Biscoito Fino
BF-547 / AB5000
label website

Antonio Carlos Jobim in symphonic threads - that's how the live double album under review dresses up seventeen of the maestro's published and previously unreleased compositions, compliments of arrangements by composers Mario Adnet and Paulo Jobim, Tom's son; as well as the symphonic forces of the São Paulo Orchestra; the guitars of the two composer/arrangers; a chorus including Milton Nascimento; and a backup band of Marcos Nimrichter on principal piano, Zeca Assumpção on double-bass, Duduka da Fonseca on percussion; and Léa Freire, Paulo Guimarães and Teco Cardoso on flutes and saxophones, Nailor Proveta on clarinet and Benjamim Taubkin on additional piano.

From the liner notes, we learn that
the repertoire includes the unedited 1954 "Lenda" as well as the fourth movement of the 1956 Opera Orfeu da Conceição which marks the hit-factory collaboration between Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. There also are four movements of Brasília - Sinfonia da Alvorada which had been ordered by then-president Juscelino Kubitschek for his inauguration at the federal capital in April of 1961. At the time, this symphony could not be presented as the grand spectacle of sound and light as planned but was subsequently released on a record with small circulation and had only two public presentations since: In 1966 by TV Excelsior in São Paulo, and in 1986 in the Praça dos Três Poderes.

Mario Adnet and Paulo Jobim further include the 1973 hit "Matita Perê" presented by Milton Nascimento; 1959's "A Felicidade" set by Nelson Riddle; and my birth year's legendary "Garota de Ipanema" in an instrumental version by Eumir Deodato composed exclusively for the film with the song´s title. There's also Paulo Cesar Saraceni's four movement film music adaptation of Crônica da casa assassinada in a symphonic enhancement led Benjamim Taubkin's piano; and "Quando os maestros se encontra" first penned for National Radio. "Macumba" was originally written for the Orfeu da Conceição play by the Jobim/Vinicius team but then taken out of the final version while "Prelúdio" written in honor of Jobim's childhood friend, pianist Evandro Rosa, has remained unpublished until now. The DVD version of this live concert also contains an interview with the pianist, colleagues of Tom´s in the classes of Professor Lúcia Minczuk, and images of the making of the concert and prior practice sessions - another reminder that a universal player will have to become part of the standard hardware repertoire at yours truly's much sooner than later.

If the Brazilian label's spelling of its name Biscoito Fino indicated some unique amalgam of fine biscuits and coitus, it would seem strangely fitting - for Sinfônico feels like a memory palace of romantic tone poems in the French/Russian impressionist vein mixed with certain orchestral movie soundtracks. And like Ravel or Rachmaninov might introduce the unusual symphonic timbre of a saxophone; Eddie Daniels mated a Jazz formation to an orchestra in his inspired crossover reading of Vivaldi's Five Seaons; George Dalaras and Glykeria add traditional Greek ensembles to the Israel Symphony when performing their popular songs in orchestral settings in Jerusalem; so do Sinfônico's guest forces gently expand the concert hall milieu without alienating expectations of its patrons.

There is nothing as voluptuous, scintillatingly colorful, concomitantly expressive and dynamic as a large orchestra though it arguably lacks a certain juice found in popular music. Hence the reverse recipe of embedding popular music in symphonic settings when done by masterful arrangers as here truly works miracles. And since orchestras must concentrate, by default, on material of bygone eras which make up the meat of the popular repertoire, their employ instantly adds a golden patina of yesteryear when anything but atonal experiments are played. Now do the math. Jobim's trademark melodic magic + large symphonic forces + arrangements supervised and "vetted" by his son + a backup band of Brazil's finest instrumentalists and singers = ?

There really is no need to spell it out. Think Casablanca the movie - its characters' strength, the exotic locale, the compelling story, the subtext of class and nobility prior to gratuitous sex and violence. Now subtract all those visuals and imagine the essence of the story as told in sound: Presto, Jobim's Sinfônico. It's as fitting a simile as I can come up with to put it to you in a nutshell...