A Look Back

Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Stone Flower"

Nov 12, 2012 By Laura Studarus Bookmark and Share


Since its inception circa 1957, bossa nova has gotten a bad rap. The brunt of every cinematic joke, its inclusion in a scene seems to automatically indicate the horny bachelor, the ill-conceived seduction, or (horror of horrors) hipsters aiming to embrace kitsch with both hands. Given that the name of the Brazilian fusion of jazz and samba literally translates to “New Trend,” it’s ironic that the style has been married to so many dated film clichés. Removed from preconceived notions, bossa nova continues to sound fresh today—short-form songs filled with breezy dance rhythms, syncopated beats, and jazz lines. Then again, perhaps the movies got one thing right—it is a bit seductive.

The Brazilian jazz/samba movement only officially lasted six years, but its iconic sound still holds the power to captivate. Despite being released in 1970, a few years after the trend had cooled, Stone Flower remains a hallmark of the genre—and easily one of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s crowning achievements. Primarily a pianist, Jobim builds the album’s ten tracks  (given that you—wisely—purchased the reissued version with its alternate take of “Brazil”) around his instrument of choice, embellishing compositions with horns, violin, and shaken percussion.

Largely instrumental, vocals appear briefly on “Brazil” (written by Ary Barroso) and “Sabiá.” While charmingly dry, human voices are used sparingly—as nearly every instrument on the album speaks. It’s an anthropomorphic leap of logic, familiar to anyone who grew up with Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. Lackadaisical, bird-like flutes chirp in the distance, creating the seductive cries of “Tereza My Love.” Horns—filled with the unfocused energy of youth—call each other out to play in “Children’s Games,” sounding not unlike elements stolen from the best composition Vince Guaraldi never wrote. Meanwhile, a howling clarinet experiences a near-divine freak-out during the epic, free-form breakdown of “God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun.”

More than just a collection of clever pieces (although it is certainly that), Stone Flower is an album in the classical sense—distinct songs, uniting to form an overreaching concept or mood. Earning the descriptor “cinematic,” each song plays like a scene from a film, uniting to creating a larger story. Jobim’s narrative is one of slow moving days set against quickly evolving emotions—the need for escape, and the reinvention that happens once that’s achieved. The frantic plunk of the piano in the titular track seemingly calls for a break from city life—a solo horn in “Andorinha” lamenting the loneliness of achieving a said goal. In a perfect world—free from both geographical barriers and time restraints—French film auteur Jean-Luc Godard would have made off with Stone Flower to soundtrack one of his classic New Wave films. (Although it is worth noting that Jobim did score 1959’s Black Orpheus—which given its “youths meeting tragic ends” narrative is probably close enough.)

Further reading: Gilles Peterson and Stuart Baker’s coffee table book, Bossa Nova and the Rise and Fall of Music in the 1960s.

Modern-day Jobim acolytes: Club 8: The People’s Record, Bird & The Bee: Ray Guns Are Not the Future, Koop: Waltz For Koop, Mitch & Mitch: XXII Century Sound Pioneers.

 



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ninadordev
September 29th 2018
1:50am

Good post !Muslim Kala jadu ka tor