Probably the composer and songwriter most deserving of the title of 'father of the bossa nova', Antonio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim was born into a privileged family, his father was a diplomat, writer and journalist although while still a small child his parents parted and with their change in circumstances his mother took Antonio and his sister to live in Ipanema. After his father's death in 1935 his mother remarried and his new stepfather supported the young boy in his musical endeavours and even bought him his first piano. A voracious devourer of many genres of music and inspired by both jazz and classical music he played nightclubs, cocktail bars and worked as a studio arranger as well as learning from other musicians such as Johnny Alf (Alfredo José da Silva) and Hans-Joachim Koellreutter. Jobim's earliest success came when he collaborated with Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes on the score for the play Orfeu da Conceição that made its stage debut at Rio de Janeiro's Teatro Municipal in 1956. When the production was turned into the movie Black Orpheus three years later by French director Marcel Camus, the duo composed three new songs especially for the film. Another significant collaboration was with singer and guitarist Joäo Gilberto who teamed-up with Jobim and da Moraes in 1958 on singer Elizete Cardoso's album Canção do Amor Demais which is generally recognised as one of the very first bossa nova records. The following year the songwriting duo composed two songs for Gilberto's own Chega de Saudade including the title track and 'Brigas, Nunca Mais'.
While Jobim was popular in Brazil he remained relatively unknown in North America until his work with Gilberto was heard by American musicians including saxophonist Stan Getz and guitarist Charlie Byrd who recorded the magnificent songs 'Desafinado' (Slightly Out Of Tune) and 'Samba de Uma Nota Só' (One Note Samba) for their 1962 and now classic album Jazz Samba. The track 'Desafinado' garnered Getz the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance in 1963, the same year he teamed-up with both Gilberto and Jobim for the album Getz/Gilberto. Featuring Getz on tenor saxophone, Gilberto on guitar and vocals, Jobim on piano, Sebastião Neto on bass, Milton Banana on drums and Astrid Gilberto on vocals, the record won Grammys for Best Album Of The Year, Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Engineered Album. All but one of the tracks were composed by Jobim and included 'Doralice', another recording of 'Desafinado', 'Corcovado', 'Só Dança Samba', O Grande Amor', 'Vivo Sonhando' and the song that has become his most famous composition and a genuine classic of considerable beauty, 'Garota da Ipanema' (The Girl From Ipanema). The composer also released his solo debut for the American market; The Composer Of Desafinado Plays in 1963, which paired him with arranger/conductor Claus Ogerman and producer Creed Taylor. Getz and Jobim also reunited again in 1963 for Jazz Samba Encore which featured Brazilian guitarist Luiz Bonfá who composed all the tracks apart from Jobim's 'Insensatez' (How Insensitive) and 'O Morro Não Tem Vez' plus another reading of his 'Só Dança Samba' (I Only Dance Samba).
In 1964 he joined Stan Getz, Joäo Gilberto and Astrud Gilberto to record Getz/Gilberto #2 live at New York's Carnegie Hall before collaborating with arranger Nelson Riddle on his second US release The Wonderful World Of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Following the hugely popular Wave and A Certain Mr. Jobim (both 1967) the Grammy nominated Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim (also 1967) with Ol' Blue Eyes his songs were now before a much wider audience. With huge fame in his homeland and a growing popularity in the USA Jobim issued several more successful albums during the 70s including Stone Flower (1970), Tide (1970), Matita Pere (1973), Jobim (1973), Urubu (1976) and while his output became less frequent in the following decades records such as
Terra Brasilis (1980), Passarim (1987) and Antonio Brasileiro (1994) (his last album which was released three days after his death and one that includes a duet with Sting on 'Insensatez') were all exceptional highlights of a huge catalogue. Less well known but equally of note is Jobim's contribution to movies, his score for Lewis Gilbert's 1970 adaptation of the Harold Robbins novel The Adventurers was superb, and added credibility to what was a truly awful film.
Antonio Carlos Jobim's contribution to Latin music was immense and along with Joäo Gilberto he created a whole new style of music and even outside the confines of bossa nova he composed many jazz standards which have been covered by dozens of musicians including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. Despite being diagnosed with a tumour on his bladder Jobim continued to record and tour, even returning to Carnegie Hall for a triumphant concert in April 1994 before suffering a cardiac arrest six days after surgery on December 8th the same year.
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