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Composition by Clare Fischer
from the album Bossa Nova Jazz Samba
ReleasedSeptember 1, 1962
December 11, 2012 (reissue)
GenreBossa nova, jazz
LabelPacific Jazz
Solar Records (Reissue)
Composer(s)Clare Fischer
Lyricist(s)Clare Fischer
Not heard here; lyrics first recorded in 1982
Producer(s)Albert Marx
Bossa Nova Jazz Samba track listing
  1. "Samba Da Borboleta"
  2. "Illusao"
  3. "Pensativa"
  4. "Joao"
  5. "Misty"
  6. "Que Mais?"
  7. "Wistful Samba"
  8. "Samba Guapo"

"Pensativa" is a bossa nova jazz standard by American pianist/composer/arranger Clare Fischer, first recorded in 1962 by a quintet under the joint leadership of Fischer and saxophonist Bud Shank, and released that year as part of an album entitled Bossa Nova Jazz Samba, comprising music in this style, as per its title, all of it arranged by Fischer, and, with the exception of Erroll Garner's "Misty", composed by him as well. In retrospect, this would prove to be just the first of countless forays by Fischer into various areas of Latin music (with "area" denoting both genre and geographic region). This particular song was one of the first, and almost certainly the most famous, of all the foreign-born - i.e. non-Brazilian - bossa novas. Its form, though extended (64 mm.), is standard A-A-B-A, with each section consisting of 16 measures instead of eight.

Alternate versions[edit]

With the exception of his contrastingly Cuban-styled composition, "Morning", "Pensativa" is by far Fischer's most frequently recorded work; it has been performed by a wide variety of instrumental groupings, ranging from assorted unaccompanied instruments - including piano, guitar and flute - to string orchestras, big bands, and a large assortment of ensemble sizes in between.

In addition to numerous recordings by the composer himself (including at least five released under his own name,[1] plus many more featuring the composer as either co-leader, sideman, or arranger, all of them employing Fischer's arrangements),[a] it has been covered by a multitude of artists, including Bill Evans, Dave Valentin, Gene Harris, Jack Wilson, Bill Perkins, Brian Bromberg, Bob Florence, and Rob McConnell. Many more, including George Shearing,[3] Gene Bertoncini,[4] Hubert Laws,[5] Billy Taylor,[6] Bill Mays,[7] Marian McPartland,[8] Benny Green,[9] Sam Most,[10] Gary Foster,[11] and Freddie Hubbard,[12] have made "Pensativa" part of their regular repertoires.

In fact, of all the recordings made of this song (including those by the composer), by far the best known is the one arranged by Hubbard and recorded in 1964 by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, released in 1964 on the album Free for All.[b] While not surprising, given the All-Star calibre of its participants (the iconic Blakey himself, and his no less iconic Jazz Messengers, in this instance including three premiere soloists - pianist Cedar Walton and Hubbard on trumpet, plus the influential saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter), this state of affairs would prove extremely frustrating to the composer. Speaking to students at an informal clinic hosted by his brother Dirk in October 1998, Fischer explained:

That has been recorded by some jazz players - Freddie Hubbard is one of them. They don't understand two-beat samba, so they play it like a 4... [demonstrating], then they change the melody, then they change the chords, which are going into what we call bebop II-V. Mine go [plays mm. 9 through 13]. He recorded that with Art Blakey. Very famous. 85 percent of the people who know that song know it from that recording. Everyone who records it now plays it with the same cancer that I've had all my life with that song. I've been unable to disestablish that because I don't sell as many records as Freddie Hubbard. It gets to a point where you say, "Hey! It's my song. Yeah." Well, it doesn't make any difference.[15]


Fischer's belatedly added lyrics for "Pensativa" were unveiled in 1984 by vocalist Sandi Shoemake accompanied by the composer on Shoemake's album Slowly, recorded in 1982.[16] They were promptly reprised in 1985, again with Fischer accompanying, this time with a full rhythm section, on singer Lisa Rich's second album, Touch of the Rare. Subsequent vocal recordings have been made by Kaz Simmons (2004),[17] and Iain McKenzie (2007),[18] the latter singing his own lyrics. Jazz singer Jan Wentz performed "Pensativa" with her own lyrics but never recorded them.[19]

As with each new dawn
Sun is giving the breath of day,
And warms the cold from night
And hovers softly o'er the sea of day.

And now with the twilight
You sit pensive and lost it seems
What lived so near last night
Is now converted into empty dreams.

For day starts once more anew
And lifts you from the clutching bonds of night
And leads you once more in search of happiness
Ever seeking on and on, searching endlessly for what is gone.

Then night drops its curtain
Making certain your loneliness
And fills a longing cloud [also: "and drops a shroud of gloom" - better!]
That leaves you in your lonely pensiveness.

