Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of his sudden death, aged just 67. I always regret not seizing the chance to meet him when I was in New York earlier in 1994, covering Verve’s 50th anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall. Jobim was one of the musicians rounded up for a press conference one afternoon. It would have been easy to arrange an interview, but I stupidly thought another opportunity would come around soon enough. And at the time, to be honest, I tended to assume that bossa nova was something that belonged to the distant past. I didn’t realize then just how rich and multi-faceted Jobim’s music really was. It was the release of “Antonio Brasileiro”, his valedictory album, which made me think again. And since then his reputation has grown and grown. The gorgeous, intimate recordings of his songs by the Sakamoto-Morelenbaum group are particular favourites of mine. (I’ve already posted the video of their version of “O Grande Amor”, but here it is again.) Maria Bethânia’s treatment of “A Felicidade” is another gem, Vinicius de Moraes’s lyrics ascending to the level of poetry.
Strangely enough, though, the first Jobim song I ever heard wasn’t “The Girl From Ipanema” or any of the other classics. Back in the early Seventies, when I was about 15, I bought a copy of Santana’s “Caravanserai”, more on the strength of that stunning sleeve design than any prior knowledge of the band’s work. “Stone Flower” was one of the tracks that made the biggest impression on me. Michael Shrieve added the lyrics (while on LSD, apparently.) Jobim’s name didn’t ring any bells at the time. More fool me.