On December 8, 1994 after recovering from surgery, Jobim suffered cardiac arrest and a second cardiac arrest two hours later. His last words were "Remember me." Thanks to the Toshi Onizuka Trio, Jobim was well-remembered at Paragon.
The evening began with one of my favorite Jobim compositions, Agua de Beber. The performance featured Reinhardt Melz on the drums with very subtle brushwork. Jon Hughes also carried the melody into the bass line with great understated grace. Toshi Onizuka's flamenco skills laid over the bossa nova structure created a fragile but head-popping interpretation.
Luiz Bonfa, a collaborator of Jobim's, was featured in the following song, Gentle Rain, which was also from a movie soundtrack from 1965. This piece is also featured on Toshi's latest CD, When You Passed By. There was great interplay between Reinhardt and Toshi and the nylon strings were the perfect medium for this bossa nova hit and a tongue-in-cheek outro was a nod and a wink to Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water.
The title track from Toshi's latest CD was on display and highlighted the passing of the melody from Toshi to Jon Hughes on bass. Jon has become one of my very favorite Portland bass players. And Portland has a number of great bass players!
Jon does not overplay and he knows how to maintain a subtlety that accentuates the melody. This song, When You Passed By, provided a fine glimpse of that. Reinhardt's keeping of the Andante tempo was a perfect pace for a song that conjures images of a girl walking past.
One guy in the audience then called for "Jobim!" Obviously, he had come in late. He was answered with Girl from Ipanema, although Toshi called to the guys, "Let's do it funky." Reinhardt put aside the brushes and grabbed the sticks. Even though bossa nova is funky in its structure--it emphasizes syncopation and focuses on the second beat--Reinhardt can make the funky even funkier. Then he moves from funky to dirty. The thing about Reinhardt is that he offers all these cool fills and ghost strokes but he shows it to you only once. If the golden rule of performance is "leave them wanting more" then Reinhardt fulfills the law.
The second set featured another Jobim hit, Black Orpheus. Reinhardt got a spotlight solo and Toshi accentuated the rhythm with his Palmas contribution, Sordas style. Palmas is the flamenco hand-clap percussion that can be played fuertes (hard) or sordas (soft) with the hands cupped to soften the sound but still provide accompaniment to the rhythm.
Hypocrisy followed and was easily the most emotional piece of the evening. It contains a moving melody with stirring chord changes. It was almost enough to make me forget the tiramisu.
Festejo is a Peruvian rhythm and allows for splendid improvisation and the trio seized the opportunity. I kept thinking that I didn't know this song and wondering why only to discover that the song was completely improvised. No wonder.
I have said it before and will say it again. Light in Shade is my favorite Toshi composition. In fact, it has become one of my favorite pieces of all-time, ranking right up there with Jay "Bird" Koder's Man 4 U and Jarrod Lawson's Everything I Need. Toshi's song is one of those delightful songs that stick in my head. I mean that in a good way, not like It's a Small World that makes you want to follow Van Gogh's example. I mean, there are times that I wake up with it in my head. It was inspired by meditation and the song itself provides a focus and a vision like meditation. It is something that Jobim himself would admire.
If the spirit of Jobim was anywhere near, he knew that he was remembered this Sunday evening. Too bad he can't try the tiramisu; it is to die for.