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A) Learning to play a jazz solo (or lick, or tune) by ear
B) Writing down a jazz solo (or lick, or tune) that you learn by ear from a recording.
You can also combine these two basic approaches, and hit multiple levels of learning by both learning to play the solo first AND THEN writing it down. There are benefits to both approaches, and combining them will reinforce your learning.
Here are some of the benefits of transcribing in general:
Transcribing helps build your ear
Transcribing helps build your vocabulary of jazz licks
Transcribing helps your technique-especially if you learn to play along with the recording!
Transcribing helps you analyze how others approach the changes to a tune.
Using transcription you teach yourself how to improvise better by learning from the masters.
Here are some of the benefits of learning to play a solo by ear (without writing it down):
You will REALLY learn the solo, and will remember it longer than if you just write it down.
There’s an intangible thing that happens-the solo becomes a part of you. You internalize it, and the solo becomes part of how you conceptualize a particular tune.
The way you approach soloing over the tune you transcribed is influenced on an unconscious level by the solo you learned over that song.
Here are some of the benefits to writing down a solo:
It is easier to analyze the solo when it is in written form.
It is easier to reference in a teaching situation.
You can save it for later in case you forget the solo.
You can pass it out to others so they can play it or analyze the solo.
You may be able to learn the solo faster, (though you may not internalize it).
So here are some options:1. Learn the solo on your instrument completely by ear2. Write down the solo (for analysis), and don’t learn to play it3. Write down the solo, and then learn to play it4. Learn the solo first, then write it down5. Use the 80-80-80 Method: Listen 80 times, Sing 80 Times, Play 80 Times(perhaps this would be the 800-800-800 Method…whatever you need to do!)The approach you use should depend on your goals. For instance, if you are transcribing a particular tune, you might be transcribing in order to put the melody and chord changes in front of a band for a gig situation. If that is your goal, then option #2 will suffice. If your goal is to learn some new licks, you can learn small parts of the solos of other people and transpose them into all 12 keys. Maybe writing them down might help you in that process, but you may not have to. Perhaps your goal is to transcribe a solo for other people to learn, such as in a teaching situation. In this case, writing it down is the way to go.
Let me stress that an intangible thing happens when you learn a solo without writing it down. It becomes a part of you as you learn to play it. Still, transcribing by notation is great for analyzing a solo and learning cognitively.
For this reason, I think the maximum benefit you can get out of a solo would be to use the 80-80-80 method (as described above), and after you’ve THOROUGHLY learned the transcription and internalized it, then you can write it down and save it for posterity (for your teaching studio, for your own benefit if you want to relearn it again at another time, etc.)
I think a balanced approach is good: transcribing with a purpose in mind. Transcribing adds ideas into your playing, improves your ear, and increases your technique. I prefer to learn a solo by ear without writing it down because I think it helps you internalize the solo better. I’m a piano player, so I’ll add in my own comp over the changes. It’s good to be aware of a variety of approaches to transcription, try out a few of them, and use whatever method works for you.
When piano icon Keith Jarrett released Radiance (ECM, 2005), it signalled a welcome return to solo performance, something that was curtailed from the mid-1990s through 2002 as a result of a serious health issue that, at times, had Jarrett himself wondering whether he’d ever be able to play again. While ECM, his label for over 30 years, had enough material in the can to fill the gap while Jarrett battled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, it was with the release of an uncharacteristically spare home recording of standards, The Melody at Night, With You (ECM, 1999), that Jarrett fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief. Clearly Jarrett may have been down, but he was by no means out.
Still, from 1999 through 2002 Jarrett returned to the concert stage almost always accompanied by his longstanding trio partners, bassist Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette. The rigours of his traditional solo shows—hour-long or more continuous performances of spontaneous composition drawn from the ether—seemed beyond his reach, with an unsatisfying attempt to return to solo performance in the early part of the decade suggesting to Jarrett that perhaps those days were gone for good, despite his becoming stronger and healthier with each passing year.
But in 2002 Jarrett returned to solo work with a new approach that managed to address the problems of continuous performance by working in smaller chunks, but conceptually building each successive piece from what came before. These pieces could be as long as fifteen minutes and as short as barely a minute. But on Radiance it became clear that not only did this new approach work for Jarrett, it in many ways reinvigorated his approach to solo performance, making that record one of the best solo records of his entire career.
