Born Antonio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim, January 25, 1927, in the Tijuca section of Rio de Janeiro; died December 8, 1994.

In the early sixties a new, sophisticated music redolent of 'quiet nights and quiet stars', tropical breezes, beautiful women on white sandy beaches, and clear waters reflecting blue skies came upon the scene. The sound was recognizably Latin, a kind of slowed down samba, quieter, more sensual, and it had a name: Bossa Nova.

Soon, the sound would be known worldwide. Its success in the United States was kicked off with the classic Getz-Gilberto recordings of 1963, featuring the American jazz saxophonist Stan Getz and the Brazilian guitarist Joao Gilberto. The album featured Gilberto's wife at the time, Astrud, who sang a song which was to become associated in the popular mind, with the music as a whole, "The Girl From Ipanema".And forever the name of Antonio Carlos Jobim, known to his Brazilian fans as Tom Jobim, is linked with Brazil's most successful cultural export.

Antonio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim was born in 1927 in the Tijuca section of Rio de Janeiro. His family moved to the Ipanema district, one of the new boroughs in expanding Rio. Jobim grew up surrounded by lush forests which stretched down to the warm waters of the Atlantic. "I believe I learned my songs from the birds of the Brazilian forest," he once said.

Jobim was a beach boy in the 1930s. His father, a diplomat and poet, died when Jobim was eight. His family ran a private school, the Brasiliero de Almeida, and it was that Jobim first encountered the piano. His step-father oversaw Jobim's musical education and he began study with Hans Joachim Koellreutter at the age of fourteen. Soon Jobim added guitar and harmonica to the list of instruments he had mastered.

Jobim grew up listening to samba and other native sounds which he heard in the streets and clubs of Ipanema. Samba was a style of music originating in the Afro-Brazilian favelas, or shanty towns, of Rio and other cities. In the thirties, radio play and records made this music became popular among all classes. Sambistas, aficionados of the music, would follow their favorite bands from bar to bar, until the sun came up. Later Jobim would come under the influence of the French Impressionists, Debussey and Ravel, as well as the cool jazz of American artists like Miles Davis and Gil Evans. These influences would come together in Jobim's own compositions.

While continuing to play music, Jobim enrolled in an architecture program but quit after one year to work full-time as a musician. First he played piano in little bars called inferminhos, little hells. The opportunity arose for Jobim to work as a copyist for radio and recording studios. In 1952 Jobim was hired by the Continental recording company to assist Maestro Radames Gnatali, the most important arranger of the time. Soon Jobim was arranging and producing for Odeon, one of Brazil's largest record companies.

Jobim might have continued as a well-respect arranger-producer, unknown outside his native country, had he not met Vincius de Moraes, the Oxford educated poet and diplomat, in 1956.

Moraes had adapted the Orpheus legend, transposing the story to the favelas of contemporary Brazil. Jobim was asked to write the music. This collaboration resulted in an acclaimed stage production, Orfeu da Conceicao, performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in Rio. The play was later translated to the screen by the French director Marcel Camus. "Black Orpheus" was the prize winner at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959 and enjoyed worldwide success. The soundtrack, in particular "Felicidade"--Orpheus's theme song, introduced the world to the new samba-inflected music coming out of Brazil.

Bossa Nova, or New Beat, was the new wave in Brazilian music. Derived from samba, it had a cooler, more sophisticated sound, while still relying on the carnivalesque rhythms of its predecessor. It's practitioners were mainly middle-class, educated Euro-Brazilian males with an appreciation of Afro-Brazilian culture. Bossa Nova songs where characterized by their softness. The lyrics were simple, poetic, heartfelt, expressing a love for beautiful women, sun and sea. While Jobim was not the originator of this new sound--he credited Joao Gilberto with that distinction--he soon distinguished himself as its most sophisticated practitioner. He benefited immensely from his collaborations with singers and fellow songwriters such as de Moraes, Mendonca, and de Oliveira. By the time Bossa Nova hit U.S. shores, Jobim and Bossa Nova were considered one and the same.

Jobim began writing songs with Newton Mendonca, a childhood friend and nightclub pianist. Together they penned the Bossa Nova classics "Samba de Uma Nota So", "Meditacao", and "Desafinado". His collaboration with Aloysio de Oliveira, a producer for the Odeon label, produced the classic "Dindi". In 1958 Jobim met the singer-guitarist Joao Gilberto. Over the next three years they collaborated on three albums together on which Gilberto recorded 13 Jobim originals. Gilberto's beautiful voice and relaxed guitar playing were perfectly suited for Jobim's compositions. This collaboration yielded the haunting "Chega de Saudade"--No More Blues, and consolidated the Bossa Nova style.

