA (under the new title Love, Strings And Jobim, crediting Jobim both as the pianist (instead of Deodato) and the guitarist (instead of Oscar Castro-Neves)), the discomfort became worse. And Jobim never did anything to revert the situation. It seems that he kept saying: "it happens, sometimes these things happen..." And he would blame the recording companies, although he never wanted to confront them.
These things led people who--for other reasons always had envied him--to say bad things about him.
The musicians who played on Jobim's albums had similar complaints. When the Matita Pere album was released in Brazil, Jobim allowed the record company (Philips) to delete the names of most of the musicians (only Ron Carter, Joao Palma and Airto were credited in very small letters in the back cover) and authorized the A&R at Philips (Eduardo Athayde) to be credited as the album producer--when it had been produced by Claus Ogerman for MCA. If you compare the recent Brazilian and American CD reissues of Matita Pere, you will confirm these absurd things!
More problems occured when the Terra Brasilis album was issued in Brazil, with none of the musicians credited on the cover (which had been modified, at Jobim's request) to include a big painting by his son Paulo, that was used instead of the musicians list and instead of the Claus Ogerman photo from the original USA release...The same way that the first Sinatra/Jobim had been important to Dom Um Romao's career, as the Wave album was important to Claudio Slon, the drummer on Terra Brasilis, Pascoal Meirelles, was very proud of that session. He was very young and studying at the Berklee College in Boston when Jobim invited him to do the date in 1979 (Joao Palma, the drummer in all Jobim's albums from Sinatra & Company in 1969 to Urubu in 1975 was unavailable in Rio). When Pascoal graduated and returned to Brazil, he told everybody about his recording with Jobim. But, when the album came out here, his name wasn't there. Even today there are people who say he never played with Jobim...
Deodato also was hurt many times by Jobim. When they worked together, in the soundtracks for The Girl From Ipanema and The Adventurers movies, Jobim was always featured alone on the front covers. On The Adventurers album, even some of the songs written by Deodato (Rome Montage among them) were credited to Jobim. Plus: Deodato says that, when the Sinatra & Company album was released, it was Sinatra who decided to feature Deodato's name in the front cover. It bothered Jobim, who considered an absurd situation that someone yet unknown like Deodato had received such a big exposure. Last comment: also according to Deodato, after he became a star with the huge hit Zarathustra/2001, Jobim never spoke to him any more more! They only met again briefly in the early 90s, in a party in New York...
Do you remember that article about Joao Donato, which I wrote for Keyboard magazine in '96 and which is reproduced in your Donato site? Take a look in what Donato said about Jobim's attitude to his colleagues...
Another interesting thing I remembered: when Sinatra came to perform in Brazil for the first time, in the late 70s (I think 1978), he kept saying for almost two months that he wanted to meet Jobim once again, that he would like to invite Jobim to perform as a special guest on the concert at the Maracana, the big soccer stadium for over 150,000 people. Well, Jobim simply disappeared so that he would not have to attend the concert or play with Sinatra. Can you explain that? But in 1994 he accepted Sinatra's invitation to record on the Duets II album. Sinatra recorded his vocal part in NY, and producer Phil Ramone traveled to Rio to record Jobim's piano and vocal on the intro of Fly Me To The Moon.
Q. Some people discount the influence of American jazz on Jobim's own work. Whom do you think were Jobim's biggest influences on his own music and style?
A. For sure Jobim was very influenced by American jazz, especially by the cool-jazz generation of Mulligan and Baker. But this influence was mixed, in his musical personality, with other very strong influences from the European classical music (like Bonfa and Deodato, he was a big fan of Debussy and Ravel), from the samba and from the great Brazilian classical composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. Jobim was also fortunate to study with Joachim Koellreuter in the 1950s, [who was] a master in [the] twelve-tone system. But the biggest influence on Jobim's music was Joao Gilberto. I consider that we can talk about four periods in Jobim's career: the first one dates from the early '50s to 1958, when he worked at nightclubs as a pianist, as a sideman with Luiz Bonfa, and as an arranger for the Continental label; the second dates from 1958 to 1963, when he developed a deep association with Joao Gilberto; the third one is the Jobim post-64, when he once again changed his compositional style, doing his mostly jazz-influenced albums such as Tide and Stone Flower, as well as the mostly classical-oriented such as Matita Pere and the superb Urubu; the fourth period is the less interesting one, and dates from 1980 to 1994.
