In early 1960 a new Brazilian movie called “Black Orpheus” opened at the Capri Theater on Huntington Avenue. The theater would be torn down two years later, but America’s love affair with the gentle and sophisticated bossa nova music of one of the film’s composers, Antônio Carlos Jobim, was just beginning. By 1964 Arthur Fiedler was including his “Desafinado” in Boston Pops programs, and the recording by Stan Getz and Astrud and João Gilberto of “The Girl from Ipanema” was a smash. Also known as Tom Jobim, he collaborated on both record and on TV with Frank Sinatra in 1967.
Now one of Brazil’s superstars, singer and actor Seu Jorge, is taking the Jobim legacy on a tour that arrives in Boston Friday — and he’s bringing Jobim’s grandson Daniel with him. “Jobim started his movement in Rio de Janeiro and it has gone all over the world,” says Jorge over Zoom from his home in Brazil. “These songs helped create all of the interest in Brazilian culture.”
Raised in one of Brazil’s most impoverished favelas, Jorge may be best known to American audiences for his roles in “City of God” and Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” as well as the Portuguese-language covers of David Bowie songs that he first sang in “Life Aquatic.” Daniel Jobim produced his grandfather’s final album and has kept the family legacy alive through the Quarteto Jobim-Morelenbaum, which included his late father, Paulo, and through collaborations with artists like jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli, who had Jobim join him at Scullers Jazz Club a few years back.
While many Jobim interpreters go for a light, airy vocal approach, Jorge is famed for his distinctive baritone. After a few live dates in early 2020, the collaboration had to go on pandemic hold. That summer Jorge and Jobim filmed a concert in an empty São Paulo theater, during which Jorge played little guitar, the instrument commonly associated with bossa nova.
“Seu Jorge has a very strong voice. Sometimes we sing together or switch vocals, and we have a lot of fun,” says pianist Jobim. “Because there’s no guitar, I’m doing all the harmonies and keeping the bossa nova rhythm with the bassist and drummer following. It sounds cool and different. And of course usually the audience sings all the songs with us because they are all so popular.”
Asked separately to name a Jobim song on the set list that audiences might be less likely to know, both Jorge and Daniel Jobim had the same answer: “Passarim,” an environmentally conscious song Tom Jobim recorded in the ‘80s. “It was on a soap opera, so everyone in Brazil knows it, but I’m not sure if people know it in the States,” says Daniel Jobim. “It’s a real difficult song but Jorge sings it amazingly well.”
After playing Boston’s John Hancock Hall on Friday, the tour heads to Carnegie Hall, where it’s the centerpiece of a star-studded night that pays tribute to Tom Jobim’s landmark 1962 appearance at the New York venue on a bill that also included João Gilberto. And Jobim’s 1974 collaboration with singer Elis Regina is the subject of a new documentary, “Elis and Tom,” which has its local premiere at the Regent in Arlington Nov. 1.
After the 1962 Carnegie Hall concert Jobim moved to New York City, where he died, in 1994. “I said ‘If I don’t stay, that’s it. I’m going to stay in Brazil, and I’ll be just another guy … maybe there were some important things to do here,” he told The Boston Globe in 1987.
Jorge also moved to the United States when his acting career took off, but he tells the Globe he’s moved back to Brazil. “I’m proud that all three of my daughters are American citizens, but after spending two years in Brazil [during the pandemic] I decided to give back to America my green card to allow a space for some other people.”
Wes Anderson’s new film “Asteroid City” finds Jorge playing string band music on screen with Jarvis Cocker of Pulp. After years of being a mainstay of Brazilian-made film and TV, Jorge is finally getting back to releasing music. In the coming year Jorge says he’ll release three albums. “One is a Brazilian Afropop album, one is called ‘The Other Side,’ which is a romantic symphonic record I took 10 years to make with the producer Mario Caldato Jr., and the third one has electronic music mixed with hip-hop and trap. There’s a new generation in Brazil and a lot of them have invited me to sing with them, so I wanted to put together a big party.”
Daniel Jobim credits the longevity of his grandfather’s music “to his hard work. The keys are always changing, and it can be complicated to learn, but it sounds so natural when you’re listening to it.”
While the quiet sounds of Jobim may seem far removed from today’s raucous favela funk, Jorge thinks it still resonates in its birthplace. “Some people might say we should be afraid of the music of the academy, of the elite, that the majority of people won’t understand it,” he says. “But Jobim’s music isn’t for understanding, it’s for feeling. Everyone can feel his music.”
SEU JORGE AND DANIEL JOBIM: A TRIBUTE TO TOM JOBIM
At John Hancock Hall, 180 Berkeley St., Oct. 6 at 9 p.m. Tickets $79 to $250. www.camarotetickets.com
Noah Schaffer can be reached at email@example.com.