In 1962 the American Jazz musicians Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd released an LP called Jazz Samba. It was the first introduction of the new Brazilian sound to U.S. audiences. While this record yielded a hit version of "Desafinado," the major breakthrough was to come later.

After Jazz Samba, Getz went back in the studio, this time with Jobim and Gilberto. Getz version of the Jobim-Moraes penned "The Girl from Ipanema," sung by Gilberto and his then-wife Astrud, was a huge success and kicked off a stateside Bossa Nova craze. Jobim soon found himself one of the most recorded composers as a multitude of performers, from jazz to pop, covered his songs. The culmination of music's popularity is, perhaps, the album "Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim," two sides devoted to the music of Jobim featuring Jobim on piano and accompanying vocals.

As the sixties waned and rock music was ascendant, the cool sounds of Bossa Nova were less frequently heard, with the exception of the Bossa Nova-esque pop covers of Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66.

Jobim himself an arranger for much of his career, benefited from his collaboration with the arranger Claus Ogerman which began with Jobim's first solo record, in 1963, The Composer of the Desafinado Plays, on Verve, and continued off and on into the 1970s. This album wasfollowed by The Wonderful World of Antonio Carlos Jobim, arranged by Nelson Riddle. Jobim returned to Ogerman for the Sinatra sessions, and the follow-up, A Certain Mr. Jobim.

Part of the success of Jobim in the States has to be attributed to his able translators, Gene Lees foremost among them. Lyrics in English have always been a prerequisite for success in America and Jobim was very particular about the translations. Many of Jobim's songs were translated by himself after he learned English. Still, the majority of Jobim's songs remain untranslated. Ogerman has remarked on the relative dearth of Jobim songs in English. "If somebody brought him a lyric, he usually didn't approve of it. What was missing in his North American career was a steady collaborator, like an Ira Gershwin. That makes life easy."

While Jobim enjoyed wide success in the U.S., Bossa Nova was met with resistance back home. Popularity abroad had generated a backlash, especially by purists who thought the music too American. While there is undoubtedly some jazz influence, Jobim maintained that Bossa Nova was a part of Samba, not jazz. Jobim albums with overt jazz influences did not come until later. The trilogy, Wave, Tide, and Stone Flower--on A&M--were recorded by Rudy Van Gelder, the preeminent jazz engineer responsible for much of John Coltrane's recordings. But, as Bob Blumenthal has pointed out in his liner notes to Urubu, another Ogerman collaboration, "They form a distinct interlude" in Jobim's discography.

Later albums such as Jobim, 1972, and Urubu, 1975, show Jobim moving away from the cool, Bossa Nova style and his compositions became more orchestral. These albums reflect his interest not only in native Brazilian music, but jazz as well. Compositions such as "Saudade Do Brasil," "Valse," and "Arquitetura De Morar," show the influence of Debussey as well as Jobim's countryman Heitor Villa- Lobos. These later albums also show Jobim's increased awareness of political issues, in particular environmental concerns.

Jobim and some other leading Brazilian musicians encountered difficulties with the military regime which came into power in the late sixties. Jobim, along with Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Vincius de Moraes, and Carlos Lyra were detained by the authorities in 1970 and Jobim's songs were scrutinized for subversive lyrics. By the late 1970s, Jobim's contribution to popular music was undisputed. Terra Brasilis was released in 1980, a summing up of the composer's more popular work, produced once again by Claus Ogerman. Jobim continued to work with popular Brazilian rhythms as well as classical. A renewed interest in the sophisticated pop of the 1960s brought Jobim to the attention of a new generation in the early 1990s and Jobim was honored by the Mangueira Samba School in the 1992 Carnaval parade in Rio. Jobim died December 8, 1994, leaving a recognizable void in the world of Bossa Nova..

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Antonio Carlos Jobim's Career

Released first solo record, The Composer of the Desafinado Plays, in 1963. Master of numerous instruments, including guitar, harmonica, and piano.

Famous Works

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Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 6 years ago

Jobim is passionate about his music. the instrumentation and vocals are rehearsed so reticently, flawlessly.. very nice music.

over 8 years ago

im an african american girl by the age of 15 i enjoy listening to antonio he taught me a lot as to were the music and life style he lived he's the greatest musican of all times!!

over 8 years ago

I thought Johnny Alf was attributed to be the person who first played The Bossa Nova sounds in the 50's . Can anyone tell me if he is still alive in his native Sao Paula and if so, how I can get in touch . Thanks David Self