Playing the Piano from Seoul 20110109_4pm
Playing the Piano from Seoul 20110109_8pm
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Playing The Piano
Playing The Piano 2009
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Paula: This is the first song we recorded, and it's also one of the first of Jobim's songs to be recorded - in 1958, by Elizeth Cardoso. It's the first song on the CD "Casa."

It's not a very well-known song, and the first time I heard it, it was being played by Tom Jobim himself at home, on his piano, in a sunny afternoon, while Tom was revising his songbook. At that moment I felt that "As praias desertas" was the most beautiful song I had ever heard and I asked him to play it again and again, and he did.

Many years later, Ryuichi, Jaques and me met at that same house in Rio de Janeiro for the initial recording session of "Casa." While Fernando (technician) and Phil (piano tuner) were preparing the set for the following days, we started humming this song and, before we knew it, we were already rehearsing it. After a short period of time to settle the format and all the details related to the song, we felt ready to do it. I can't get Tom's image out of my mind, of course. We recorded it and then we listened to it. I was enraptured.

We were again at Tom's place singing, playing his songs as if time hadn't passed, while Ryuichi played Tom's piano emulating the same touch, his touch. And his music filled the place with so much color and joy! While it was being recorded, a bird flew nearby and its singing was recorded. It sounds like human laughter. But it was surely a bird's

Jaques: Only a few months had passed after Antonio passed away: one night I was invited by Paulo, Antonio's son, to join him at his house at Ipanema, to listen to a new record by Toninho Horta (one of the most prominent Brazilian composers nowadays). Late at night, after the third or fourth pass of the record, as well as the third or fourth glass of scotch, Nana Caymmi came through the door, and after a few minutes we had Daniel Jobim by the piano, I had my instrument with me, and Nana begun to sing this song. "The desert beaches keep waiting for us..." and we all had understood at that point that the us in the lyrics means each one of us and Antonio, and we all felt how we miss his presence among us...

Ryuichi: This song is the very first track we recorded for the "CASA" project. When we started it we were feeling our way, not knowing exactly how we were going to proceed.
To me, the song has an element of one of Debussy's preludes in it. I wonder if you can hear it? With this "CASA" project, I wanted to demonstrate the connection I feel Jobim has with the Impressionists. I tried to do so in a way that wouldn't be too obvious.
In the middle of this song, about where the piano solo ends, there is the unexpected sound of a bird singing; the sound just floated into the room through a window that had been left open. It was as if Jobim's spirit had become a bird and he was giving us his blessing.

Paula: In this song we have Paulo Jobim's participation - Tom's son - on acoustic guitar, and he knows like no one else how to do that bossa-nova touch that Joao Gilberto, in a stroke of genius, invented. Zeca Assumpcao is also with us on acoustic bass, making it sound velvety and even more beautiful, from the first note.

"Amor em paz" is one of my - many - favorite tracks, and we right away felt it should be track #2 for its swing, for what it says, and also because it's irresistible. On the intermezzo, there's a beautiful dialogue between Ryuichi's piano and Jaques' cello, where the song proves its absolute power, no words needed.

At the closing of the track, the crickets made their contribution. They always came by sunset. When night came, so came the frogs. And they were so loud that we had to call the session off to restart the next morning.

Jaques: We invited Paulo Jobim to join us in this song. I don't have any doubts that after Joao Gilberto, Paulo is the one that can clearest "say" bossa nova through a guitar, and the heart of bossa nova is the guitar. What else I love on this recording is the smoothness and elegance of Zeca Assumpcao on the double bass, and the conversation between the piano and the cello at the instrumental session, witch seams the continuation of our lives.

Ryuichi: Jobim's eldest son Paulo joins us on guitar. The sparse and somewhat ambiguous dialogue between the piano and cello is quite Zen-like. Of course, Paulo's ultra-minimal guitar is also Zen-like, Jobim himself once said, as the cliche goes, "less is more."

Paula: For this song we had three specially invited guest musicians: Luiz Brasil (acoustic guitar), Zeca Assumpcao (acoustic bass) and Marcos Suzano (percussion).

This a very well-known bossa nova tune. I sung it both in Portuguese and in English, and it has been already recorded by two jazz divas: Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald.
I tried to pay homage to Ella, in my own fashion and with all due respect, of course!

By the end of the track, Jaques and I whistle the melody, as if we were walking hand in hand along Ipanema Beach, we two also dreaming of the possibility of a better world in the future.

Jaques: I will keep dreaming for ever of being able to meet Antonio again somewhere, sometime, and maybe being able to recover so much I have been missing for all those years.