Radiance was culled primarily from an October 27, 2002 performance in Osaka, Japan, but the second disc also featured four tracks from a Tokyo performance three nights later, and it’s the entire Tokyo performance that makes up the DVD Tokyo Solo. It’s Jarrett’s first solo performance to be released on video since Solo Tribute, which captured a 1987 performance of mostly standards, and Last Solo, from a 1984 solo performance that was more in keeping with his traditional stream-of-consciousness methodology. It’s also the first DVD to be released by ECM, and the same degree of artistic quality that has been de rigueur for the label since inception is exactly what you get with this DVD.
The music, like that on Radiance, is impeccable—perhaps even surpassing the show from three days earlier. And while Jarrett, who can be an animated performer and often vocalizes his ideas in ways that some find difficult to take, is reasonably subdued here—at least compared to those earlier DVD/video releases.
But what is most immediately striking is the quality of the sound. Being able to take advantage of DVD’s higher resolution, as sonically excellent as Jarrett’s CD releases have been, here his piano is so rich, so present, so immediate that you truly feel as though you’re in the concert hall with the rest of the audience.
The video is also outstanding. From distance shots of Jarrett to full-on closeups of both his face and his hands, director Kanama Kawachi captures the performance in ways that exceed what would be possible being a member of the audience. Kawachi, in fact, leaves no detail unexamined, whether it be Jarrett’s pedal work or the clear way in which, while he many not be thinking in a normal way while improvising, decisions are being made moment-to-moment.
In fact, more so than any previous solo performances released on video, Kawachi manages to achieve the impossible—make one man and a piano on a stage a thoroughly compelling watch time and again. Most effective, perhaps, are the distance shots where Jarrett and his piano are surrounded by darkness—mirroring, perhaps, Jarrett’s own sense of total self-absorption during the creative process.
While there are certain aspects to Jarrett solo performances that can be compartmentalized—periods of abstraction and density broken up by tender moments of unadulterated lyricism, anyone who has followed Jarrett’s extensive solo discography—or, even better, had the good fortune to see him in performance—knows that the shape every concert takes is truly different. It’s the reason why Jarrett, despite being sometimes criticized for his visual and vocal affectations—not to mention behavior that some might call prima donna-ish—is considered one of the most important, if not the most important improvising musician of the past 40 years.
Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 4, 1901. He was raised by his mother Mayann in a neighborhood so dangerous it was called “The Battlefield.” He only had a fifth-grade education, dropping out of school early to go to work. An early job working for the Jewish Karnofsky family allowed Armstrong to make enough money to purchase his first cornet.
On New Year’s Eve 1912, he was arrested and sent to the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys. There, under the tutelage of Peter Davis, he learned how to properly play the cornet, eventually becoming the leader of the Waif’s Home Brass Band. Released from the Waif’s Home in 1914, Armstrong set his sights on becoming a professional musician. Mentored by the city’s top cornetist, Joe “King” Oliver, Armstrong soon became one of the most in-demand cornetists in town, eventually working steadily on Mississippi riverboats.
In 1922, King Oliver sent for Armstrong to join his band in Chicago. Armstrong and Oliver became the talk of the town with their intricate two-cornet breaks and started making records together in 1923. By that point, Armstrong began dating the pianist in the band, Lillian Hardin. In 1924, Armstrong married Hardin, who urged Armstrong to leave Oliver and try to make it on his own. A year in New York with Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra proved unsatisfying so Armstrong returned to Chicago in 1925 and began making records under his own name for the first time.
Hotter Than That
The records by Louis Armstrong and His Five–and later, Hot Seven–are the most influential in jazz. Armstrong’s improvised solos transformed jazz from an ensemble-based music into a soloist’s art, while his expressive vocals incorporated innovative bursts of scat singing and an underlying swing feel. By the end of the decade, the popularity of the Hot Fives and Sevens was enough to send Armstrong back to New York, where he appeared in the popular Broadway revue, “Hot Chocolates.” He soon began touring and never really stopped until his death in 1971.
The 1930s also found Armstrong achieving great popularity on radio, in films, and with his recordings. He performed in Europe for the first time in 1932 and returned in 1933, staying for over a year because of a damaged lip. Back in America in 1935, Armstrong hired Joe Glaser as his manager and began fronting a big band, recording pop songs for Decca, and appearing regularly in movies. He began touring the country in the 1940s.
