LP REVIEW: Antonio Carlos Jobim – Stone Flower

Antonio Carlos Jobim – Stone Flower
(Speakers Corner/CTI 6002. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

Antonio Carlos Jobim — known as Tom — has been called the Gershwin of Brazil. Starting out as a nightclub pianist in Rio de Janeiro in the late 1940s, his career went stratospheric ten years later after he wrote and arranged a song for vocalist Elizeth Cardoso — Chega de Saudade, which roughly translates as ‘Enough Longing’, and has been rendered into English as No More Blues. It is a classic and generally regarded as the first bossa nova recording. Shortly thereafter Jobim appeared on the soundtrack album of Black Orpheus which was an international hit and confirmed his status worldwide.

From that point on, Jobim was golden. In 1967 he collaborated with producer Creed Taylor on the highly successful album Wave for A&M, the title track of which became a jazz standard. By the time a follow-up was due in 1970, both Taylor and Jobim were itching to leave the label. So they recorded the last album they contractually owed to A&M (Tide) at the same time as one for Taylor’s new label CTI (Stone Flower). Indeed, it was all the same session, as the arranger and conductor Eumir Deodato recalls (quoted by Doug Payne): “For many years people thought they had been recorded in different months, as separate projects. Creed wanted us to keep it as a secret, but the truth is that he picked the songs he wanted in each album. All the basic tracks were done in four sessions, at Van Gelder studio in Passaic.” Creed Taylor chose well. This is a pivotal Jobim album, sleeker and darker than its predecessors.

Tereza My Love has a big, warm sound with Urbie Green’s soft spoken trombone circling the melody and Jobim’s lambent, resonant piano. Sonorous bass flute by Joe Farrell plays call-and-response with Green’s trombone. Children's Games demonstrates Jobim’s dexterity and inventiveness on the keyboard with a singing, ringing piano sound achieved by whistling in exact time with his playing. The result is a crystalline, chiming effect, skilfully fleshed out with some electric piano. Deodato, a talented instrumentalist as well as arranger is responsible for the bounding affirmation of the acoustic guitar here.

Ary Barroso’s beloved chestnut Brazil is given a modernist makeover in a delightful, chugging version with steely percussion and bright, cascading Fender Rhodes electric piano by Jobim who further underlines his versatility by adding a gentle, minimal vocal. The song is a showcase of intoxicating percussion (Airto Moreira and Everaldo Ferreira are credited) and João Palma’s drumming drives the piece.

The samba beat continues with Stone Flower which develops a dense wall of percussion as a background for Jobim’s keyboards and Harry Lookofsky’s acid violin. Amparo, a melancholy tune from Jobim’s soundtrack to the movie The Adventurers, features gently piercing flute by Hubert Laws, who would become a CTI stalwart, and moody, thoughtful piano from Jobim. Andorinha with the relaxed heartbeat of Ron Carter’s bass and unhurried precision brushes by João Palma is like a slow motion version of Brazil. It’s a nocturnal piece with a hint of eeriness. Urbie Green’s silky, urbane playing is so far removed from the brassy clichés associated with the trombone as to almost be another instrument altogether. God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun is a dramatic cue from The Adventurers and moves towards freeform jazz as Joe Farrell on soprano sax sculpts shapes in the air. This piece alone gives the album an edge and a hint of darkness that inoculates it against any danger of becoming easy listening.

It’s terrific to have this inaugural — and superlative — entry in the CTI catalogue back in print, in a high quality vinyl edition from Speaker’s Corner.

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