Ryuichi: This is something that can be said for all of "CASA,": although many of Jobim's original recordings have surprisingly cheerful arrangements (particularly those from the '60's), our performances here have a considerable melancholy to them. Could it be saudade? Longing for something lost? This song is that way too. It is in reality a cheerful tune, but on "CASA" it feels sorrowful. That is Paula and Jaques whistling during the ending.

Paula: "But what is it all for? Why so much sky? Why so much sea, what for?" This is a sad, tormented and hopeless song, and it's very beautiful, for it bears so much truth and depth.
The piano sounds as if the waters of small stream were tiny diamonds slowly dripping and touching the strings of a deep-toned lamenting cello.

Jaques: This poetic image was so present among us during those five days at "the temple." "Casa," the house is so beautiful (it was designed and built by Paulo, who is also an architect), through its windows we can see the most gorgeous, spectacular landscape I could ever admire in my life (and I have been to nearly 300 cities...). And all this beauty, in some way, could be completely useless without Jobim. But the enormous emotion it brings us while playing his songs , brings us back the absolute relevance of that landscape.

Jaques: This may be the track that is the most jazz-like among the songs on "CASA."
When I first played this for Paulo, I remember him saying, a little sarcastically, "It sounds like jazz." It recalled an episode when Jobim was alive, when he said to some reporter interviewing him, "I don't know anything about jazz." Of course, bossa nova has been influenced in many senses by jazz. It was jazz musicians who performed bossa nova the
most. But bossa nova is Brazilian music, most definitely something other than jazz.

Paula: This song is precious. Ryuichi and Jaques started playing it, and a few minutes later they had found this special rhythm, very much different from the existing previous recordings - it evokes French impressionistic sounds, Debussy, Ravel, and there's also a bit of Chopin in it, which made us listen to Tom Jobim with a different ear. The first time I did "Sabia" in this new format, it was a highly emotional experience for me. I missed him and the tears kept bursting forth.

Jaques: Since the Nova Banda, playing Sabia was maybe my most sublime artistic moment. And once, when by any reason I had to make a transcription of this song, and for a glance I could separate it's emotional side from the architectural side, I could finally realize why this song provokes so much in my heart. It is a masterpiece, and if ever I was obliged to choose my favorite Jobim song, I would not hesitate to say Sabia. (For the detail lovers, note that the piano line at the introduction is the exact line sang by this species. Tom loved to do so, and we can find throughout his work many examples of this exercise. For instance, the minor second relation found in the Intro for "Waters of March" and in many of Jobim's songs, including "Matita Pere," whose title is the name of another Brazilian bird.

The lyrics of Sabia say: "I'll come back" and this can mean so much for me: the song of the exiled, the song for returning to a time when Nature was naturally more preserved than it is today, the song of Tom coming back to Brazil, to his home, to his roots, to his beloved, to his love... Everything...

Ryuichi: This is my personal favorite on "CASA". It's a profoundly meditative song. I am not sure I understand why. It's a feeling I have about the harmonic progression and the melody. You know, the original arrangement for this song as well was surprisingly bossa nova. This song best demonstrates how the contrasting brightness of the bossa nova rhythm and saudade can live together in the same piece.

Paula: Tom wrote this song for a TV series in 1985 and it remained hidden in an LP
that only some collectors have. I had the opportunity to listen to it recently, and it was "love at first hearing." It's one of those songs that you feel like listening to, many, many times in a row. I showed Tom's original recording to Ryuichi and asked what he thought of it, and he immediately wanted to include this one. So much beauty and melancholy... But I think there's no definition for this song. Perhaps what might come closer
to that is to listen to it once again.

Jaques: When we told Paulo Jobim about our project he brought us the score of this song, recorded only once by Tom for a TV Series. This soundtrack was edited only on vinyl LPs, and very few people know this lovely piece, dedicated to another Impressionist addict (as are Jobim and Sakamoto): Michel Legrand.

Ryuichi: This is a piece Jobim wrote long ago for a television soap opera. Apparently it's never been recorded since then. Paulo found the music and brought it to me. He said, "You should definitely include this one." It is a deep, deep piece that demonstrates Jobim's "poesy = poetry." It would be hard to find an equal to this combination of romanticism and melancholy. My performance is like Jobim's, but at the same time has a lot of distance. It was odd that Paulo tried to explain it to me. (But he did say something great. "You play it as if my father were just now writing it!")

Paula: This track has a special guest appearance: Ed Motta, a great singer, composer and musician, who greatly contributed to enhance this composition, in a duet with me. This is the very first song written by Jobim, when he was 20, and he titled it "Valsa Sentimental." Thirty-six years later, in 1983, Chico Buarque added the lyrics, which then became known as "Imagina."