In 1947, the waning popularity of the big bands forced Armstrong to begin fronting a small group, Louis Armstrong and His All Stars. Personnel changed over the years but this remained Armstrong’s main performing vehicle for the rest of his career. He had a string of pop hits beginning in 1949 and started making regular overseas tours, where his popularity was so great, he was dubbed “Ambassador Satch.”
In America, Armstrong had been a great Civil Rights pioneer for his race, breaking down numerous barriers as a young man. In the 1950s, he was sometimes criticized for his onstage persona and called an “Uncle Tom” but he silenced critics by speaking out against the government’s handling of the “Little Rock Nine” high school integration crisis in 1957.
Armstrong continued touring the world and making records with songs like “Blueberry Hill” (1949), “Mack the Knife” (1955) and “Hello, Dolly! (1964),” the latter knocking the Beatles off the top of the pop charts at the height of Beatlemania.
Good Evening Everybody
The many years of constant touring eventually wore down Armstrong, who had his first heart attack in 1959 and returned to intensive care at Beth Israel Hospital for heart and kidney trouble in 1968. Doctors advised him not to play but Armstrong continued to practice every day in his Corona, Queens home, where he had lived with his fourth wife, Lucille, since 1943. He returned to performing in 1970 but it was too much, too soon and he passed away in his sleep on July 6, 1971, a few months after his final engagement at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
Bajo el título “Cuatro estaciones porteñas” se engloban cuatro pequeñas piezas que describen la ciudad de Buenos Aires en cada una de las estaciones del año, de un modo similar al que lo hizo Vivaldi en sus conciertos para violín titulados “Cuatro estaciones”. Piazzolla compuso esta serie de piezas en momentos diferentes, siendo obras independientes que pueden ser ejecutadas por separado.
Astor Piazzolla fue un bandoneonista y compositor argentino, que actualmente está considerado como uno de los músicos más importantes del siglo XX.
La infancia de Piazzolla transcurre en New Jersey, donde se trasladaron sus padres dos años después de nacer Astor, y es allí donde Piazzolla tiene su primer contacto con el tango, y nada menos que de la mano de Carlos Gardel.
La música que el joven Piazzolla escuchaba en aquel momento estaba más relacionada con el jazz, más de moda que el tango, pero un encuentro fortuito con Carlos Gardel, que en aquel momento se encontraba en Estados Unidos trabajando en la película “El día que me quieras”, hizo que Astor Piazzola se acercara a ese género musical. Más adelante tocó y realizó arreglos orquestales para el bandoneonista, compositor y director Aníbal Troilo.
Las cuatro estaciones fueron escritas para quinteto instrumental compuesto por bandoneón, violín, piano, guitarra eléctrica y contrabajo, dando al conjunto una sonoridad que a los más puristas de la época no acababa de agradar.
Cuando Piazzolla comenzó a hacer innovaciones en el tango en lo que respecta a ritmo, timbre y armonía, fue muy criticado por los tangueros de la “Guardia Vieja”, más ortodoxos en cuanto a ritmo, melodía y orquestación.
Más adelante esta sonoridad sería reivindicada por intelectuales y músicos de rock, y a las críticas de los más puristas, Piazzolla respondió con una nueva definición, aclarando que él hacía “música contemporánea de Buenos Aires”, eliminando a propósito la palabra “tango”. A pesar de ello los sellos discográficos no se atrevían a editar su música, considerando a Piazzolla un snob irrespetuoso que componía música híbrida, con exabruptos de armonía disonante.
Actualmente se considera a Piazzolla como el gran innovador de la música argentina, su estilo es propio e inconfundible, y en sus composiciones escuchamos una mezcla de sonidos y ritmos tangueros con un lenguaje más fresco y novedoso, elaborado con procedimientos y recursos técnicos, armónicos y contrapuntísticos que el compositor aprendió en Europa y supo adecuar a su particular lenguaje musical.
