Samba do Avião was introduced as part of the historical concert series staged by Aloysio de Oliveira during August and September of 1962 in one of Copacabana’s hippest night clubs at that time, the ‘Bon Gourmet’—although not officially issued on vinyl, recordings were bootlegged decades later as O Encontro au ‘Bon Gourmet’. The song was performed by Antônio Carlos Jobim on vocals and piano and Os Cariocas, backed by João Gilberto on guitar, Otávio Bailly on bass and Milton Banana on drums.
In October 1962, Samba do Avião was introduced on record by Elza Laranjeira as the b-side to Só Danço Samba. The release preceded her forthcoming (and final) album A Música de Jobim e Vinícius with the accompaying EP featuring all four sambas from that album. Elza Laranjeira’s version, sporting a fade-out with the live sound of a jet, was superbly arranged by Ruben Perez ‘Pocho’ who reutilized this arrangement the next year for saxophonist Héctor Costita on his alias release Sambas No. 2 – Don Júnior e Seu Sax Maravilhoso, only omitting the jet.
In November 1962, Samba do Avião was featured in the release of the movie Copacabana Palace, an Italian-French-Brazilian co-production presenting the song as the opening title sequence sung by Italian pop and jazz vocalist Jula de Palma and the vocal group I 4 x 4 de Nora Orlandi. Interestingly, Jula de Palma’s version was skipped on the EP that accompanied Copacabana Palace in favour of one not featured in the movie by an otherwise unknown singer Miguel. In addition, Miguel performed to a defused version of the original soundtrack arrangement by Italian composer, arranger and conductor Gianni Ferrio.
Although the song was issued on single only by Elza Laranjeira, Sylvia Telles and Os Cariocas, who enjoyed the most successful version scoring number 46 on the year-end chart of 1963, Samba do Avião was recorded heavily right away on albums with more than fourty recordings alone until the end of the decade.
One of the first who recorded the song was Cauby Peixoto in late 1962—also with the live sound of a jet fading out. Just as with Elza Laranjeira’s original, this uncredited arrangement was reutilized the next year, this time by saxophonist Aurino on his collaboration album with Jorginho da Flauta, Na Cadência do Samba.
Among the most notable interpretations in addition to the originals are the ones by trombonist Raul de Souza, José Roberto Bertrami’s Os Tatuís, pianist Eumir Deodato, the mysterious Os Intocáveis, and vocalist Leny Andrade.
Samba do Avião is probably one of Jobim’s most popular compositions with more than two hundred recordings until today. Internationally, Samba do Avião was mostly recorded as Song of the Jet with words by Gene Lees, who wrote several English lyrics for songs by Jobim.
Samba do Avião is also a very personal song as Jobim was always terrified of flying. In 1962, Jobim’s flight to New York for the concert known as Bossa Nova at Carnegie Hall was especially painful to him due to some turbulences. Soon after, while still in New York, Jobim met members of the Varig crew, mourning the airline’s tragic accident in Lima that had just happened. As a result, Jobim was always happy landing safely, especially back home in Rio. Samba do Avião was probably written against this backdrop, not because of the general enthusiasm about the then new technology of jet aircraft.