Selected recordings[edit]


  1. ^ These include George Shearing, Gary Foster, Charles Lloyd, Poncho Sanchez, vocalists Sandi Shoemake and Lisa Rich (debuting and reprising, respectively, Fischer's retrospectively added lyrics), and pianist Terry Trotter -[2]
  2. ^ According to the original liner notes Free For All, written by Nat Hentoff, Hubbard first heard the tune when he was on a gig in Long Island: "...and the pianist started playing it. The mood got me, this feeling of a pensive woman. And the melody was so beautiful that, after I'd gotten home, I couldn't get it out of my mind."[13] Thomas Cunniffe on Jazz History Online writes: "The piece is ostensibly a bossa nova, but Blakey avoids the traditional samba beat and plays a deliciously loose and swinging Latin groove. Hubbard and Fuller share Fischer’s glorious melody, and Hubbard’s solo is one of his all-time best, balancing abstract length phrases and unadulterated lyricism. Shorter is more melodic here than anywhere else on the album, and Walton sparkles through his beautifully-crafted solo. Although Hubbard recorded an extended version of “Pensativa” on the 1965 Blue Note album, The Night of the Cookers, it is the rendition on “Free for All” that remains the undisputed classic."[14]


  1. ^ "Clare Fischer: So Danço Samba" (1964). All Music. Retrieved 2013-01-24. See also:
  2. ^ "Special Merit Albums: 'Bossa Nova Jazz Samba' - Bud Shank & Clare Fischer". Billboard. November 24, 1962. Retrieved 2013-01-24. See also:
  3. ^ "The Many Facets of George Shearing", Cadence, Volume 4, 1978. Retrieved 2013-01-29. See also:
  4. ^ "O grande amor a bossa nova collection". LOC online. Retrieved 2013-01-29. See also:
  5. ^ "Wild flower [Sound recording]". WorldCat. Retrieved 2013-02-09. See also: Davis, Peter G. "Concert: Philharmonic Plays a Sequel in Harlem". The New York Times. February 17, 1981.'Retrieved 2013-02-09. "On a lighter note, Hubert Laws, the flutist, was on hand to join the orchestra in performances of Amazing Grace and Pensativa by Clare Fischer, as well as a movement each from a Telemann Suite and Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4."
  6. ^ "Billy Taylor Trio, Sept. 27, 1970". LOC online. Retrieved 2013-01-29. See also:
  7. ^ Dryden, Ken. "Bill Mays: Solo and Trio". All About Jazz, March 6, 2010. Retrieved 2013-01-31. See also:
  8. ^ "Live at Yoshi's Nitespot". LOC Online. Retrieved 2013-01-29. See also: Live at Shanghai Jazz. LOC Online. Retrieved 2013-01-29.
  9. ^ "The Place to Be". LOC Online. Retrieved 2013-01-29. See also:
    • Feather, Leonard. "JAZZ REVIEW: Benny Green Shows His Versatility at Catalina's", The Los Angeles Times, January 13, 1994. Retrieved 2013-01-29. "When he is not amazing the crowd with his more obvious virtues, Green shows himself capable of graceful messages, as in Clare Fischer's 'Pensativa' and the almost Basie-like simplicity of 'You're a Sweetheart.'"
    • Reich, Howard, "Benny Green's Pianism Electrifies", The Chicago Tribune, May 2, 2009. Retrieved 2013-01-29. "Similarly, in Clare Fischer's 'Pensativa,' Green exhibited a degree of tonal control one sooner expects to hear from classical pianists."
  10. ^ Solo Flute (2009), Rhapsody. Retrieved 2013-01-31. See also:
  11. ^ Gary Foster (1968): "Subconsciously". WorldCat. Retrieved 2013-01-29. See also:
  12. ^ Aebersold, Jamey (1993). Jamey Aebersold Play-A-Long - Volume 60 - Freddie Hubbard. Jamey Aebersold Jazz Inc. pp. i.
  13. ^ Original 1964 liner notes by Nat Hentoff for Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers′ Free For All.
  14. ^ Thomas Cunniffe, "Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers: Free For All Archived 2015-12-16 at the Wayback Machine. (Blue Note 84170)".
  15. ^ Clare Fischer: Informal Clinic, pt. 3 on YouTube. Retrieved 2013-01-29.
  16. ^ Feather, Leonard. "Vision of Dream Tunes in His Head; Jazz Briefs: 'Slowly' - Sandi Shoemake", The Los Angeles Times. March 18, 1984. "Clare Fischer plays on the first vocal version of his 'Pensativa.'"
  17. ^ "Kaz Simmons: Take Me Home" (2004). All Music. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
  18. ^ Twice on Sunday - Iain McKenzie Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine.. Jazzizit Records. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
  19. ^ Feather, Leonard, "Riding the Sound Waves at Otter Crest". The Los Angeles Times. May 21, 1989. Retrieved 2013-01-29.

External links[edit]