Short Takes

Short Takes

A poll by Berlin-based Transparency International with
international businessmen from around the world has shown Brazil among
the 15 most corrupt nations in the world. As often as they can get away
with it, Brazilian politicians — many of them anyway — use the machine
of the state to advance their own business and help friends and relatives.
And despite several efforts to clean the air, bribes, embezzlement, and
nepotism are still too common and accepted by society in general as the
price of doing business.
By Jorge da Silva

The passing of Antônio Carlos Jobim two years ago has rekindled
a passion for his music unequaled in his lifetime. Countless tribute albums
and reissues now dot the musical landscape, offering us a wealth of recordings
that previously went unnoticed, unappreciated or in some cases, unrecorded.

Producer Lee Ritenour‘s A Twist of Jobim is one such project.
Ritenour, who began his professional career with Sérgio Mendes
and has regularly incorporated the influence of Brazilian music on his
own albums, has now turned to create a tribute album to the late Brazilian
composer from an American perspective.

"From the beginning, it was my intention to create a sort of fabric
of American musicians to pay tribute to Jobim’s songs and to Jobim himself,"
says Lee. "I wanted to prove that his songs are universal, that they
stand the test of time in the 90s as well as they did in the 60s when most
of these songs were written. I wanted to use the best American jazz and
pop musicians that I could get my hands on in this period to interweave
them into a sort of wonderful twist of his music, if you will."

A Twist of Jobim is an all-star event that combines the talents
of many great musicians including Al Jarreau, Dave Grusin,
Art Porter, El DeBarge, Herbie Hancock, Oleta Adams,
The Yellowjackets, with 11 tracks from the Jobim songbook.
Time honored favorites such as "The Girl From Ipanema" and "Dindi,"
showcase the magic between the songwriter and today’s top jazz musicians.
Lee calls upon Alan Pasqua and Ernie Watts to revisit "Children’s
Games," a tune he earlier covered with The Yellowjackets, who this
time around appear on the lesser known "Mojave."

Al Jarreau and Oleta Adams bring their distinct vocal styles to A
Twist of Jobim with two favorites and in doing so, will re-shape the
perception of both singers’ repertoire. Listen to how Jarreau purposely
"undersings" the lyrics of "The Girl From Ipanema"
as if to pay homage to the original vocal by João Gilberto. And
Oleta’s passionate vocal magic on the duet "Waters of March"
only enhances the lyrics of this Jobim masterpiece.

A good example of the masterful quality of A Twist of Jobim is
the opening track "Água de Beber," which takes on new
life as a result of Ritenour’s intuition. Dave Grusin‘s piano compliments
the melody as Lee’s use of the instrument sets a relaxing pace for the
popular bossa. Grusin also teams up with Brazilian percussionist Cássio
Duarte
(he and Paulinho da Costa are the only Brazilians on
the album) for a thought-filled rendering of the lovely ballad "Bonita."

One of the keys to the success of A Twist of Jobim is the level
of ensemble play. This satisfying interaction is a direct result of Lee’s
dedication to arranging these Jobim jewels without disturbing their own
originality. "A number of his songs are almost perfect," explains
Lee. "And that was the hard part of planning A Twist of Jobim.
You have to respect that balance between the original and the desire to
work with it. The true test of any great songwriter is his music’s ability
to stand the test of time. I spent a long time on the arrangements to make
sure it came out the way I envisioned it."

Part of this vision is placed in the capable hands of saxophonists Eric
Marienthal
and Ernie Watts. Marienthal is featured on the jazzy
"Captain Bacardi," and his melodic inventiveness transforms the
song in ways that surprised Lee Ritenour’s expectations of a special reunion:
"Not many people remember that Jobim wrote a few blues tunes. Dave
Grusin and I used to play this song quite often years ago, and when I invited
him to play on the album, he immediately remembered our history with the
song." Marienthal, who’s close enough to Brazil to understand the
way music integrates with the rest of life, follows Lee’s direction and
the song swings and sways with a straight ahead feel not hinted at in the
original. And "Stone Flower," with it’s propulsive drive gives
Hancock, Steve Tavaglione, John Pattitucci and Russell
Ferrante
room to stretch.

In New York about a year and a half ago, Ritenour assembled his first
star-studded gathering to pay tribute to Jobim at Lincoln Center. That
evening became the catalyst for A Twist of Jobim when Lee and his
Brazilian wife, Carmen, were overwhelmed by the spirit of the moment. The
memories linger here: Herbie Hancock recalls his New York performance with
"Stone Flower" recaptured in this recording. Dave Grusin reflects
on "Bonita." Brazil’s superstars took the stage to celebrate
where it all began for bossa nova in 1962.

Listen to A Twist of Jobim and you’ll soon realize that Lee Ritenour’s
vision of Antônio Carlos Jobim’s music is remarkably similar to the
creative flux that originally spawned bossa nova. A development of combined
musical styles to reflect the fashion of the day. Adults worldwide have
been captured by the warmth and emotion of Jobim’s melodies, and now new
generations are discovering that the more things change, the more they
really do stay the same. Lee Ritenour has found an exciting way to broaden
that idea, making Jobim’s musical legacy relevant for today’s contemporary
jazz.

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