Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Review: Antonio Carlos Jobim - Stone Flower

A gifted and much lauded songwriter, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s recorded material under his own name also proved incredibly popular. After his well-known songs, now considered standards and covered by pretty much everyone in the western hemisphere, his twin albums ‘Wave’ and ‘Tide’ are his two big hits, being for the most part instrumental, but featuring every bit the feel and yearning melody you would associate with his more recognisable songs.

Sandwiched in-between these two classics is the oddly lesser-known ‘Stone Flower’ issued on the then newly formed Creed Taylor Independent record label – Taylor having been a big and highly respected producer with Verve. Where many would have heard his more famous work and then may have picked up ‘Wave’ or ‘Tide’, ‘Stone Flower’ even now remains a sadly slightly over-looked album.

Which is a shame, as ‘Stone Flower’ is arguably superior to both. The key to this lies largely in the arrangements - where the strings on ‘Wave’ were used to bring out the subtle and quiet romance of the melodies, ‘Stone Flower’ goes for a much fresher approach. Choosing to explore a darker side of bossa nova, the album is replete with enchanting melodies, but delivered in a more hauntingly languid and melancholic manner.

A recording of quality from start to finish, the Ary Barroso classic ‘Brazil’ stands out as a highlight, with its instantly catchy one-finger electric piano and bouncing rhythm. Featuring a strong vocal from Jobim, the song is transformed from an anthem into a floating and hypnotic sprawling epic. ‘Amparo’ too is a perfect display of Jobim’s composing abilities, and the title track itself is a driving and memorable tune with an arrangement providing the musical equivalent of a warm tropical breeze.

No-one could, or can, write bossa nova as well as Jobim, and for any who have dismissed the genre outright for being lightweight, ‘Stone Flower’ is valuable education. Featuring tight and intricate rhythms, the music is dark, enigmatic and intoxicating. A revelation for any who have a jaded view on bossa nova, and an essential item for anyone with even a passing enthusiasm for the music, ‘Stone Flower’ is simply a brilliant record of quiet and beautiful intensity.


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