Insensatez

I first heard this song in David Lynch’s Lost Highway; I heard it again recently when I bought Paul Smith’s Brazilian Detour LP and was surprised to discover that it was based on Frédéric Chopin‘s Prelude No.4. I’d always loved this tune but never really looked it up until now since my interest in Bossa Nova has peaked. Since reading an article by Stephen Gasso in the Strange Attractor Journal 4. (Haunted Sound System)- I’ve been fascinated with every point of musical departure mentioned in Gasso’s brilliant discussion about the proliferation of Voodoo in music. They say necessity is the mother of invention and it seems this was the case for the displaced African slaves in the United States seeking an outlet for their beliefs. Outlawed by Christians leaders and those looking to maintain control, Voodoo found its way into a variety of cultural expressions from gospel to blues to the bossa nova. lost-highway-front The Brazilian composer and song writer Anton Carlos Jobim, also known as Tom Jobim, is famous for his instrumental role in the creation of Bossa Nova – or ‘new wave’ music unique to Brazil; a combination of samba and jazz. Jobim first became known for his contribution to the music of Black Orpheus/Orfeu Negro, the 1959 film by French director Marcel Camus. He then took the US and the world by storm when he teamed up with Stan GetzJoão Gilberto and his wife Astrud to record one of the biggest selling jazz albums of all time, Getz/Gilberto which included the iconic The Girl from Ipanema.  Antonio-Carlos-Jobim Jobim’s output is extraordinary, and his contribution to jazz  and pop culture is legendary, but it’s his song Insensatez that I’m writing about today. As much as I love the music from Black Orpheus, it isn’t strictly without words, and of course The Girl from Ipanema is a classic, but Insensatez is something else entirely. I would rave about the lyrics of this song, but this blog about instrumental music is not the right place, so instead let’s just look at the tune as it is, without words and in my opinion, its finest manifestation. Insensatez was commonly translated as How Insensitive and has been covered by artists ranging from Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland to Sinead O’Connor, Sting and Ella Fitzgerald; but actually the word insensatez means folly, absurdity or crazy insanity. It’s not a sappy love song, it’s a sad and bitter reflection about the indignity of ending a love affair. The melody itself aches with poignant, bitter-sweet revery and is one of the finest bossa nova standards ever. Anton Carlos Jobim’s version is of course the ultimate, and my preferred version is the one included in the Lost Highway soundtrack which was originally recorded for the 1963 LP: The Composer Of Desafinado, Plays – listen out for the way the strings play the heartbreak despite the subtle, insistent bossa nova rhythm. Equally beautiful if less moving versions exist by Wes MontgomeryRyuichi Sakamoto, Charlie Byrd and Ahmad Jamal amongst many others, and my Paul Smith version is also fantastic. The American jazz pianist who died only last year at the age of 91 was widely known as Ella Fitzgerald’s conductor and pianist, and he worked with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Anita O’Day, Buddy DeFranco, Louie Bellson, Steve Allen, Louie Bellson, Stan Kenton and Mel Torme.

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