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The Most Famous Classical Piano Pieces
The classical piano repertoire is extraordinarily broad and varied, with new pieces being added to it all the time to satisfy the appetites and tastes of pianists and audiences. Amidst this vast repertoire, there are pieces which are almost instantly recognisable to anyone: even if they may not know the title or composer of the piece, they will know it. These are the piano pieces which have earned the status of “most famous” through their frequency and popularity in performance and on recordings, and, more recently, their use in film, TV and advertising soundtracks. In addition, certain performing artists have become closely associated with certain piano pieces or composers and this undoubtedly contributes to the music’s fame: for example, Glenn Gould, András Schiff and Angela Hewitt with the music of J.S. Bach, Murray Perahia and Maria João Pires with the piano music of Mozart, Arthur Rubinstein with Chopin, Yuja Wang with Prokofiev…
But there’s more, because these famous classical piano pieces are instantly appealing, in all their myriad details, from haunting, lyrical melodies to extrovert rhythms and piquant harmonies or the expression of passionate emotions.
J.S. Bach: Prelude in C Major
This serenely beautiful Prelude is the first of J.S. Bach’s famous Preludes & Fugues, from the Well-Tempered Clavier. Its beauty lies in its simplicity – built from a series of broken chords, Bach uses harmonic progressions and modulations, from major to minor and back again, to create a dramatic processional quality in the music. The piece is popular at weddings and has been transcribed and adapted, perhaps most famously by Gounod in his Ave Maria.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata in C-sharp minor, Op 27, No. 2 ‘Moonlight’, 1st movement
The opening movement of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata is, like Bach’s C Major Prelude, instantly recognisable, with its repeating pattern of hushed broken chords and simple but haunting melody. It is so famous that people often forget it is followed by two other movements! The piece was popular even in Beethoven’s day and remains amongst his most famous works. It is unusual for a classical piano sonata to begin with a slow movement and although the nickname ‘Moonlight’ was given to the work after Beethoven’s death, it is perfectly suited to the expressive nature of this twilight first movement whose harmonies shimmer and shift. It’s an amazing gesture, created by a composer poised on the threshold of change in the early years of the nineteenth century.
Wolfgang Amadues Mozart: Rondo alla Turca
Opening of Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca
This is actually the final movement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11, K.331, but it is often performed as a stand-alone piece. Mozart gave it the title Alla Turca (Turkish style), and it imitates the sound of Turkish Janissary (military) bands whose music was very popular at the time of the sonata’s composition.
Like Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca, Chopin’s Waltz in D-flat Major, Op 64, No. 1, nicknamed the ‘Minute’ waltz, is a test of the pianist’s fleet fingers – although the piece is not intended to be played in the space of just 60 seconds! It is also known as the Valse du petit chien (French for “Waltz of the puppy”) and is said to have been inspired by the gleeful antics of George Sand’s little dog ‘Marquis’, whom Chopin mentions in some of his letters. It’s easy to imagine an excitable dog chasing its tail in the twirling, seemingly never-ending quavers in the outer sections of the waltz, and the joyous mood of the music. It is one of Chopin’s most famous piano pieces and is also a popular encore.
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor
Composed at the very start of the twentieth century, this piece confirmed Rachmaninoff as a great composer and also one of the greatest pianists of all time. It’s phenomenally difficult to play, with hand-splitting chords and vertiginous virtuosity, but it’s also very beautiful, profoundly emotional and hauntingly romantic. Hugely popular with pianists, it regularly appears in concert programmes and piano competitions, and was made even more popular by its use in the soundtrack of the film Brief Encounter (1945), where it is cleverly employed to express the true emotions of the leading characters.
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18 – I. Moderato – Allegro (Evgeny Kissin, piano; London Symphony Orchestra; Valery Gergiev, cond.)
Claude Debussy: Clair de Lune from Suite Bergamasque
Another “moonlight” piece, Debussy’s Clair de Lune is perhaps his best-loved and most well known piece. It’s the third movement of his Suite Bergamesque, but, like Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca, it’s acquired a life of its own outside of the suite, and is regularly performed as a solo work. It has a remarkable serenity, only briefly interrupted by a more florid middle section. Debussy drew inspiration from a poem by Paul Verlaine, and the piece is an example of impressionism in music – here, capturing the essence of the haunting beauty of moonlight in sound.
Claude Debussy: Suite bergamasque – III. Clair de lune (Nikolai Lugansky, piano)
Scott Joplin: Maple Leaf Rag
Although the ragtime music of Scott Joplin is generally regarded as the pre-cursor to Jazz, his music falls into the category of “classical music”, and his Maple Leaf Rag is one of his most famous piano pieces. This jaunty, athletic rag with its infectious melody is a challenge for the pianist, with its big chords, leaps and syncopated rhythms, but for the listener it’s an almost perfect example of the rag genre. Find a recording with a more leisurely tempo (which is how Joplin intended his music to be played) and enjoy all the details he puts into his score.
