Celebrating Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Birthday

Wednesday is Antonio Carlos Jobim’s birthday, and maybe you know the story of how his most famous song “The Girl From Ipanema” came to be. All good stories are part fact and part fiction and this one goes like this:

Jobim loved to while away the heat of the day with a drink or two and his favorite place was a particular chair at a particular table at Bar Veloso (today, it’s called ‘Garota de Ipanema Bar’ and you can take your place at that very same table if you are so inclined…). If it was after 2 pm and you wanted to find Jobim, chances are that’s where he’d be. Malandro-esque, não e?

Anyway, he’d often watch young Helo de Menezes on her way to Ipanema beach for some late-afternoon sun. She was only 14 when her after-school strolls past that Zona Sul bar inspired Bossa Nova's biggest hit. But it wasn’t the only one; Jobim wrote so many beautiful songs that have stood the test of time.

Back in 2005 I began looking for material for my album Postcards From Rio. I wanted songs that captured the magic and vibe of that glorious city by the sea, Rio de Janeiro. I searched through my music collection and checked out albums and CDs at record stores, looking for songs that had been recorded about Rio. I also noticed that as often happens when your mind is set on something, you are presented with things related to what you are focused on. It seemed like I would often hear songs on the radio or on TV about Rio. That's how I came to know the song 'Samba do Avião/Song of the Jet': I heard a version of it by Quarteto Em Cy on a television program and knew that it had to be a part of my album.

I came up with a pretty extensive list of songs and noticed that many of them had been written by Antonio Carlos Jobim. I wasn't planning on doing a Jobim tribute album, but he wrote a lot of great songs about his beloved Rio, the city of his birth. So I included them all and sent off the list to my producer, Leo Gandelman to see what he thought about my selections.

Happily we were in agreement about the majority of the songs and came up with a good working list of 11, to be recorded when I got to Rio. Leo did note that one very important song was missing from my list: "The Girl From Ipanema". I didn't really want to record it because I felt that it had been done so many times (It's actually one of the most recorded songs in music history!) and it didn't need to be recorded again. Well, Leo didn't agree and asked how could we record an album about Rio and not include the most famous song about Rio, written by - as he put it - one her "favorite sons". He was right and "The Girl From Ipanema" became an integral part of Postcards From Rio.

This past summer I returned to Rio as part of my plan for the 10th anniversary of the 'Postcards' album, and to record The Malandro Project.

I visited the Garota de Ipanema Bar and was able to sit at the very table which has been preserved in his memory for all these years. At that moment I felt such a great sense of history and reverence for the location where Jobim had the inspiration for one of the world's most beautiful songs. For me, It was one of the highlights of my trip and filled me with such gratitude for being given the chance to explore my own musical muse and to be receptive to all the musical influences this world offers.

But before I left Ipanema I had to visit the statue of Jobim that has been put up on the beach in his honor. Of course I took some pictures, but then suddenly that unforgettable tune came to my mind and I burst into song, singing the first verse of "Garota de Ipanema/The Girls From Ipanema", "Olha que coisa mais linda, mais cheia de graça ...

Antonio Carlos Jobim also wrote many great sambas as part of his life’s work, and many more were infused with samba's spirit. That’s why it’s only fitting that we celebrate Brazil’s most famous composer with a tip of our Malandro hat on his birth day.

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The Malandro Project was recorded in Rio de Janeiro with saxophonist Leo Gandelman and MPB’s Leila Pinheiro to celebrate 100 Years of Samba and its iconic character, the charming, roguish bad-boy Malandro. A combination of cultural myth and historic fact, the Malandro’s roots can be traced throughout the history of Samba. The Malandro Project album will be released in early 2017.

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