“I’d like to make a request.”
(The woman has approached the bandstand. She’s smiling.)
“Do you guys know ‘The Girl from Ipanema? I love Bossa Nova.”
You and the rest of the band are midway through your second set at this wedding; this is your first request. The ceremony is over, and everyone has moved inside for cocktails. This woman seems like she knows some people on the bride’s side; you should probably give her what she wants.
And so you look back at the band, and they look at you, and you count it off — the drummer kicks into a soft bossa beat, the bassist and guitarist begin that oh-so-familiar vamp, FMaj7 up to Gb7(#11)… and you start, one more time, to play “Girl From Ipanema.”
At a wedding.
But hey, of course people love this song. It’s an incredibly good song, and there’s a reason it was a hit in the early ’60s. It has a great, catchy melody and tells a story that everyone can relate to. It’s also got a hell of a good bridge.
Considering the vast, incredible works of Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Jobim, it sometimes feels like a shame that that one song is the only one that most people know. Jobim is easily one of my favourite composers of all time, a man who could weave a heartbreaking melody out of any chord progression, who gave us lines that felt true and timeless. He could make a diminished chord do his bidding like few composers before or since.
Jobim’s lyrics are great too, and so I’ll playfully refer to him as a “songwriter” from time to time, though that seems like a strange way to define him. But such songs! Full of melancholy and relaxed beauty, of love and a reverence for the world around us.
I dig everything the man ever wrote, and have played his songs countless times. And while I’ve performed it probably more than 100 times, I’ll always love “Girl from Ipanema,” too. His music will never die — if someone like Brad Mehldau can make a version of “Wave” that sounds this wild, it’s a safe bet that we won’t run out of ways to interpret this stuff anytime soon.
So! Here are some of my favourite tunes by the late, great Antônio Carlos Jobim.
One of Jobim’s most enduring melodies for me, especially the final section at the end. This one’s from the classic Getz/Gilberto album, and it’s one of my favourite tracks from that record.
“The Waters of March”
It was reeeally hard to choose the best version of this, which I dearly love. But I dig how Jane Monheit handled it. I’m kind of a huge fan of just like… listing things? Random things. In general, I mean. So this song is right up my alley.
Last week i got to share some Pat Metheny, so why stop? The recording quality on this video isn’t amazing, but this was a heck of a performance.
This one is another favourite to play — just for that “hook” that plays at the end of each time through the melody. Killer tune.
I always enjoyed that this tune was called “Slightly out of tune.” Who wouldn’t want to mimic Stan Getz’s incredible sound on this tune… but then, Stan wasn’t a guy who was very often out of tune.
“Chega De Saudade”
If you can get past the kinda weird albums (and the odd introduction on this video), this is Dizzy Gillespie’s version of another of my favourite Jobim tunes, and one of his longest.
This version, which I think is on the “Compact Jazz” collection for Dizzy, was one of the first non-Ipanema Jobim tunes I heard back when I was a kid, and I remember thinking “Man! This is great!” It’s also one of the only ones that really does go by its english title, “No More Blues.”
“The Girl From Ipanema”
Oh alright, fine. We’ll close with this one. Because despite the fact that it is somewhat overexposed, it remains a totally lovely song. That bridge! That turnaround! Aah. It’s worth sitting through it and listening to it, not as background wedding for your cocktail hour or elevator trip, but as an actual composition. It’s genius.
And, that seems to be a good one to go out on. Tonight, (after you’ve finished watching The Last Waltz from that earlier post), pour yourself a glass of wine, download some Jobim music, and just sit and listen.