In 1965, the brilliant Jobim composed an instrumental piece called “Zíngaro” to which Chico Buarque decided to put lyrics. The poem masterfully captured the essence of a sinuous intervallic framework that already conveyed dusty roads, nomadic feelings and a clear atmosphere of disaffection (heartbreakingly intimate). The result was renamed “Portrait in Black and White”.
This was the first collaboration between the two, and I want to see in that initiatory experience for Buarque the germ of his ability to format the content of lyrics with music (listen to his formidable piece “Construction” as the most palpable evidence).
What to say about Jobim… Valiant in the melodic realm, essentially capricious with the structure, economic in resources for his magnificent results… one of the greatest connoisseurs of the ties between a certain emotion and the balanced set of notes that portray it.
I am a great admirer of the version sung by the great Elis Regina and, here, in this little tribute of mine, I try to respect her prosody, those accents of hers that freeze the blood: the languid dynamics of the beginning and the dramatic expression when she goes to the high register.
In the second exposition of the melody, I make a little counter-melody with the left hand, quoting another Jobim masterpiece: “How Insensitive”.
I am very struck by how much of Brahms the introduction of this version of Regina and Jobim has. It seems for a moment that one of those powerful Piano Quartets by the German begins.
Finally, I want to tell you why I remembered this wonderful piece this week and decided to put it together: reading Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata K18 the other day, one of his compositions most marked by the insinuating and ambiguous chromaticism, I immediately thought of “Retrato em branco e preto”. I would love to know if Jobim knew of a Sonata that shared the same wandering interval spirit of his gypsy black and white portrait.