The first time I heard Tom Jobim was through the Baden Powell guitar, Girl from Ipanema, to be more precise. It was also the first song I learned to play at age 9, with my first guitar teacher. From then on Tom’s music could not be missing from my life.
Over time, I became interested in his “musical genealogical tree”. As a consequence, I couldn’t leave out Villa-Lobos, Chopin, Debussy, Ravel, Gershwin, Stravinsky; among so many others who I began to discover in my early days as a composer.
Any composer, even the most original and talented, always has the reference of his idols throughout the search for his own identity. This trademark, which is the result of a combination of his musical choices, ends up ocurring naturally after a lot of study, experimentations, complications and clarifications. And in Tom’s case, it was no different.
When he began to become successful, in the Bossa Nova era, he was bombarded by critics, accused of Americanism and plagiarizing other works. In fact he has always honored his idols with a competence and elegance that only a great musician is capable of.
Jobim honors Debussy and Villa-Lobos in “Chovendo na Roseira” citing excerpts from Reverie, the famous “Thirds” of La Plus Que Lente and a phrase from the lyrics of Seresta nº 9 (April) by Villa-Lobos and Ribeiro Couto.
In Insensatez the honored one is Chopin. Chansong is a clear tribute to Gershwin and his Um Americano em Paris. Canta Canta Mais has close links with the aria of Bachiana nº 5 of Villa. Several resemble Stravinsky. If we look only at Villa-Lobos, the tributes are numerous.
“It is curious to observe certain preferences of the musicians … Chopin adored Mozart … Debussy loved Chopin … Stravinsky returning to Haydn … and Villa-Lobos in Brazil stating, as he personally did to me, his cult by Mozart, and recently discovered resemblances between Bach and Brazilian popular music. “(Pequena História da Música, Little History of Music, Mario de Andrade, p.146).
I met Tom personally in 1978, my legs trembled as he opened the door of his house in his pajamas hugging a guitar. It was unforgettable to hear the recent recording of Two Kites, before the album came out the following year (Terra Brasilis).
I would only have musical contact with him beginning in 1990, when my sister Maucha, who was part of Banda Nova, took from Rio to New York a demo tape that I had recently recorded for him to listen to. At that time he spent half of the year there and half over here. In this tape I had, among my songs, an arrangement I made for Maracangalha, by Dorival Caymmi. He was delighted with the arrangement and never returned the tape …