With a discography that stretches back nearly 60 years, pianist, composer, and arranger, ANTONIO ADOLFO has recorded over 25 albums as a leader. On past albums, Adolfo focused on a particular composer, for example, Jobim Forever (2021) and BruMa: Celebrating Milton Nascimento (2020). It has been 65 years since Bossa Nova was born on the south side of Rio, and on his newest album, BOSSA 65: CELEBRATING CARLOS LYRA AND ROBERTO MENESCAL, Adolfo turns his attention to two great composers who are on the frontline of the creation of this popular and beloved music.
A multi-Latin Grammy and Grammy nominee, Adolfo is an internationally recognized Brazilian jazz star. A prolific composer, more than 200 of his original compositions have been covered by artists like Sergio Mendes, Earl Klugh, Herb Alpert, Stevie Wonder, and Dionne Warwick, to name just a few. Critic Travis Rogers said of Adolfo’s 2022 release, “Octet and Originals is everything that we love and anticipate from Antonio Adolfo. When we open the album, we don't know what is coming but we know it will be wonderful. Because, with Antonio Adolfo, it always is."
Bossa Nova was probably the most important musical movement to come out of Brazil in the 20th Century. There are many well-known artists associated with Bossa, most notably Antonio Carlos Jobim, but there are others, like Joao Gilberto, Johnny Alf, Joao Donato, Marcos Valle, Durval Ferreira, Mauricio Einhorn, Carlos Lyra, Vinicius de Moraes, Roberto Menescal and Ronaldo Boscoli.
Adolfo considers Carlos Lyra, a singer and composer of many classic Bossa compositions, as his musical mentor and godfather. Adolfo says, “I think his music should be studied by musicians around the world.” Lyra has also written many songs for theater and movies. Adolfo first met Lyra in 1963 when he worked on the musical play “Pobre Menina Rica - Poor Rich Girl,” written by Lyra and poet and lyricist Vinicius De Moraes. Lyra and De Moraes wrote many classics together, like "Você e Eu," "Minha Namorada," "Marcha da Quarta-Feira de Cinzas," and "Coisa Mais Linda." Adolfo produced, arranged and played on Lyra’s album Bossa Lyra, which was released in Japan.
Roberto Menescal is a Brazilian composer, record producer, guitarist, vocalist, and pioneer of Bossa Nova. Menescal, who partnered with lyricist Ronaldo Boscoli, created some of the most important gems of Bossa Nova, including the famous “Little Boat.” Adolfo joined Menescal’s popular group “Conjunto Roberto Menescal” in 1965. In 1968, Adolfo and Menescal created a group to accompany the legendary singer Elis Regina in Europe. The two worked together on several recordings over the following ten years, when Menescal was the Artistic Director of Polygram Records.
BOSSA 65 was recorded in Brazil, and Adolfo is joined by outstanding Brazilian musicians, including LULA GALVAO (guitars), JORGE HELDER (double bass), RAFAEL BARATA (drums and percussion), DADA COSTA (percussion), JESSE SADOC (trumpet and flugelhorn), DANILO SINNA (alto sax), MARCELO MARTINS (tenor sax and flute), RAFAEL ROCHA (trombone).
Although the songs Adolfo chose for BOSSA 65 have lyrics, Adolfo chose to present the songs as instrumentals. He once again applies his gentle touch to these brilliantly reharmonized Brazilian classics. He opens the album with “Coisa Mais Linda (Most Beautiful Thing)” by Lyra. A typical Bossa Nova tune, it features solos by Rocha on trombone and Lula on guitar, with scat vocals added by Adolfo himself.
Adolfo began his professional career as a pianist for the play “Pobre Menina Rica (Poor Rich Girl).” The tune “Samba Do Carioca (Carioca’s Samba) was written for the play by Lyra. Adolfo’s version features solos by Adolfo, Sinna on alto sax, and Rocha on trombone.
“Maria Moita (Maria Shut-Mouth),” by Lyra was also composed for “Pobre Menina Rica.” The composition is a samba and features “maracatu” elements combined with percussion instruments, such as “atabaques” (congas) and “repique” (a kind of Brazilian timbales) and more. Maracatu refers to Brazilian-Afro performance genres from Northeastern Brazil. Another Lyra composition, “Marcha Da Quarta-Feira De Cinzas (Ash Wednesday March),” is a melancholy number that reflects the song’s lyrics, which are a metaphor for returning to real life under the military dictatorship after the joyous days of Carnaval. The alto flute and surdo (bass drum) open the tune, setting the tone. “Sabe Voce (Do You Know),” the final Lyra song on the album, was also in “Pobre Menina Rica.” In the play, the homeless poet (Lyra) sings the beautiful melody to the rich girl, telling her that she can steal money and have anything she wants except for his poetry and music.
The songs written by Roberto Menescal include “Bye Bye Brasil” with lyrics by Chico Buarque, which was written for the 1980 movie of the same name. The tune features spirited solos by Martins and Galvão. “O Barquinho (Little Boat)” has been recorded a couple of thousand times by musicians around the world. Adolfo’s modern samba arrangement features an explosive alto sax solo by Danilo Sinna. “Tete,” with solos by Rocha and Galvao, is a romantic samba-cançao (Brazilian Bolero) dedicated to a beautiful “namorada” (girlfriend) of one of the composers. This musical style appeared in Brazil in the 1940s and is still used by many composers. “Rio” is a happy Bossa that came out of the south side of Rio during the 1960s when many of the most important compositions were written. “Nos E O Mar (We and The Sea)” is a romantic Bossa. The composition reflects the sun, beaches, happiness, beautiful girls, and romance of Ipanema during the 1960s.
With deep roots in the Bossa tradition, Antonio Adolfo ’s elegant pianism and harmonically complex arrangements are Influenced by bebop, soul, and West Coast jazz. With a seasoned band at the top of their form, BOSSA 65: CELEBRATING CARLOS LYRA AND ROBERTO MENESCAL is a beautiful tribute to two legendary composers and performers.
BOSSA 65: CELEBRATING CARLOS LYRA AND ROBERTO MENESCAL will be available June 23, 2023 at www.aammusic.com and online everywhere.