Scott Joplin: Maple Leaf Rag (Roger Shields, piano)
George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
Instantly recognisable from the opening clarinet glissando, as famous as the opening measures of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is one of the most famous piano pieces of the twentieth century, and also one of the greatest in its evocation of the exuberance of the jazz age. Composed in 1924, it established Gershwin’s reputation as a significant composer, and has since gone on to become one of the most popular all American concert works. It synthesizes jazz effects (syncopated rhythms and jazz chords) with classical elements (for example, the cadenza in the piano) to create a work of enormous vibrancy and musical colour, beloved of performers and audiences everywhere.George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano; Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; Marin Alsop, cond.)
Robert Schumann: Traumerei
A miniature gem from Schumann’s collection Scenes from Childhood, a collection of 13 short pieces intended as the composer’s adult reminiscences of childhood, Traumerei (‘Dreaming’) is a peaceful picture in music of a child’s daydreams. Tender, nostalgic and lyrical, with a graceful ascending melody, it’s almost perfect in its construction and is as emotionally powerful as any large-scale work.
The last of Beethoven’s concertos for piano, this work could easily claim the title of greatest piano piece ever written. Composed between 1809 and 1811, the concerto is dedicated to Archduke Rudolf, Beethoven’s patron and pupil, who gave the work its first performance in a private recital in Vienna in January 1811. The nickname ‘Emperor’ was not Beethoven’s, but was given to the work by Johann Cramer, the English publisher.
It’s certainly the most famous of Beethoven’s five piano concertos and one of the most famous piano concertosof all time. Its colossal, propulsive first movement opens with a virtuosic statement by the piano. This is followed by a contrasting slow movement with a nocturne-like serenity which flows directly into the finale, a triumphant rondo in which the piano has the spotlight. It’s been performed and recorded by countless pianists and is a staple of the concert repertoire, perennially popular with performers, orchestras and audiences alike.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-Flat Major, Op. 73, “Emperor” (Alfred Brendel, piano; Vienna Pro Musica Orchestra; Zubin Mehta, cond.)
Franz Liszt: Liebesträum No. 3 in A flat
Franz Liszt is often unfairly dismissed as a showman, whose often complex piano music was written to allow him to display his exceptional pianistic bravado. While it’s true that some of his piano pieces are highly virtuosic, he also wrote a great deal of music which is intimate, romantic and deeply poetic.
He composed three Liebesträum (Love’s Dream) for solo piano, but the third, in warm A-flat major, remains his most famous. Based on the poem by German writer Ferdinand Freliligrath O Lieb, so lang du lieben kannst (Love as long as love you can), the music illustrates themes of love and the loss of love. It’s a challenge for the pianist as the right hand is effectively split into two hands – one playing the melody, the other a flowing, arpeggiated accompaniment. Heart-wrenching and troubled, Liszt melds complex harmonies and melody with dramatic dynamics to create a powerful and achingly beautiful musical narrative. Elvis Presley was a fan of this piece and used it as inspiration for his song ‘Today, Tomorrow and Forever’ in the film Viva Las Vegas.
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Antonio Carlos Jobim
It has been said that Antonio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim was the George Gershwin of Brazil—and there is a solid ring of truth in that, for both contributed large bodies of songs to the jazz repertoire, both expanded their reach into the concert hall, and both tend to symbolize their countries in the eyes of the rest of the world. With their gracefully urbane, sensuously aching melodies and harmonies, Jobim’s songs gave jazz musicians in the 1960s a quiet, strikingly original alternative to their traditional Tin Pan Alley source.
Jobim’s roots were always planted firmly in jazz; the records of Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Barney Kessel and other West Coast jazz musicians made an enormous impact upon him in the 1950s. But he also claimed that the French impressionist composer Claude Debussy had a decisive influence upon his harmonies, and the Brazilian samba gave his music a uniquely exotic rhythmic underpinning.
As a pianist, he usually kept things simple and melodically to the point with a touch that reminds some of Claude Thornhill, but some of his records show that he could also stretch out when given room. His guitar was limited mostly to gentle strumming of the syncopated rhythms, and he sang in a modest, slightly hoarse yet often hauntingly emotional manner.