Jaques: We had once recorded this song for a TV show. The same "Casa," the same piano, with Chico Buarque, the author of this brilliant lyrics, singing along with Paula. It was written for the movie "Para viver um grande amor" soundtrack.

Now we brought the voice of one of the most talented representatives of MPB's new generation, Mr. Ed Motta for this new (same) "Casa" session. Once again the Impressionist spirit gathers in all of us: Tom, Ryuichi, Paula, Ed and me.

Ryuichi: This lyric is very surrealistic. The song feels very much like a Satie piece to me, one of his "Chansons"!

Paula: During the recording period, Ryuichi stayed in a beach front hotel in Leblon. This was January 2001, and it was sheer tropical summer. In one of the occasions that he went to the beach, he took a small DAT recorder with him and he recorded all the surrounding sounds. The waves coming and going and splashing on the sand, mothers and their children, street vendors, seagulls, passers-by talking, the typical movement of a Rio de Janeiro beach. When he showed us the recording, we all had the same idea: that
material had to be used in one of the tracks. But which one? When mixing came - the final moment - we started experimenting with it. And the funniest part was: the material fit into all the songs. What now? "Bonita" was the chosen one, and the sound of the sea blends in with the percussion, adding to the natural sensuousness of the song.

Jaques: Nobody will be ever able to achieve more romanticism than Tom could as he was writing those lyrics (originally written in English). It is a brilliant example of how the feminine beauty could impress its own inspirational power on Jobim's soul. Saying in my own words, this song is everything I have always wanted to say to the woman I love. (Not to mention that the sea of Leblon, recorded on a DAT by Ryuichi, is the best instrument we could have used to orchestrate this sophisticated melody).

Ryuichi: The English lyrics for this song are pretty sappy, "Oh, I love you, I love you." (Also, it's one of the few real bossa nova arrangements on "CASA" But the bass and percussion are very understated, which is good.) It has serenity, a feeling that is like watching slow-motion images on the beach in Rio in the hot summer. This is a sense I have had since I first heard bossa nova when I was 14 or 15 years old, of a particular "serenity" that exists only in bossa nova. Although "Bonita" doesn't have any direct connection to the sea, we tried mixing in the sound of the sea, recorded on the Leblon beach. It fit the piece so well we kept it.

Paula: I recently heard a recording of this tune done by Tom and Nara Leao. Tom on
the piano, doing vocals and melodic counterpoint. We did this track in the same mood, the same atmosphere. Imagine the sunset by the sea, a lazy day, a beautiful piano, a cello, a voice to sing of love and a scotch on the rocks.

Jaques: This is the most pure Impressionism: Jobim tells/shows us a delicate picture of the most intense moment. He makes us part of the picture, with all the colors, all the strikes. We decided to suggest this song after listening to it from an old and lovely recording of Tom in a duet with Nara Leao, one of bossa-nova's most definitive icons.

Ryuichi: It sounds as if it is being performed freely, completely without tempo.

Paula: In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful songs that Tom Jobim has ever written, and this is really a very difficult thing to say. As the intro played by Ryuichi and Jaques begins to sound, my thoughts start flying high and far away over a long and endless road. The notes are so clear, just like a white road (estrada branca), and the lyrics by Vinicius
de Moraes make it even more beautiful, full of density and meaning.

Jaques: I love the way as Ryuichi "says" the lyrics with his fingers on the keyboard, at the initial instrumental session. I love also the contrast between the serenity and lightness of this musical composition with the absolutely deepness of the sadness the lyrics brings to us.

Ryuichi: This feels very much like Ravel to me. It's almost like it was part of "Ma Mere L'oye."

Paula: This song has a solo intro by Ryuichi that contrasts with the rhythm that follows, the percussion and the cello creating a typical "samba-cancao" (slow samba) mood. During the recording sessions, this was the favorite track for all of us involved, and whenever we listened to it, we started dancing.

Jaques: Paulo Jobim brought us the manuscript of this pre-bossa nova jewel, a samba that Ryuichi presents to us in his inspired introduction as a classical "lied." This song features the enormous talent of percussionist Marco Suzano, playing the surdo, pandeiro and cuica.

Ryuichi: While we were recording, Jaques suddenly said, "The intro should be just you on the piano, Ryuichi." So I put this intro together on the spot.

Paula: This is one of the songs where the birds took part. At times, they came and stopped to listen. One of them sang along in sympathy to the melancholy lyrics that Vinicius de Moraes wrote for this melody written by Tom in the early 60s. Later, after I met him in the 80s, whenever he finished playing one of those early songs, he used to say " I was a much sadder guy at that time, wasn't I?"

