Beautiful Music: Antônio Carlos Jobim - "Stone Flower"

Antônio Carlos Jobim • Stone Flower • 1970 • CTI Records
Recorded March, April & May 1970 at Rudy Van Gelder Studio
[Orchestra overdubbed May 1970 at RVG Studio]

The Selections:

The Tracks:

A1. Tereza My Love
A2. Children's Games
A3. Choro
A4. Brazil
B1. Stone Flower
B2. Amparo
B3. Andorinha
B4. God And The Devil In The Land Of The Sun
B5. Sabia

The Players:

Antônio Carlos Jobim - Piano, Electric Piano, Guitar, Vocals
Deodato - Guitar, Arranger
Ron Carter - Bass
Joao Palma - Drums
Airto Moreira - Percussion
Everaldo Ferreira - Percussion
Urbie Green - Trombone
Joe Farrell - Soprano Sax (B4)
Hubert Laws - Flute (B2)
Harry Lookofsky - Violin (A1)

The Record:

Antonio Carlos Jobim & Vinicius de Moraes

While it was the ultra-classic albums Jazz Samba and Getz/Gilberto that made the Brazilian composer and bossa nova pioneer Antônio Carlos Jobim a star in the modern jazz world, his career didn't fade away after that pair of early '60s masterpieces. His compositions "Desifinado" and "The Girl From Ipanema" were massive hits and created the bossa nova explosion in the United States and beyond, but a talent such as Jobim didn't get complacent about his musical passions. Stone Flower is less well known than the works that appeared after Jobim's initial bout with notoriety, yet the album shows off the composer's unique skills at combining the sounds of his native Brazil with the best aspects of modern jazz music.

Before Jobim brought his talents to the jazz world, he became a star in his native Brazil when he teamed up with the poet and diplomat Vinícius De Moraes to compose the score for the play Orfeu da Conceição (Orpheus of the Conception). The pair then composed the soundtrack for the film version Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus) which found success around the world. Creed Taylor played a large part in bringing Jobim into the jazz world, after producing the Jazz Samba and Getz/Gilberto LPs he signed Jobim first to Verve and then later to CTI (the label he founded, originally as an offshoot of A&M) where the pair recorded Wave, probably Jobim's most well known solo recording due to the popularity of the title track which quickly became a jazz standard.

Stone Flower was one of the first batch of releases on CTI when it became independent of A&M, yet the pair still owed one more album to A&M and so Tide was produced at the same sessions that resulted in Stone Flower. Not surprisingly, Taylor saved the best for the album on his own label and Tide was a bit of a disappointment after the success of Wave, even though the personnel was essentially the same for both records. Stone Flower, on the other hand, was an unqualified creative masterpiece that for many would come to define the best work by Jobim after his early success a decade before.

The music is nothing short of gorgeous. The tasteful orchestral arrangements (which were overdubbed after the original sessions under the supervision of Deodato) meld perfectly with the familiar sensual and floating rhythms of bossa nova. Say what you will about the commercial leanings of Creed Taylor, but when he worked with great talents (Hubbard, Turrentine, Farrell, Jobim) he shined as a producer, and the resulting records may have had a populist edge to them, but they were also top-notch works of jazz. Stone Flower is no exception, it may have come nearly a decade after the initial bossa nova craze, but it proved that in the right hands this style was more than just a fad. 

Full Gatefold Image From

"Brazil" is clearly the centerpiece of the album, a prime example of bossa nova at it's best, with Jobim taking a turn on both vocals and electric piano, an instrument that adds a shimmering texture to the classic tune (it's also the only track on the album not composed by Jobim, it was a big hit for Carmen Miranda in the US in the early 1940s). I really like "God And The Devil In The Land Of The Sun" which takes elements of bossa nova and combines them with Joe Farrell's soprano sax, creating a sense of drama and urgency along the way. The album opener "Tereza My Love" is also excellent (it was written by Jobim for his wife Tereza), with the veteran trombonist Urbie Green giving a lesson in how tender and seductive the trombone can be in the right hands. 

In what is a rare case in jazz, the decision to add overdubbed strings and woodwinds is hard to argue with on Stone Flower. Maybe it's the restrained arrangements of Deodato, or the mastery of Rudy Van Gelder's recording techniques, but the texture and emotional undercurrent the orchestra brings to the album certainly takes Stone Flower from a great jazz record to a classic one.

By 1970 bossa nova had been exploited, commercialized and overdone, but one of it's creators and masters proved there was still life in it yet. Stone Flower will take each listener to a different place like the best jazz music always does. The beauty of bossa nova and it's deceptively easy melodic and percussive ways define the emotional attachment one will have with it, always the mark of the best that art has to offer us.

The Vinyl:

The Details:  Always hard to say if an album on CTI is an original pressing, so we will just go with "vintage pressing" for this one, probably dating from the early 1970s. The very first batch of releases on the newly independent CTI featured this green label as opposed to the much more familiar yellow and red version.

The Price: I paid $8 for the record at a local shop, very fair considering the near mint vinyl and very good plus cover.

The Sound: Excellent sound given the skimpy vinyl weight of the release (an unfortunate reality of vintage CTI pressings), no doubt helped along by the skills of Rudy Van Gelder behind the soundboard.

Notes: I was familiar with the reputation of Stone Flower although I had never actually heard it, so for $8 I took a well rewarded chance and picked it up. Plus, I'm a sucker for any vintage CTI pressings in nice condition. One of my very first vintage jazz LP purchases almost twenty five years ago was Red Clay, an album I knew nothing about - other than it had Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter on it, which is why I bought it - and it really blew me away, so I guess I'm marked for life when it comes to albums on CTI, not a bad thing considering the great titles I've acquired over the years. Gotta pay a bit more for them these days, but in the grand scheme of things they can still be had for a bargain.