Friday, April 18, 2008

"In Love with the Music of Jobim"

A Sadly Uninspired Interpretation of Jobim's Music
by Don Heckman
Los Angeles Times, April 16, 2008

As a concept, "In Love with the Music of Antonio Carlos Jobim" sounded like an unforgettable evening -- a "one-act musical" that included nearly 20 tunes by the Brazilian who was one of the premier songwriters of the last four decades, narrated by Gavin MacLeod, no less.

Delivered as a staged reading at the Jazz Bakery Monday night, the production cobbled together the Jobim material with a lightweight running story line about a romance between a beautiful young Brazilian ("The Girl from Ipanema," played by Debi Nova) and her two admirers (the young, strapping Will Collyer and the older, wealthier Amick Byram).

Conceived and written by Ernest Chambers, with special material by Ken and Mitzi Welch, the narrative was peppered with gags distinctly reminiscent of "The Love Boat" era of television sitcoms (not surprising, perhaps, given the presence of MacLeod, who played the captain in the '80s hit series). Too often, though, the story interrupted the pleasures of the Jobim songs.

Fortunately, the actors brought unique qualities to their vocal interpretations.

Byram, whose big, musical theater voice was heard as Moses in the 1998 animated film "The Prince of Egypt," added warmth and musical intimacy to everything he sang. He was particularly effective in his reading of the lovely, rarely heard "This Happy Madness."

Collyer's lighter, briskly rhythmic style was at its best in duets with the other two singers -- especially a vigorously contrapuntal take on "One Note Samba" and a sensitive rendering of "Once I Loved."

Nova was also effective in duets -- especially "Two Kites" and "Quiet Night of Quiet Stars" -- less so when she unexpectedly launched into distracting scat singing on "No More Blues."

Music director/pianist Bill Cantos, guitarist Pat Kelley and drummer Michael Shapiro did yeomen jobs of pulling together the disparate, often uneven qualities of "In Love with the Music of Antonio Carlos Jobim."

But ultimately, it was a concept that failed to live up to its extraordinary potential.

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