Jaques: After Tom recorded "Passarim" with "The new band," the first orchestration I wrote for him was upon this song. It was then recorded by him for the album "Inedito." His low registered voice, his minimalist piano, and my string session had always provoked in me the desire of returning to this song. For me it sounds almost like a J.S. Bach recitative, and the structure of its melody, and the essential lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes keep taking us, at each step, to deeper and deeper degrees of possible and impossible sadness.

Ryuichi: Jobim wrote this but I can't help but hear it as the recitative part of a Bach cantata! So much so, that at the recording I was even thinking about adding a harpsichord.

Paula: This song never got a professional recording by Tom. It only existed in a homemade recording on cassette tape. Recently, Jaques was invited to write a piano-and-strings arrangement of it for a TV series, and that's how it got its first professional recording.
Besides being a beautiful song, I would like to express my love to the inspiring muse of this song, my friend Ana Jobim, who gave us the incentive to undertake this project - granting us those magical days when we recorded at her house. Thank you, Ana!

Jaques: Jobim's love, our friend Ana.
It is with the most pure happiness that we play this homage to whom made it possible for us to fulfill our dream: recording at "The temple" using Antonio Carlos Jobim's piano. This is a late composition by the Master, never recorded by him.

Ryuichi: This is a piece written for Ana, Jobim's widow. When we recorded it Jaques and I discussed how romantically we could perform it without offending Ana. (In the end, this is what happened. Ana beamed with satisfaction and I heard her say, "That's right! I really am a romantic person.")

Paula: This is my 'piece de resistance'!!

I simply adore singing this song; the intro is super modern, with the voice doubling the piano in 'bocca chiusa'. A musical masterpiece!

Jaques: This song was first recorded in the late fifties by Tom with my first cello teacher, Mrs. Nidia Soledade Otero. The cello arrangement was totally written by Tom, and for me it was very emotional to use this 40 year old manuscript, witch was used at that first recording.

Ryuichi: This is a curious song. I still don't get the connection between the intro and what comes after it. I suppose Jobim was connecting with some internal "landscape" ...

Paula: For this bossa-nova tune we invited Paulo Jobim to play acoustic guitar with us. As we started rehearsing it, he mentioned having recently found the manuscript containing a never-before-recorded intro for it in Tom's files. What we have here is an unpublished piece written by Tom.

Jaques: Once again this score was a contribution from Paulo Jobim, who besides joining us at this track, also brought us this alternate intro, witch was never recorded before. The "live" recording of the quartet brings us a completely intimate feeling: and this is Bossa Nova.

Ryuichi: While we were recording this, Paulo brought down, from the third floor, a sketch of the song that had a different intro than the standard one; our arrangement here is based on that. At the same time, Paulo's daughter Dora also brought down from the third floor the score for the string parts from Claus Ogerman's original arrangement, and I was so moved! That's because Claus Ogerman has been one of my "spiritual masters"! A tattered "treasure" of a score! To the point that I thought about stealing it right then and there! (Not really.) Those string melodies are played here in their entirety.

Paula: This was the one we selected for the closure of the CD, and not only because of the meaning of the words. It's like a letter to Tom Jobim.

"Without you, without love, it's all sorrow... so much pain in this world without you." We miss him so much, and we try to alleviate this feeling when we play and sing his music. And I can sincerely and surely say: that's exactly the moment when we achieve that.

Jaques: This is our hymn for Tom, our moment tell him about our love for him and his work, as we are telling him, using his own words, that:

"Sem voce" (without you...) life is meaningless, time is sad Sem voce, you are what resists to solitude...

Meu amor, meu amor
Nunca te ausentes de mim
Para que eu viva em paz
Para que eu nao sofra mais
Tanta magoa assim
No mundo,
Sem voce...
My love, my love
Be never away from me
For me to leave in peace
For me not to suffer anymore
So much sorrow
In a world
Without you...

Ryuichi: Hmm. What to say about the depth of this one...? It's different from a jazz ballad, and it obviously isn't bossa nova. When you look at the music, it's so simple it's almost disappointing. But when you play it, it is really deep. Simplicity and depth living together. What I mean is, this is undeniably the expression of the soul of bossa nova. It's an utterly mysterious song that deeply imbues one's heart. It's like haiku, isn't it? Call it the "serenity" of bossa nova, or its understated quality, somehow this music of Jobim comes very close to the Japanese aesthetic of unexpressed beauty. Just why this is, I don't know.


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