Back to Gilberto: after he listened to Joao's new guitar and singing style, Jobim modified his own composition style completely. In the space of a few months, there was a complete difference between their first recordings together. Their first date together, in January 1958, with Joao as the guitarist and Jobim as the arranger on the tracks Chega de Saudade and Outra Vez, from Elizabeth Cardoso's legendary Cançao do Amor Demais album (regarded as the first official bossa nova recording) shows Joao adapting Jobim's songs to his style, by adding the new beat soon to be identified as the bossa nova beat. When Joao Gilberto recorded Desafinado, some months later, we can clearly notice how Jobim had incorporated Gilberto's musical personality to his compositional style.
Basically, what happened is that Jobim started to compose having Joao's style on his mind, knowing that Joao would be the first one to record them. Several bossa standards were born this way: One Note Samba, Once I Loved, How Insensitive, Quiet Nights, Meditation and the list goes on and on.
After Gilberto and Jobim split, soon after the Getz/Gilberto album release, they only met again in New York in 1971--when Jobim showed him a brand-new composition titled Waters of March--which, according to Leonard Feather, is one of the ten best songs of all-time. However, Jobim and Gilberto only performed together again in December 1992, exactly 30 years after their last live performance together. They were reunited for two concerts (one in Rio, another one in Sao Paulo) filmed for a TV Special, for which I had the honor to work as musical director, author of the texts, and even as the mixing engineer. Unfortunately, it also became their last performance together...
Q. About how many times did you get to interview Tom yourself?
A. I did only one interview with Jobim. I took the opportunity to do it in 1991 when he came to my house to visit a friend--the famous NY-based Brazilian guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima--who was my guest in Rio at that time. I never insisted in making other ones because Jobim hated interviews... It was typical of him to answer things that had nothing to do with the questions.
Like used to happen with Bonfa, you could ask Jobim something like: what do you think of Ron Carter, since it seems that he is your favorite bassist, isn't he? And then Jobim would answer: do you see that mountain, those birds? Do you [know] the name of these birds? It was almost impossible to talk with him about music...! But, when someone interviewed him about ecology and other things, he was very amiable. He also loved to talk about the Indians, how they had been killed in Brazil etc.
Q. Were you involved in other projects with Tom Jobim besides the interviews?
A. In 1989, I was invited to write the liner notes for the first CD reissue of Jobim's Stone Flower album for CTI. These notes were used in all the future issues. Most recently, in June 2000, I was contracted to write updates notes for a 24-bit digitally remastered Japanese CD version of Stone Flower, which was part of a CTI reissue series I also supervised. Also in 2000, Verve asked me to supervise the CD reissue of Tide, for which I provided the complete data and musicians list, unknown until then. As I mentioned before, I worked with Jobim and Joao Gilberto on that TV Special for Globo TV network (titled Joao & Antonio) which was broadcast in December 1992. It was their first performance together in 30 years! I had the privilege to work as the musical director, also writing all the texts and doing the mixing of the songs Jobim performed with Gilberto (although Jobim's solo numbers were mixed by his grandson, Daniel Jobim). I only regret that, some years later, that TV special was used as the centerpiece of a video commercially released worldwide, titled Bossa Nova: Music And Reminiscences, on which I was credited only as mixing engineer. They never paid me any royalties, they never got my authorization to use my texts...Brazil!
Back to good memories: the first and last time we worked together in a studio was in October 1994 during the sessions for Ithamara's Rio Vermelho (Red River) album, which I produced. We recorded three songs, although only one (All That's Left Is To Say Goodbye) was included on the CD. Unfortunately, it became Jobim's final recording session, since he passed away in December 1994 in NY. Maybe someday I will have the chance to release the other tracks.
Q. Do you have a favorite Jobim album?
A. My five favorite Jobim albums are Stone Flower, Tide, Matita Pere, Urubu and the soundtrack for The Adventurers. Not to mention the two dates with Sinatra and his performance on Getz/Gilberto.
Q. How do you think Tom Jobim's music will be remembered many years from now?
A. First of all, I must say I hope he would not be remembered for his last (and musically poor) albums from the Eighties, such as Rio Revisited and the posthumous release Antonio Brasileiro on Sony, for which he won his only Grammy Award ever. Do you know on which category? Latin Jazz! Give me a break!!!
Jobim always was (and forever will be) acclaimed as a genius, one of the bossa nova creators. Sometimes people refer to him as the Brazilian Cole Porter. For sure he is the most famous (and most recorded) Brazilian composer in the world!
So, I feel very sad when currently I read many young and stupid critics referring to him as a World-Music Pioneer. This is completely ridiculous! Jobim's music was always very sophisticated, very elegant, very refined, with no connection with the exotic elements which characterize the world-music label. We can't accept it, BJ!
Q. Do you have a favorite Jobim composition?
A. Oh, I have so many favorites. Two of them are not so well known songs, Tereza My Love and Andorinha, from the Stone Flower album. I also love Nuvens Douradas, Rancho das Nuvens (both featuring gorgeous Urbie Green's trombone solos) and Tempo do Mar, from Matita Pere. The Adventurers soundtrack is a masterpiece, for which Jobim wrote Children Games, Amparo and Sue Ann. From Urubu, my favorite tracks are the two long classical suites Saudade do Brazil and Arquitetura de Morar, orchestrated by Claus Ogerman, not to mention the sumptuous ballads Luiza and Angela, as well as the toada Correnteza, co-written with Luiz Bonfa.
And, one of my favorite Jobim performances is Aquarela do Brazil, from Stone Flower. In my opinion, it is the best recording ever of this Brazilian hymn written by Ary Barroso!
Thank you, Arnaldo, for the interview!
DISCOVERING JOÃO DONATO
Interviewer: B.J. Major
This interview received in
email on 3/1/01.
Q. Arnaldo, could we begin with your telling me how long you have known Donato personally?
I'm a big fan of Donato since my childhood, when I listened, in late 1973, to one of his recordings of the Amazonas tune, from the Quem E Quem album, which was receiving airplay in a radio station named Jornal do Brasil AM. I immediately purchased that album, and began to look for any other Donato albums I could find. The second one was an imported copy of A Bad Donato, followed by a second-hand copy of Muito A Vontade.
But I only met Donato
personally two years later, in February 1975, when we both went to
visit Eumir Deodato. I remember that Donato was leaving Deodato's
apartment when I arrived. Deodato intoduced me to Donato briefly.
Q. How did you meet Donato?
The second time we met was the first time we had a conversation, back in 1976. And it was the first time I saw him playing live, in a bar named Breguetes, in a city near Rio where I live, Petropolis. But I was only 13 years old, so I don't think Donato had any interest in talking with a little boy...!
When we finally became friends was in 1979, when I attended his gig in another now-defunct bar, named Cirrose, and headed by bossa nova poet/lyricist Vinicius De Moraes at that time. It was supposed to be a trio gig with Donato backed by Ricardo Santos (bass) and Joao Palma (drums). But Palma has not appeared, so it became a duo gig. I was in heaven, all the audience was in heaven, because Donato was like playing in heaven. I'll never forget that wonderful night! There was no singing, and Donato improvised like a demoniac genius, in the best meaning of the word. In the third set, there were only two people in the audience: my girlfrined and I.
So, it was like a private recital. After the last song, Deodato asked me: enough? It was over 3AM! Then we went to drink some scotch in another bar, until the sunrise. The following night, Donato and his wife at that time, a very gorgeous blond ballerina, named Telma Rizzo, invited us to attend a show by The Glenn Miller Orchestra in a place called Canecao. I had never thought Donato liked Glenn Miller, but he sang all the brass charts of all songs! This time we have not exchanged not only one word...After the concert ended, Donato, with a big smile on his face, just said: Marvelous, hum? We took a cab together, he left me at home and...the following day we talked for three hours on the phone! We really became close friends, to the point that Donato accepted my invitation to be the pianist in the first album I have ever produced, back in 1981, for RCA in Brazil: the debut solo album by singer Yana Purim, Flora's sister. He used to visit me two or three times a week during the early and mid 80s, and I have many tapes of Donato playing on my Pleyel acoustic piano, composing or improvising, sometimes backed by me on the drums I used to have in the big hall of my apartment.
