Last year on these pages we brought you Antonio Adolfo, pianist/composer/arranger, one the founders of Brazilian jazz from the early ‘60s, and his Samba Jazz Alley, a tribute to early bossa nova before it became hugely popular globally. Adolfo is a multi-Latin Grammy winner and Grammy nominee who, in his early seventies, records prolifically. As he’s done recently on his AAM label, he continues to explore variants of Brazilian music, this time paying tribute to one of his and its more important influences, Milton Nascimento, with BruMa: Celebrating Milton Nascimento.
You could say that this was fifty years in the making so to speak, as Adolfo’s trio 3-D joined Nascimento when they recorded with singer-songwriter Marcos Valle, They had a big hit, “Viola Enluarada,” which became the catalyst for a two month tour. Nascimento, of course, has had a storied career, propelled by his 1972 album, Clube de Esquina (Corner’s Club), which featured singer, musicians, and composer form the State Minas Gervais, of which both he and Adolfo are natives. Nascimento received even more global recognition when he appeared on Wayne Shorter’s classic 1974 Native Dancer. Since then his songs have been covered by Herbie Hancock, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, Stan Getz, Bjork, Esperanza Spalding, Quincy Jones, Pat Metheny. Paul Simon, James Taylor and many other pop and jazz artists.
Adolfo, like many admire Nascimento for his harmonic and rhythmic patterns, modalism, and some odd rhythmic meters that flow naturally and spontaneously. He worked on this project for six months, immersing himself in Nascimento’s music, culling down to nine tracks from a potential list of 30. The album was recorded in just five days, right before the coronavirus shut down the country. We referred to his band on his last album as a core octet and those same members return here as they’ve done on recent Adolfo projects. Ten are listed in the credits and a given track may feature eight, nine, or ten. They are Jesse Sadoc (trumpet), Marcelo Martins (alto flute, tenor sax), Danilo Sinna (alto sax), Rafael Rocha (trombone), Claudio Spiewak (guitar), Lula Galvao and Leo Amuedo (electric guitar), Jorge Helder (double bass) Rafael Barata (drums and percussion), and Dada Costa (percussion). Adolfo is the pianist and arranger.
Given that Adolfo is also a major composer in his own right, it’s only fitting that he would re-imagine his friend’s compositions rarely than simply mimicking them. Certainly, Nascimento’s beautiful sweeping melodies and rich harmonic elements are at the core here but Adolfo uses some interesting instrumental combinations and adds inventive rhythmic touches to the pieces, creating mostly a lush, smooth groove throughout. They open with “Fe Cega, Faca Amolada” (Blind Faith, Sharp Knife), on which he changed the harmony and form, using the quadriha style form the Northeast region of Brazil, putting energetic tenorist Martins in the forefront followed by Barata’s drum solo for the climax. While the opener roars, “Nada Sera Como Antes” (Nothing Will Be As It Was) is highly lyrical, rolling jazz shuffle with bright ensemble spots and solos from altoist Sinna and pianist Adolfo.
Three of these tunes are drawn from Nascimento’s 1967 eponymous album. The gently leaning “Outubro” (October), which appeared on Shorter’s Native Dancer, mostly features beautiful turns by Sadoc (trumpet) and Rocha (trombone) while “Tres Pontas,” ( the name of the city in Minas Gerais where Nascimento was raised) is in a baiao style and delivers a punchier vibe driven again by Sadoc’s soaring statement and also by Adolfo’s deft command of the keys. Bassist Helder contributes some solid plucking toward the end of the piece as well. Some may recognize “Cancao Do Sal (Salt Song), which was the title of soulful saxophonist Stanley Turrentine’s 1971 CTI album. It’s the only samba of the nine with solos, of course from Martins, and also from Rocha.
“Encontros E Despedidas” (Encounters and Farewells) is in the guarania style, musically describing the comings and goings at train stations with Martins carrying the melody on gorgeous alto flute. Sadoc plays a tender muted trumpet on “Cais” ((Harbor), a ballad in the bossa style. “Caxanga” is in the ijexa style stemming from the Northeastern State of Bahia. This is one of the most heavily percussive pieces, employing Afro-Brazilian rhythms with altoist Sinna and guitarist Galvao stepping forward. The closer “Tristees” (Sadness) is the longest cut at six and half minutes in which guitarist Leo Ameudo shines against the orchestra’s smooth, melancholy tapestry.
The title likely piqued curiosity since it doesn’t obviously relate to Nascimento nor is the name of a composition. Adolfo is using it cleverly to make a socially conscious statement. While the term “bruma” means “mist” in Portugese, it also refers to two environmental disasters that struck part of the state of Minas Gervais in the last decade. The two cities are Brumadinho and Mariana where dams collapsed, leaving muddy waste materials to flood towns, killing hundreds, and rendering the rivers downstream toxic-ridden and devoid of life for years into the future. Adolfo and Nascimento are spokesmen focusing attention on these catastrophes, trying to help the people build a better future.
This is an incredibly rich set of music, as you’d expect from two of Brazil’s iconic musicians. As this writer has said about Adolfo before, even if you’re not sure whether you want to wade into Latin or Brazilian music, you will be rewarded when listening. It’s highly relaxing, filled with soothing melodies, harmonic flourishes, and varying moods as well as concise, but emotive solos. Beyond that, it may open several gateways – other music from Adolfo, a return listen to Wayne Shorter’s Native Dancer, Nascimento’s albums, (those mentioned here and below just for you), and the many covers of Nascimento tunes from the staggering list of artist mentioned previously. A world of music awaits you.
Songs from Nascimento albums
“Fe Cega, Faca Amolada” – Minas 1975
“Nada Sera Como Antes” – Clube de Esquina 1971
“Outubro” – Milton Nascimento 1967
Cancao Do Sal” – Milton Nascimento 1967
“Encontros E Despendidas” – recorded live with Hubert Laws in 1985
“Tres Pontas” – Milton Nascimento 1967
“Cais” – Clube de Esquina 1971
“Caxanda” – Ao Viva 1983
“Tritesse” – Piete 2002