I first encountered the music of Milton Nascimento when, in 1994, I heard the album Deseo by John Anderson. Singing in duet with Anderson on the very first track, Amor Real, was Milton. I was so taken with his talent, his voice, his emotion, that I bought every album I could lay my hands on. In all the time since, and in all the albums since, his music was always of the highest standards.
Now Antonio Adolfo, one of the great talents to emerge from Brazil, has released BruMa: Celebrating Milton Nascimento. Antonio first met Milton in 1967 when they were both participants at Rio de Janeiro’s International Song Festival. The next year Antonio and his trio performed with Milton, first in the recording studio and then a two-months run of their show in Ipanema.
This album represents the culmination of over half a century of respect in friendship. Antonio says for this album, “I immersed myself in the music of Milton and his partners. I have been working on this project for six months… adding my Brazilian jazz vocabulary. I once again concluded that Milton Nascimento is the most modern and profound composer in Brazil.”
Milton was nominated for three Grammys and six Latin Grammys, winning one and four, respectively. Antonio himself has been nominated for one Grammy and five Latin Grammys. His albums have garnered worldwide attention as a phenomenal instrumentalist, composer, and arranger. With BruMa: Celebrating Milton Nascimento, add interpreter to his list of accolades.
Before going into the album proper, it must be noted that BruMa in itself means “mist” but the true impact of the word is that it is drawn from the first two syllables of Brumadinho and Mariana, two cities in the state of Minas Gerais that have suffered untold sorrows resulting from ruptured earthen dams that flooded Mariana in 2015 and Brumadinho in 2019—disasters that left the waters below toxic and barren. Milton was always a key figure in preserving the memory of what has happened there.
Antonio is the producer and arranger for the album, as well as manning the piano. With him or Jorge Helder on double bass, Rafael Barata on drums, Dada Costa, Rafael Barata and Claudio Spiewak on percussion, Jesse Sadoc on trumpet and flugelhorn, Marcelo Martins on tenor sax and alto flute, Danilo Sinna on alto sax, Rafael Rocha on trombone, with Lula Galvao, Claudio Spiewak, and Leo Amuedo on guitars. This is one hot band.
The album is kicked off with Fe Cega, Faca Amolada (Blind Faith, Sharp Knife) from Milton’s 1975 album Minas. Rafael Barata’s drums is the first thing you hear and he will remain a precise and powerful presence throughout the album, both on drums and percussion. Marcelo Martins adds his own cool sax but keep your ears open for Antonio’s great piano work and pay attention to these great arrangements. Claudio Spiewak provides some sweet Jazz guitar and it is those hot horns of Martins, Danilo Sinna and Jesse Sadoc that carry the song away to the end in high fashion.
It is the piano and horns that introduce Nada Sera Como Antes (Nothing Will Be As It Was) from the album Perfil (Profile). Jorge Helder’s bass is understated but don’t miss it. Sinna’s cool alto sax is a beauty and Antonio’s bluesy piano is worth the price of admission. Add Rocha’s warm trombone for extra fun.
Outubro (October), from the 1969 album of the same name, is soulful and captivating. Antonio’s piano is accompanied by Spiewak’s acoustic guitar and the result is incredible. Sadoc’s trumpet is gorgeous and that smooth trombone of Rocha’s is so fine. In Brasil, October is in the Spring and this Springtime melody is a wonder of beauty and imagination.
Cancao Do Sal (Song of the Salt), from the 1967 debut album Travessia, is a percussion-lover’s delight. Antonio’s piano and Spiewak’s guitar set up great moments from Rocha’s trombone and the bouncing bass of Helder is right on target.Enter Marcelo Martins on tenor sax and the whole band gels into something quite extraordinary.
Encontros E Despedidas (Encounters and Farewells) from the 1985 album of the same name is a lush and lovely ballad. The piano, of course, replaces the sweet flute intro only to be joined by Marcelo Martins’ alto flute. It is a very nice touch. The trades-then-unison of Antonio and the flute are beautiful. All the while, the rhythm section keeps a solid and steady undercurrent flowing so well.
Following that is Tres Pontas from the 1993 album of the same name. It is named for the city of Milton’s birth. It opens with a vibrant and rhythmic piano and bass that paint an image of an equally vibrant city. The gorgeous textures of the horns depict the changes and growth of the not-overly-large city of only 60,000 or so inhabitants. Jorge Helder gets a fine bass solo with very well-placed runs and touches. Brief but beautiful.
Cais (Harbor) is from the 1972 album by Clube da Esquina, a Brazilian music collective. The album is considered a watershed moment in the storied history of great Brazilian music. Lula Galvao makes his first of only two appearances on the album on electric guitar. The horns are splendidly paced and spaced while the piano and rhythm section holds it all together. Sadoc’s muted trumpet adds mesmerizing touches over the piano and bass lines and carries much of the song’s melody. A specifically gorgeous track on a completely gorgeous album.
Caxanga is from the 1983 album Ao Vivo. Galvao is back on electric guitar and he and Antonio keep things tight between them while Sinna adds his great alto sax leads. Galvao’s guitar takes over the lead while the horns and rhythm section keep the song anchored. Percussion and horns with Anotnio’s cool piano take the song away.
The album closes with Tristesse (Sadness) from the 2003 album Pieta. Martins’ alto flute and Antonio’s piano introduce the song with tones that are of palatable emotions. The sadness never becomes despair but, rather, speaks of a sadness that is not without hope or, at least, remembrance. Leo Amuedo contributes a beautiful electric guitar, his only appearance on the album. But it is Antonio’s piano and his incredible arrangements of the incredible Milton Nascimento that makes this album the wonder that it is.
Antonio Adolfo breathes new life into the work of the maestro in a time when Milton Nascimento’s vision and voice should not be forgotten.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl