Various Artists: A Twist of Jobim
This appropriately "smooth jazz" tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim is perhaps one of the best that's come out over the last few years. Like many of Jobim's records, it goes down like a smooth, relaxing drink. Producer, arranger and nominal leader guitarist Lee Ritenour has collected some fine talent, particularly frequent collaborator Dave Grusin, and crafted some very nice moments throughout. Highlights include "Water to Drink" (featuring Ritenour and Grusin), "Captain Bacardi" (an old Ritenour / Grusin staple with Eric Marienthal), "Lamento" (featuring Ernie Watts and Christian McBride) and "Mojave" (with the Yellowjackets and Ritenour). All lend their individual, and often surprisingly distinctive, talents to the collective soul of Jobim's beautiful melodies.
Much to his credit, Ritenour favors some of Jobim's fine, less exploited, tunes. The nicest surprise of all, though, is Herbie Hancock's smoking rendition of "Stone Flower," Jobim's truly under-appreciated maze of rhythm and chord changes from 1970. Hancock, who's lately made a career of inclusion among Jobim tributes, gets his only feature here and it's truly worth the price of admission. Hancock's dynamic playing, reminiscent of his work with Milton Nascimento, is as muscular and as sensitive as Jobim's tricky romance suggests. Although I could do without the vocals and the vocalists (El DeBarge on "Dindi," Al Jarreau and Oletta Adams on the annoying "Waters of March" and "Girl from Ipanema"), each singer, especially Jarreau, fits well into Jobim's universe, ably suggesting the romantic shores of Ipanema.
Great song choices (though I would've traded "Girl from Ipanema" for "A Felicidade") and a sensitive cast of talented players make A Twist Of Jobim worth at least a listen or two.