For years, "The Girl fom Ipanema" was a staple in Ella Fitzgerald's songbook, so it's something of a wonder that it was not until 1981 that Ella Abraça Jobim, Fitzgerald's double-album immersion in Antonio Carlos Jobim's back catalog, appeared. Ella's first single-composer release since 1964's tribute to Jerome Kern, Ella Abraça Jobim is, more than anything, final proof of the unassuming Brazilian's place in jazz history alongside the great composers. Sadly Jobim's mellow bossa nova, drenched in the Brazilian concept of saudade, or agreeable melancholy, doesn't necessarily gel with Fitzgerald's swing-based and energetic vocal style. Fitzgerald and her small group take songs like "Agua de Beber (Water to Drink)" at just slightly too speedy a tempo, rushing a bit where they should be gamboling. Fitzgerald is in very good voice compared to some other recordings from her later years, though, sadly, she's clearly not at her peak. Norman Granz's production is typically excellent, however, and the arrangements are refreshingly free of the typical late-'70s/early-'80s post-fusion clichés. Neither Fitzgerald nor Jobim's finest, then, but not without merit.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason