Antonio Carlos Jobim

Biography

Even if they can’t name him right away as the composer, just about everybody knows some of the bossa nova music of Antonio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim. His dozens of beautiful melodies have become part of the standard song repertoire throughout the world.

Tom Jobim, as he was known familiarly, was born in l927 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and died in l994. As he liked to tell it, he was just another middle-class Carioca "beach boy" hanging out in the bars and coffeehouses along the white sand of Copacabana and Ipanema until the day a peddler, selling roses, stopped before him one afternoon.

Tom Jobim soon began to immerse himself in a serious way in his first love, music, and he never did get around to becoming an architect as he had planned. So many kinds of music were popular in Brazil when he was a young man in the 1940s, including the delicate harmonies of the French impressionists and American jazz by visiting masters. Jobim absorbed them all, above all the music of his native land — the fast and fiery Afro-Brazilian sambas and the languid, Moorish-tinged ballads of the Portuguese settlers.

Like his fellow Brazilian musicians João Gilberto, Luiz Bonfá, and poet–lyricist Vinícius de Moraes, among others, Jobim ingeniously combined elements of all these styles into a fresh new sound. He had his first big international hit with "Desafinado," recorded by tenor saxophonist Stan Getz and guitarist Charlie Byrd in 1962. Almost immediately there was another album. Although it was called Getz/Gilberto, it was Tom Jobim’s creations that made musical history, above all the classic version of "The Girl From Ipanema" featuring Getz, guitarist–singer João Gilberto, and, as a last-minute addition, Gilberto’s wife, Astrud, on vocals. The entire album is stocked with superb Jobim songs, marvelously arranged.

Jobim was now an international star, and many albums followed. He went on to explore Franco-Brazilian impressionist textures for orchestra — often including a jazz-based rhythm section — working with masterful arrangers, such as his fellow Brazilian Eumir Deodato on the l970 album Tide. Jobim continued making superb music to the end of his life.

Excerpted from:

Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Finest Hour

Linda Dahl

February 2000