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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