During all these years, I had the privilege to attend several Donato live performances, as well as many recording dates, including the one for Caetano Veloso's legendary Cores Nomes album, which includes Donato's lovely ballad Surpresa. Between 1994 and 1995 we were neighbours in the same building.
During one party in my
apartment, he met again Lisa Ono (they had met before only once, in
Tokyo, when Donato arranged one track sang by Lisa on an album of
Christmas Songs!). I'm proud that I was the one who suggested Lisa to
do a full album with Donato's songs, the starting point for the most
productive period in Donato's life. (Lisa was in Brazil to do an
album with Oscar Castro-Neves, but she cancelled the project after I
suggested the album with Donato!)
Q. How have you liked/enjoyed his music on a personal level?
It may seem a contradiction,
but I don't use to listen so often to some of my favorite albums:
Miles' Bitches Brew, Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz
etc. However, I use to listen quite often to some albums
that are not so great, but that sound very pleasant. With Donato, not
only I love his music, as well as I listen to it very often. He is
one of my all-time favorite artists, along with Deodato, Bonfa,
Jobim, Sivuca, Airto, Flora, Dom Um, etc. Not counting the
American jazzmen, of course.
Q. Do you have a favorite Donato tune? If so, what makes it your favorite?
I'm not a big fan of Donato's most recent albums. Except for Amazonas, which is a great album, the others (Coisas Tao Simples, So Danço Samba) are not in the same level of such masterpieces as Muito A Vontade, A Bossa Muito Moderna (the magnificent trio albums he recorded in 1963) and A Bad Donato, the first funky acid-jazz album in the music history, a truly psychodelic trip!
I also love Donato/Deodato, and
I wish he could have tried to record more albums in such a
jazz-oriented style. Also among my personal favorites are his sidemen
dates with Cal Tjader (Solar Heat) and Mongo Santamaria (Mongo At
Black Hawk). Maybe my favorite Donato tune is Mentiras, sung
marvelously by Nana Caymmi on the Quem E Quem album, and originally
recorded with another title (Warm Song) and another groove on Cal
Tjader's The Prophet album for Verve, in 1968, with Donato playing
organ and Don Sebesky writing a haunting arrangement for strings
Q. How would you characterize your own relationship to Donato?
I had the privilege to work with most of my idols: Donato, Bonfa, Deodato, Gilberto, Jobim (I produced the session which became his last recording session, unfortunately, done for Ithamara's Red River album in October 1994) etc., not counting Herbie Hancock, Lew Soloff, David Matthews, Steve Swallow, George Young and many other great jazzmen who played as sidemen in sessions I have produced. So, I try to retribute, to repay, all the joy they gave me through their artistry, by including their songs in almost all compilations I produce. For example: there are Donato's songs and performances in all the volumes of my A Trip To Brazil (for EmArcy/Universal) and Brazilian Horizons (for Milestone/Fantasy) compilations. I feel very happy for having been able even to include one of Donato's recordings with the vocal group Os Namorados, titled Eu Quero Um Samba, from a 78rpm single recorded in 1953, as the opening track of A Trip To Brazil Volume 1, which remained for several months in the top of the European jazz charts in 1998! Right now I just completed a new compilation to be released all over the world by BMG, and the opening track is Alayde Costa's rendition of Minha Saudade from 1958, the first time this song was recorded with João Gilberto's lyrics.
Very recently, I produced an
album with an incredible duo from Bahia, Palmyra & Levita, with
Donato featured in all songs! He plays several Brazilian and jazz
standards. We hope to mix it in July .
Q. Where do you see Donato's music in relationship to the rest of Brazilian jazz or bossa nova?
Donato is truly unique! He
can't be compared to any other artist, he belongs to another level,
his music belongs to another dimension. Donato is definitively one of
the most original creators in the music history. Period.
Q. How would you characterize João as a musician, in his playing?
As I said above, everything in
Donato's style is unique. The harmonies, the piano touch, the voice.
Plus: he is the creator of the bossa nova beat, as I wrote in my
liner notes for A Trip To Brazil. Just listen to his accordion
playing on Eu Quero Um Samba, in 1953, and you'll notice the bossa
nova beat which was later adapted and perfected by João
Gilberto on the guitar. He is a sorcerer of sounds!
Thank you, Arnaldo, for the interview!