Born in the Tijuca neighborhood of Rio, Jobim originally was headed for a career as an architect. Yet by the time he turned 20, the lure of music was too powerful, and so he started playing piano in nightclubs and working in recording studios. He made his first record in 1954 backing singer Bill Farr as the leader of “Tom and His Band” (Tom was Jobim’s lifelong nickname), and he first found fame in 1956 when he teamed up with poet Vinicius de Morales to provide part of the score for a play called Orfeo do Carnaval (later made into the famous film Black Orpheus).
In 1958, the then-unknown Brazilian singer Joao Gilberto recorded some of Jobim’s songs, which had the effect of launching the phenomenon known as bossa nova.
Jobim’s breakthrough outside Brazil occurred in 1962 when Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd scored a surprise hit with his tune “Desafinado”—and later that year, he and several other Brazilian musicians were invited to participate in a Carnegie Hall showcase. Fueled by Jobim’s songs, the bossa nova became an international fad, and jazz musicians jumped on the bandwagon recording album after album of bossa novas until the trend ran out of commercial steam in the late ’60s.
Jobim himself preferred the recording studios to touring, making several lovely albums of his music as a pianist, guitarist and singer for Verve, Warner Bros., Discovery, A&M, CTI and MCA in the ’60s and ’70s, and Verve again in the last decade of his life. Early on, he started collaborating with arranger/conductor Claus Ogerman, whose subtle, caressing, occasionally moody charts gave his records a haunting ambiance.
When Brazilian music was in its American eclipse after the ’60s, a victim of overexposure and the burgeoning rock revolution, Jobim retreated more into the background, concentrating much energy upon film and TV scores in Brazil. But by 1985, as the idea of world music and a second Brazilian wave gathered steam, Jobim started touring again with a group containing his second wife Ana Lontra, his son Paulo, daughter Elizabeth and various musician friends.
At the time of his final concerts in Brazil in September 1993 and at Carnegie Hall in April 1994 (both available on Verve), Jobim at last was receiving the universal recognition he deserved, and a plethora of tribute albums and concerts followed in the wake of his sudden death in New York City of heart failure. Jobim’s reputation as one of the great songwriters of the century is now secure, nowhere more so than on the jazz scene where every other set seems to contain at least one bossa nova.
Composer Antonio Carlos Jobim AKA Tom Jobim was born on January 25, 1927 in Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He showed a natural curiosity towards music early on and at age 13 discovered an old piano in his parents’ school and started experimenting with sounds and notes. Although he took some private piano lessons he was for the most part self-taught. At age 20 he gave up on his original plans to become an architect and devoted himself completely to music.
He started his career in 1952 playing piano in small cafes around the city. His early musical influences included the legendary composer Pixinguinha, Claude Debussy and jazz. In 1954 he cut his first record with his band called “Tom and His Band” backing the singer Bill Farr. The same year he apprenticed to arranger Radames Gnatali from whom he learned the rudiments of arranging and shifted careers and for a while and became an arranger for local singers. In 1956 he collaborated with poet and diplomat Vinicius de Moraes on an operetta entitled Orfeo do Carnaval that opened to great acclaim at the Metropolitan Opera House in Rio.
The French director Marcel Camus transferred it to the big screen under the title Black Orpheus. The film was honored by the Cannes Film Festival with a Palme D’Or in 1959. His first hit was Felicidade from this operetta. The song gained immense popularity when Billy Eckstine added English lyrics to it in the late 1950s. Moraes and Jobim also teamed up on other hits including Girl from Ipanema and Agua de Beber among others. In 1958 Brazilian guitarist and vocalist Joao Gilberto released a record of Jobim songs that marked the beginning of the bossa nova phenomenon. 1962 marked an important change in Jobim’s career when he broke out into the world scene after Stan Getz popularized his tune “Desafinado”. He and his colleagues were invited to perform at Carnegie Hall and the popularity of the bossa nova took off.
From 1962 till the end of the 60s various jazz musicians recorded multitude of bossa nova albums. Jobim himself, in addition to becoming one of the most recorded composers, cut several albums for a variety of labels often in collaboration with Claus Ogerman. The 1970s and 80s marked a time of low popularity for jazz and for Brazilian music due to the rock explosion. Jobim returned to Brazil and worked on TV and film scores. By 1985 though bossa nova and Brazilian music experienced a renaissance and Jobim started touring again performing up to few months before his death in New York City of heart failure on December 8 1994.
