Antonio Carlos Jobim, the stellar Brazilian composer/keyboardist who is one of the fathers of the bossa nova and whose body of popular work ranks with the likes of Gershwin and Legrand, made his Los Angeles debut Monday at the Greek Theatre. It was an evening filled with enchantment.
Jobim, looking like a current-day Oscar Levant in beige summer sport clothes and outfitted with dark-rimmed glasses, sat at the piano, singing and directing his ensemble through such charming concoctions as "The Girl From Ipanema," "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars," "Desafinado," "One Note Samba," "Wave" and "Dindi." He was accompanied by five female vocalists--his wife, Anna, and daughter, Elizabeth, among them--a four-man rhythm team including his son, Paulo Jobim, guitar, and a flutist, Danilo Caymmi.
The tunes were given gentle, soothing airings, with tempos never going past medium-fast, and always anchored by the swaying bossa nova rhythm. Jobim arranged both voices and instruments with subtlety and nuance, creating delicate aural shapes that cascaded over the crowd like soft, thick sound clouds.
These were not plain, straight-through readings. "No More Blues" was typical, beginning with a scratchy Jobim vocal--he sang in both Portuguese and English--and though he sang slightly out of tune (that's the English title of "Desafinado"), who cared? An instrumental interlude led to the leader and his vocal ensemble scat-singing smoothly in harmony. On "Cinnamon and Clove," the vocal passages were slow and oozing one moment, bouncy and bright the next.
Jobim's introductions, replete with understated humor, were ideal segues between his compositions. On occasion, he got up from the piano and danced a few steps. It seemed he could do no wrong.