CD BruMa: Celebrating Milton Nascimento, In a Blue Mood, by Bob Weinstock

In his newest recording, Brazilian pianist, composer, and arranger, Antonio Adolfo salutes the singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento, who perhaps is Brazil’s greatest living composer of popular music. Many jazz and pop luminaries, including Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, Stan Getz, Bjork, and Esperanza Spalding, have recorded Nascimento’s songs. Antonio’s appreciation of Nascimento goes back to the beginning of the latter’s career. They initially met just before a major musical event in Brazil in 1967 at which Nascimento was a great sensation.

Chris McGowan’s liner notes quote Adolfo, “For this album, I immersed myself in the music of Milton and his partners. I have been working on this project for six months, panning its rich repertoire and adding my Brazilian jazz vocabulary. After working with more than thirty songs to choose nine, I once again concluded that Milton Nascimento is the most modern and profound composer in Brazil. His compositions broke traditional harmonic and rhythmic patterns, with his modalism and natural rhythmic meters, all in a spontaneous, intuitive and natural way.”

McGowan observes, “The album title BruMa, which means ‘mist’ in Portuguese, is also intended to bring to mind two environmental disasters that struck Minas Gerais [Nascimento’s home state] in the last decade. BruMa is comprised of the initial syllables of two cities (Brumadinho and Mariana) that suffered similar tragedies. In 2015 and 2019, earthen dams collapsed and let forth floods of muddy waste materials that devastated the towns, killed hundreds of people and rendered the rivers downstream toxic and lifeless for years to come.”

Joining Adolfo on this CD are Jess Sadoc on trumpet and flugelhorn; Marcelo Martins on alto flute, tenor sax; Danilo Sinna on alto sax; Rafael Rocha on trombone; Claudio Spiewak on guitar; Jorge Helder on double bass; and Rafael Barata on drums and percussion. Luis Galvao replaces Spiewak on guitar on two selections, Leo Amuedo adds guitar to one track, and Dada Costa plays percussion on five of the nine songs.

Adolfo’s latest project continues with a tropical feel, fluid, and elegant piano, handsome arrangements, and stirring soloists. Marcelo Martins takes flight playing some vigorous tenor on the opening “Fé Cega Faca Amolada,” which translates as “Blind Faith, Sharp Knight,” Claudio Spiewak adds punchy guitar on this song as well. It is typical of the music here with the lively rhythms, strong ensemble playing, and atmospheric horns. Adolfo’s deliberate, graceful piano is heard on “Nada Será Como Antes (Nothing Be As It Was),” along with Rocha’s crusty trombone. Another standout song is an exuberant rendition of “Cançāo Do Sal (Salt Song)” with exhilarating rhythms that propel Rocha’s graveling trombone and Sinna’s fervent alto sax. Then there is a memorable performance of “Encontros E Despedidas (Encounters and Farewells)” that Nascimento first recorded with Hubert Laws. In addition to Adolfo’s marvelous piano solo, Martins’ plays exquisite alto flute. “Tres Pontas” refers to the city where Nascimento was raised, and again is a showcase for the leader’s graceful, lyrical piano along with Sadoc’s resonant trumpet. The sublime rendition of “Cais (Harbor)” places the spotlight on Sadoc’s lovely muted trumpet. At the same time, “Caxangá” displays the skill with which Adolfo can layer the various instruments in the performance as they riff behind Sinna’s alto sax solo and Lula Galvao’s stinging electric guitar.

Antonio Adolfo’s salute to the legacy of Milton Nascimento does justice to Nascimento’s imposing body of music. “Bruma” is an exceptional, marvelously performed recording that will touch listeners’ heads and hearts.