Selected recordings of Samba do Avião:
1. Antônio Carlos Jobim & Os Cariocas at Bon Gourmet (1962)
2. Elza Laranjeira from the single Só Danço Samba b/w Samba do Avião (1962, RGE RGE 10.469-a) and the album A Música de Jobim e Vinícius (1963, RGE XRLP 5188)
3. Jula de Palma & I 4 x 4 de Nora Orlandi from the movie Copacabana Palace (1962)
4. Miguel from the EP Copacabana Palace (1962, Festival [France] FY 45 2320 S)
5. Cauby Peixoto from the album Canção Que Inspirou Você (1962, RCA Victor BBL 1204)
6. Aurino from the album Na Cadência do Samba (1963, RCA Victor BBL 1235)
7. Héctor Costita aka Don Júnior from the album Sambas No. 2 – Don Júnior e Seu Sax Maravilhoso (1963, RGE XRLP 5208)
8. Zé Maria from the album Tudo Azul – Bossa Nova e Balanço (1963, Continental PPL 12079)
9. Sylvia Telles from the album Bossa, Balanço, Balada (1963, Elenco ME-5)
10. Lauro Paiva from the album Tim… Dom… Dom…Num Órgão Moderno com Lauro Paiva (1963, Caravelle LP-CAR 33.003)
11. Walter Wanderley from the album Samba no Esquema de Walter Wanderley (1963, Odeon MOFB 3358)
12. Os Cariocas from the album A Bossa dos Cariocas (1963, Philips P 632.152 L)
13. Sylvio Viana from the album Rio à Noite (1963, RCA Victor BBL 1228)
14. Lyrio Panicali aka Orquestra Brasil Moderno from the album A Revolução (1963, Odeon MOFB 3357)
15. Leny Andrade from the album A Arte Maior de Leny Andrade (1964, Polydor LPNG 4097)
16. Os Intocáveis from the album Os Intocáveis (1964, Audio Fidelity AFLP 2004)
17. Eumir Deodato from the album Inútil Paisagem (1964, Forma FM-1)
18. Claudette Soares from the album Claudette é Dona da Bossa (1964, Mocambo LP 40214)
19. Raul de Souza from the album À Vontade Mesmo (1965, RCA Victor BBL 1307)
20. Os Tatuís from the album Os Tatuís (1965, Farroupilha LPFA-410)
21. Mário Gennari Filho from the album Sucessos – Mário Gennari Filho e Conjunto (1965, Odeon MOFB 3425)
22. Walter Wanderley aka Wa-Wa from the album Samba Só (1965, Fermata FB 86)
23. Sacha Rubin from the album Smooth and Gay – Sacha’s Piano and Orchestra (1966, London/Odeon LLB 1011)
24. Neco from the album Samba e Violão (1967, London/Odeon LLB 1019)
25. Carlos Monteiro de Souza from the album Pra Frente (1968, Parlophone/Odeon PBA 13006)
Selected versions of Samba do Avião aka Song of the Jet originally not released in Brazil:
1. Tony Bennett from the album If I Ruled The World – Songs For The Jet Set (1965, Columbia [USA] CS 9143)
2. Bud Shank from the album Brazil! Brazil! Brazil! (1966, World Pacific [USA] WS-21855)
3. Dick Hyman from the album Brazilian Impressions (1967, Command [USA] RS 911 SD)
4. Enoch Light & The Ray Charles Singers from the album Romantic Songs from Romantic Places (1973, Command [USA] RSSD 967/2)
Opening credits sequence from Copacabana Palace
SAMBA DO AVIÃO
Minha alma canta • Vejo o Rio de Janeiro • Estou morrendo de saudade • Rio, teu mar, praias sem fim • Rio, você foi feito pra mim
Cristo Redentor, braços abertos sobre a Guanabara • Este samba é só porque • Rio, eu gosto de você • A morena vai sambar • Seu corpo todo balançar • Rio de sol, de céu, de mar • Dentro de mais um minuto estaremos no Galeão • Copacabana
Cristo Redentor, braços abertos sobre a Guanabara • Este samba é só porque • Rio, eu gosto de você • A morena vai sambar • Seu corpo todo balançar • Aperte o cinto, vamos chegar • Água brilhando, olha a pista chegando • E vamos nós • Pousar
SONG OF THE JET
How my heart is singing • I see Rio de Janeiro • My longing lonely days are ending • Rio, my love, there by the sea • Rio, my love, waiting for me
See the cable cars • That sway above the bay of Guanabara • Tiny sailboats far below dance the samba as they go • Shinning Rio there you lie • City of sand and sea and sky • Mountains of green rising so high • Four minutes more we’ll be there at the airport of Galeão • Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro
Statue of the saviour with open arms above the yellow sea shore • Sugar Loaf in majesty climbing from a silver sea • Darkeyed girls who smile at me • City of love and mysteries • Fasten seat belts • No smoking please • Now we’re descending and everything rushing • And now the wheels • Touch the ground
[English lyrics by Gene Lees.]