Tom Jobim: Brazil’s Ambassador of Song

In the wake of the International Olympic Committee’s recent vote to hold the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, it’s an interesting moment to consider a remark by veteran Brazilian music producer Nelson Motta in the Extras section of No More Blues, the first of three hour-long DVDs that comprise Tom Jobim: Brazils Ambassador of Song [DRG], a sprawling documentary on the life and times of composer-pianist-singer Antonio Carlos Jobim. Midway through an entertainingly caffeinated nine-minute soliloquy, Motta states that the emergence of the bossa nova movement during the latter 1950s was the ideal expression of Brazil’s “embrace of the future,” and proceeds to analyze the qualities that made  Jobim’s oeuvre the apotheosis of the bossa sensibility. Director Roberto DeOlivera elaborates this notion from different angles on each DVD, constructing a narrative from concert and studio footage drawn from holdings owned or licensed by Jobim’s publishing company or by Ana Jobim, the composer-pianist-singer’s widow,  with various interviews, archival photographs, and evocations of Brazil’s urban and rural landscapes. No More Blues explores Jobim’s path to bossa nova, his associations with lyricist and collaborator Vinicius de Moraes on the 1956 musical play Orfeu da Conceição, the source of the catalytic film Black Orpheus, and with guitarist-singer Joao Gilberto, with whom Jobim cut the early ’60s albums that exposed him to an international fan base. Waters of March and Shes A Carioca illuminate the Brazilian sources of Jobim’s art. The former, narrated by Chico Buarque, elaborates Jobim’s musical debt, as Jobim once put it, “to mountains, to the sea, to beaches, to birds and, of course we can’t forget, to Brazilian women who are also part of the ecology….” The latter, narrated by singer-composer-guitarist Edu Lobo (a filmed excerpt of their 1981 Polygram session, Edu & Tom, is a highlight of the proceedings), links Jobim’s sensibility to the topography and mores of Rio de Janeiro, whose growth and maturation from 1927, his birth year, paralleled his own. The net result is a multi-dimensional portrait that considers Jobim in the context of his Brazilian roots while acknowledging, but not privileging, the global influence of his musical production.