The Godfather: Here are some facts about the award-winning movies centered around the fictional Corleone crime family.
It’s one of the most popular and critically acclaimed movie series in Hollywood history. But when The Godfather was in production, it was anything but a surefire hit. From casting squabbles to the producers’ real-life battle with organized crime bosses, here’s the story you may not know about The Godfather films.
Both Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola came to the project due to money woes
Mario Puzo was a New York-born writer who had published several earlier books to little acclaim, even fewer sales, and had even worked under a pen name as a writer for pulp magazines. By the mid-1960s, he had a large family — and growing gambling debts. Eager to find a subject that he thought would appeal to the masses, he turned his attention to organized crime, which had become a hot-button topic thanks to a series of televised hearings in the U.S. Congress in the 1950s and ’60s. In 1968, he sold the rights for his yet-to-be-published book to Paramount Pictures, who were shocked when it became a runaway bestseller in 1969.
That same year, filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola had co-founded his own independent movie studio, American Zoetrope, with friend and fellow director George Lucas. The new company was struggling, and although Coppola initially turned down Paramount when they approached him to direct the film (he couldn’t even finish the book the first time he tried to read it), Lucas and others convinced him to take the job to secure much-needed funds for Zoetrope.
One of Coppola’s first battles with Paramount was over the film’s setting and budget. Eager to save money, the studio had pushed Puzo to write a draft that updated the action to the 1970s. When Coppola came onboard, he insisted that it remain true to the 1940s world Puzo had originally envisioned. He also refused their suggestion that they save money by shooting outside of New York City (Kansas City was one suggestion), but Coppola once again held firm.
Coppola later said that he was nearly fired several times during the shoot and was convinced that he was saved by winning an Oscar during filming (a Best Original Screenplay Award for Patton). Exasperated with several crew members who he believed were unsupportive of his vision for the film, Coppola fired them, including an editor who was angling for Coppola’s job. One person that Coppola protected? Cinematographer Gordon Willis, whose iconic use of shadows and darkness infuriated Paramount bosses but gave the film its iconic look and feel.
The studio balked at Coppola’s casting choice for Vito Corleone
Although Marlon Brando is considered one of the most respected actors of the 20th century, by the early 1970s he’d earned a reputation for being difficult and unprofessional. So, it was perhaps no surprise that nobody at Paramount wanted to cast him as Vito Corleone. The studio wanted Coppola to consider actors Danny Thomas, Burt Lancaster, Ernest Borgnine, Anthony Quinn or others, but Coppola insisted that Brando was his only choice.
The studio made several stipulations that they believed Brando would refuse, including a low salary, putting up a bond to cover any financial costs due to delays and submitting to a screen test. Coppola tricked the mercurial actor by telling him he wanted to privately film him to work out some ideas for the film. Brando’s stunning on-camera physical transformation into Corleone (including shoving tissues in his lower cheeks) finally convinced Paramount to cast him.
Paramount was also unenthusiastic about casting Al Pacino as Michael Corleone
James Caan, who would eventually play hotheaded older son Sonny, was initially cast as Michael, with another actor cast as Sonny. Producers eventually convinced Coppola to fire the other actor and give Caan the role, with Pacino as youngest son Michael.
Thanks to the real-life mob, the word ‘mafia’ never appears in the first film
In 1970, a group (led in part by crime family boss Joe Colombo Sr.) formed the Italian American Civil Rights League, aimed at eliminating offensive stereotypes and depictions in business and media. The group quickly set their sights on The Godfather, protesting the film from the moment it was announced. But Colombo allegedly took things even further. The shoot was threatened with costly labor shutdowns aimed at derailing production, engineered by the organized crime groups that controlled the unions. Producer Albert Ruddy’s car windows were blown out, and Paramount chief exec Robert Evans claimed to have received phone calls threatening him and his family, including then-wife Ali MacGraw.
In February 1971, just before filming began, Ruddy sat down with Anthony Colombo, one of Joe Sr’s sons, and hashed out a compromise. The League agreed to give its approval if the producers allowed the League to review the script (and remove the words “mafia” or “La Cosa Nostra”) and donate the proceeds of the New York premiere to the League. Ruddy’s public deal infuriated Paramount, who threatened to fire him, but it ended the boycotts and threats.