At almost any given moment during the so-called “A Twist of Jobim” concert at the Greek Theatre, you might have wondered exactly where you were. Oh, you would have heard some songs by the late Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim — three of ’em — but for most of the evening, he would have been a stranger at his own party.
The artists on the bill had a lot of other album projects to promote — a Dave Grusin salute to Henry Mancini, an Eric Marienthal CD, a Lee Ritenour live album. Of course, the new Ritenour-run label i.e. (distributed by Polygram) happens to have issued the hot-selling “A Twist of Jobim,” featuring the above three performers and several others not present.
Moreover, the Jobim material that they did perform bore little resemblance to the subtle and sleek renditions of 11 Jobim standards and sleepers on the album. These were the rock concert editions, with “Agua De Beber,” “Captain Bacardi” and even the delicate “Dindi” subjected to a rumbling, sledgehammer backbeat. It’s a tribute to the durability of Jobim’s ideas that his tunes held up well under the assault anyway.
For the most part, the show was a multipronged, exhausting record promotion, slipping in and out of a Wave-oriented rock/funk thing with side trips into some rigidly braced post-bop. The most consistently tasty performer was Ritenour, who has probably never played better guitar in his life, whether peeling off languid Wes Montgomery-like octaves, fluid swinging single-note lines, or gentle yet firm rhythm support.
Some thoughtful boppish ideas came from Grusin’s grand piano on “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Peter Gunn,” and Marienthal was at his most pleasing when he just laid back and blew some straight jazz on tenor and alto. Toward the end, the show devolved into pure showbiz, with vocalists El DeBarge and Vesta ingratiating themselves with the crowd and Ritenour and Davis engaging in a pointless can-you-top-this? shootout.
The young singer-guitarist Badi Assad, an eccentric yet fascinating talent who creates her own mystical vocal sound effects over a percussive, aggressive acoustic guitar, actually turned in the most Brazilian-sounding set of the night.