Rio, Choro, Jazz…, by Egidio Leitão – Musica Brasileira from A/Z

Ernesto Nazareth (Rio de Janeiro, March 20, 1863- February 4, 1934) is considered the father of the Brazilian tango. One of the most influential Brazilian composers, Nazareth composed primarily for piano, but his music has been successfully adapted and performed in a variety of settings, and most notably in the Choro tradition with acoustic guitar, flute and cavaquinho. Besides Brazilian tangos, he also wrote waltzes and polkas, mazurkas, schottisches, carnaval marches and other genres. Influenced by European composers, Nazareth clearly shows Chopin as one of his significant influences, particularly in the melodic nature of his waltzes. Altogether, Nazareth wrote over 200 compositions, and this past March UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) added his manuscripts to the list of Memory of the World. That distinction has put Nazareth’s work along the same level as those by Beethoven, Brahms, Gutenberg, Niemeyer and Rousseau..

When it comes to contemporary Brazilian performers, arrangers and composers, there are not many names I can think of that consistently release superior albums. In fact, when I am asked about recommendations as an introduction to Brazilian music, the two artists I often cite are Mario Adnet and Antonio Adolfo. No matter where their names appear or are associated with, you can always expect 100% quality. This is recognized by critics and fans alike. Just recently, for example, Antonio Adolfo received two prestigious awards from the Brazilian International Press. He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement and Best Local Show with Antonio Adolfo & Hendrik Meurkens Quartet. (Incidentally, expect an upcoming album from that quartet along with Carol Saboya.)

Antonio AdolfoA superlative artist, Antonio Adolfo (Rio de Janeiro, 1947) is no stranger to Choro and Ernesto Nazareth. In his vast discography, he had previously recorded music by

• Chiquinha Gonzaga: Chiquinha com Jazz (Kuarup ARCD 3002, 1997), and Viva Chiquinha Gonzaga (Artezanal A-007, 1985);
• João Pernambuco: João Pernambuco – 100 Anos (Funarte PA 82004, 1983) with Nó em Pingo D’Água;
• Ernesto Nazareth: Os Pianeiros (Artezanal A-005, 1981).

So, when the challenge to record Nazareth with a jazz twist came up, no one else would be up to the challenge but Antonio Adolfo.

Whereas in Os Pianeiros Ernesto Nazareth‘s music was performed in a more direct manner, keeping it close to the original setting and feeling of Choro, in Rio, Choro, Jazz… we hear just how universal and contemporary Nazareth’s music is. This jazz approach to Nazareth’s music is fascinating. The repertoire in Rio, Choro, Jazz… includes two compositions that were also recorded in Os Pianeiros. If you are able to, you should check out the different arrangements Antonio created for “Feitiço” and “Tenebroso” in both albums. Those tracks clearly show the jazz ambiance he so admirably produced in this latest effort, and that is particularly more pronounced in “Tenebroso.” Of course Antonio is not alone in this enterprise. Besides him on piano, Rio, Choro, Jazz… brings back the quintet featured in some of his other albums: Claudio Spiewak (guitars), Marcelo Martins (soprano sax and flute), Jorge Helder (double bass), Rafael Barata (drums and percussion) and Marcos Suzano (percussion). Special guests Rick Ferreira and Bob Whitlock add their banjos on “Não Caio Noutra.”

The CD is all Ernesto Nazareth except for the opening track, “Rio, Choro, Jazz.” About that composition, Antonio says that he “previously recorded for solo piano under the title “Chorosa” (you can hear it in Chora Baião) and it can be seen as “the syntheses of the title of the CD, as it mixes the two styles and so blazes a trail for the rest of the repertory.” Indeed it does, and what a great repertoire with remarkable performances! Here we find vintage Nazareth, such as “Brejeiro,” “Fon-Fon” and “Odeon.” A nice surprise is heard with “Não Caio Noutra,” where Antonio Adolfo noticed Ragtime influences in that composition, and he “tried to show this side, playing in North American style, instead of Choro, with the help of two banjos.” This setting works beautifully with a “radical shift to Samba Jazz, with Blues influence in the harmony.” Antonio pulls all the stops here with the touch of a true master! The same goes for “Brejeiro,” with an arrangement that ingeniously conveys the bucolic nature of that melody with piano and flute taking turns in solos.

Musicologist Mozart de Araújo wrote the following about Ernesto Nazareth:

As características da música nacional foram de tal forma fixadas por ele e de tal modo ele se identificou com o jeito brasileiro de sentir a música, que a sua obra, perdendo embora a sua funcionalidade coreográfica imediata, se revalorizou, transformando-se hoje no mais rico repositório de fórmulas e constâncias rítmico-melódicas, jamais devidas, em qualquer tempo, a qualquer compositor de sua categoria. The characteristics of national music were so fixed by him and in such a way that he identified with the Brazilian way of feeling the music. His work, although losing its choreographic-ready functionality, acquired its value again, becoming today the richest repository of formulas and rhythmic-melodic certainties, ever due, at any time, to any composer of his category.Ernesto Nazareth

Sharing the legacy of Nazareth’s timeless music in a contemporary and highly polished manner is a triumph for Antonio Adolfo‘s long-standing career. He aptly and tastefully writes new arrangements that only heighten the importance of Nazareth’s music to Brazil and the world. Yes, once again Antonio Adolfo has a quality album under his belt. Rio, Choro, Jazz… is a winner in all fronts: repertoire, arrangements and performance!

For more information about Antonio Adolfo and his music, you can visit his web site. Regarding Ernesto Nazareth, you can read about a basic discography and also visit the Instituto Moreira Sales’ site Ernesto Nazareth – 150 Anos. These last two links are in Portuguese.