I’ve sat through many awful Jobim interpretations. However, this cover, by Gretchen Parlato and Esperanza Spalding, is well and truly astonishing; it doesn’t belong anywhere near the tired old “predictable Jobim cover” bin.
Perhaps I’ve had covers on the brain lately, what with seeing Bettye LaVette perform this past weekend (and falling even more in love with that raspy voice of hers, if that’s possible), and giving Robert Plant’s Band Of Joy record a much-overdue re-listen -but it feels like when artists cover others artists’ work, they take the safe high road of sonic politeness and predictability. If I wanted to hear it exactly like the original… hell, I’d put the original on for myself. When I hear an artist do a cover version, I want something creative, original, soulful, and thought-provoking; I don’t have to agree with the result to appreciate the effort, but I want the feel the artist understands the meaning of the word “interpret.” Most don’t, or are cowed by the potential hisses of shrewd audiences. But what is artistry without a bit of risk? Chances are that just as many people will be pleased as be pissed off. Dear Artists: take the risk!
A composer like Jobim simply begs for interpretation. This duet delivers the goods. The poetically simple instrumentation – voices, hands, bass – combined with the tonal variations in voices, combined with that gorgeous, loping bassline, make for a swoon-worthy listen. My Monday just got a whole better hearing/watching this. Give it a watch/listen – yours may, too.
Addendum: for a beautiful version of the original, check out Ella Fitzgerald singing “Useless Landscape” live at Montreux in 1969. Awesome scatting included. Swooooon.