BruMa: Celebrating Milton Nascimento, by Dee Dee McNeil – Musical Memoirs

Antonio Adolfo, piano/arranger/producer; Jorge Helder, double bass; Rafael Barata, drums/percussion; Dada Costa & Claudio Spiewak, percussion; Jesse Sadoc, trumpet/flugelhorn; Marcello Martins, tenor & alto saxophone; flute; Danilo Sinna, alto saxophone; Lula Galvao & Leo Amuedo, electric guitars; Claudio Spiewak, electric & acoustic guitars.

Antonio Adolfo first met singer and composer, Milton Nascimento, in 1967.  They were both attending and performing at the Second International Song Festival (FIC) in Rio de Janeiro.  It’s the biggest musical contest event in the country of Brazil, featuring youthful and hopeful composers who long to further their careers.  Although he did not win that contest, Milton Nascimento would go on to become one of Brazil’s most heralded singer-songwriters.  Nascimento’s international reputation was firmly established when he appeared on Wayne Shorter’s 1974 album, “Native Dancer.”  Antonio Adolfo was impressed by the talented Nascimento and his compositions at that very first meeting.  After over half a century of friendship and admiration, Adolfo felt it was time to dedicate an album to Milton Nascimento.

“His compositions broke traditional harmonic and rhythmic patterns, with his modalism and some odd rhythmic meters, all in a spontaneous, intuitive and natural way. … I concluded that Milton is the most modern and profound composer in Brazil. It is no coincidence that so many great musicians fell in love with the music of his carioca (carioca is someone born in Rio de Janeiro) who grew up in Minas Gerais,” Adolfo explained.

The BruMa album title is a double-entendre.  In Portuguese, the word means mist.  However, it also refers to two environmental disasters that destroyed part of the state of Minas Gerais (a place whose music greatly influenced Milton Nascimento).  BruMa combines the first syllable of the cities of Brumadinho and Mariana.  They were both destroyed by earthen dams collapsing that poisoned the rivers and killed hundreds of people.

“Milton Nascimento and many Brazilians are part of a group effort to ensure that the damage to the territory of Minas Gerais is not forgotten,” Antonio Adolfo enlightened me.

Beginning with “Fe Cega, Faca Amolada,”( that translates to ‘Blind Faith, Sharp Knife’), Antonio has arranged this song with an up-tempo spark and fire that is contagious and exhilarating.  I learn, in the liner notes, that he used the quadrilha style from the Northeast region of Brazil to flavor this arrangement.  The second track, “Nada Sera Como Antes” or (Nothing Will Be As It Was) I first heard on a Sarah Vaughan album years ago. On that same album I heard her interpret Cancao Do Sal or (Salt Song).   One thing you notice right away about the music of Mr. Nascimento is how beautifully melodic his compositions are and Antonio Adolfo’s ensemble represents them with great care, gusto and pride.  Antonio takes a long and spirited solo on “Nada Sera Como Antes.”  His solos, like his arrangements, are plush with creativity and celebrate Milton Nascimento’s interesting harmonies.

Antonio is, himself, a respected pianist, recording artist and composer.  It took time for him to whittle nine songs out of the thirty or more he originally considered for this project.  But every song is carefully arranged and given splendid interpretation by this group of stellar musicians.  Danilo Sinna’s alto saxophone work colors and infuses these songs with jazzy joyfulness.  Jesse Sadoc is outstanding on trumpet and flugelhorn.  I found Marcelo Martins’ alto flute work on “Encontros E Despedidas” to be both compelling and sensitive, as he sings about encounters and farewells.  Adolfo’s horn arrangements personify the melodies, punching harmonically to enhance our interest and they paint the arrangements colorfully.  But it’s always the piano interpretations of Antonio Adolfo that encapsulates these songs and makes the piano keys tremble beneath the weight of their strength and beauty.