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Jobim, Antonio Carlos

Pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim's subtle lyricism helped spark a worldwide craze for the music of Brazil, and his compositions, which combine classical impressionism with advanced jazz harmonies and Brazilian rhythms, have become much-loved standards of the jazz repertoire.

Jobim was born on January 25th, 1927 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Jorge de Oliveira Jobim and Nilza Brasileiro de Almeida. Antonio’s father died when he was very young, and his mother remarried Celso Person, who encouraged the young boy to take up music.

Jobim’s mother started him out on classical piano lessons around the age of thirteen. This occurred during the same time she founded the College of Almeida, a private school. Jobim started off playing classical music on the piano with Hans Koellreuter, and continued his classical studies with Lucia White and Alceu Bocchino.

In 1949, he married his Thereza Hermanny, and their first son Paulo Jobim was born in 1950. In 1957, Jobim and his wife Thereza had a daughter named Elizabeth, who later became a visual artist and sang with her father towards the latter part of his career.

The young Jobim worked for a brief period of time in an architect's office. He was also playing and learning the music of tenor saxophonist Alfredo Filho, who went by the name Pixinguinha. Pixinguinha was a master improviser and composer who elevated improvisation's role in the traditional choro music of Rio de Janeiro to the standards of the era's best North American jazz, and had a profound impact on all of Brazilian popular music in the 1940s.

Jobim was also one of a select group of jazz enthusiasts in Rio who were experimenting with ways to combine sophisticated jazz harmonies with the Brazilian traditions of choro and samba canção, or lyric samba. This group, which included Jobim, poet Vinicius de Morães and guitarist João Gilberto called their creations bossa nova, which means "the new way of doing things."

Jobim first worked as a composer in 1956, when he, de Morães and guitarist Luis Bonfá began to work on songs for a play, Orfeu de Conçeicão.The play adapted the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice to fit the events of the annual carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro. The songs for the play, which include Manhã de Carnaval, O Nosso Amor and A Felicidade, became hits worldwide after the play was adapted by Frenchman Marcel Camus into a film, Black Orpheus, which won the Palme D'Or award at the 1959 Cannes film festival.

Black Orpheus was released in the United States and won an Oscar in 1960 for Best Foreign Language Film. Jobim was featured on piano and vocals along with Luis Bonfá and Joao Gilberto on the version of “Manhã De Carnaval in the film.

In 1961, the U.S. State Department sponsored a group of American jazz musicians to tour Brazil. The group included flutist Herbie Mann and guitarist Charlie Byrd. Mann, Jobim and Gilberto then collaborated on the 1962 album Herbie Mann and Joao Gilberto with Antonio Carlos Jobim, which included Jobim's "One Note Samba." Byrd also recorded an album of Brazilian music, and introduced the music he had heard on the trip to his friend saxophonist Stan Getz.

As Brazilian music began to attract worldwide attention in the wake of the film, Getz released his 1962 album Jazz Samba. It featured several of Jobim’s songs, including "One Note Samba" and "Desafinado," both of which became hits in the United States.

Following the success of this release, Getz teamed with Joao Gilberto in 1963 for the album Getz/Gilberto. The album again featured Jobim on piano and a number of his compositions, including "The Girl from Ipanema," "Corcovado," and "So Danço Samba."

The success of Getz/Gilberto, and in particular of the hit single “The Girl From Ipanema,” (which was sung by Gilberto's wife Astrud, only because she happened to be in the studio when Getz decided that one of the songs should be sung in English) was so huge that it sparked a worldwide interest in Brazil in general and bossa nova in particular. The single won the 1965 Grammy for Record of the Year.

In 1963, Verve signed Antonio Carlos Jobim, and he released his first album as a leader entitled Antonio Carlos Jobim the Composer of Desafinado, Plays. This album featured Jobim playing many of his best-known compositions, including and "Chega de Saudade," another collaboration with de Morães.

With the worldwide bossa nova craze now in full swing, Jobim’s songs were covered by a multitude of artists, including Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. Making hay while the sun shined, Getz released a second album for Verve in 1963 entitled Jazz Samba Encore, which featured more Jobim originals, including "Insensatez (How Insensitive)."

The Beatles' arrival in the United States in November of 1963 marked the end of the popular craze for bossa nova, although the style remained popular amongst jazz performers, who appreciated the genre's lyricism and sophisticated harmonies, for a number of years. In 1967, Jobim teamed up with Frank Sinatra for the album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, with an orchestra conducted by German Claus Ogerman. Featured on the album were "Corcovado," "Meditation," and the Irving Berlin song "Change Partners."

Jobim continued to release his own albums after the worldwide bossa nova craze died down including A Certain Mr. Jobim in 1967 and Stone Flower in 1967. On Stone Flower, Jobim's compositions were darker and more adventurous than his earlier work. The album was arranged by Brazilian Eumir Deodato and featured Joe Farrell on tenor saxophone and Ron Carter on bass.

In 1973, Jobim’s first grandson, Daniel, was born. Daniel later became a musician playing with his father Paulo following Antonio’s death. In 1976, Antonio’s first granddaughter, Dora, was born.

By the mid 1970s, Antonio had split from his Thereza and began seeing a ninteen-year-old photographer, Ana Beatriz Lontra. They eventually married in 1986. Before their marriage, Ana gave birth to a son, John Francis, in 1979.

Jobim continued to release albums, and in 1976 Warner Brothers released Urubu, which once again featured Ron Carter on bass and Airto Moreira on percussion. In the 1980s, Jobim was falling into a more relaxed pace as he got older, though he continued to tour. Albums of the from this period include Gabriela from 1983, Passarim from 1985, and Echoes of Rio in 1989. Jobim’s second wife also sang with him in the late 1980s during live performances.

In 1994, at the age of sixty seven, Jobim died in New York City at Mount Sinai hospital from heart failure. Following his death, Rio de Janeiro renamed their airport Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport. Jobim left behind a legacy of lyrical compositions which remain classics of the jazz repertoire. He changed not only the way music sounded in Brazil, but the way jazz was performed around the world.

Select Discography

As Antonio Carlos Jobim

Antonio Carlos Jobim the Composer of Desafinado, Plays (Verve, 1963)

The Wonderful World of Antonio Carlos Jobim (Warner Brothers, 1965)

Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim (Reprise, 1967)

Wave(A&M, 1967)

Stone Flower (CTI Records, 1970)

Tide (CTI Records, 1970)

Urubu (Warner Brothers, 1976)

With Joao Gilberto and Stan Getz

Getz/Gilberto (Verve, 1964)

With Herbie Mann

Herbie Mann and Joao Gilberto with Antonio Carlos Jobim (Atlantic, 1964)

Contributor: Jared Pauley