Ernesto Júlio Nazareth (1863 – 1934) was born in Rio de Janeiro and learned to play the piano as a child with his mother. After her passing away in 1873, Ernesto continued his piano studies and began composing. His first piece, the polka “Você Bem Sabe” was written and published when he was just 14 years of age. He had and open ear for the popular music beeing played in the streets and favoured by choro musicians, his own works for piano were influenced by maxixe, lundu, habañera and choro. Nonetheless, as a classical musician he would not allow such popular denominations into his own music, instead he would classify his pieces as i.e. ‘Brazilian tangos’. – Nazareth worked as a pianist at the prestigious movie theater Odeon of Rio de Jainero, where he wrote one of his most famous compositions, “Odeon”. Many musicians would go to the Odeon theater just to see and hear Nazareth play. Later he got a job at a music shop to support his living and growing family, there he was hired to play the sheets asked for by customers. Among the music sheets were his own compositions and according to some sources he was very demanding towards people, who themselves would try to play his pieces, frequently telling the possible buyer to interrupt the performance! – By the late 1920’ies Nazareth began facing hearing problems that worsened towards the end of his life. A depression following the passing away of his daughter and wife intesified the decay of his mental health – he was hospitalizied in 1933 and died the following year. – Ernesto Nazareth left a legacy of compositions favoured by both classical and popular musicians. His first composition labeled ‘choro’ is “Apanhei-te Cavaquinho”, other well-known pieces are “Brejeiro”, “Ameno Resedá”, “Bambino”, “Dengoso”, “Travesso”, “Fon Fon” and “Tenebroso”. Nazareth’s popular works remain a core repertoire of Brazilian choro, performed by numerous artists in various settings to this day. His extensive work is composed of more than 200 pieces.
A new CD by the Brazilian pianist, composer, arranger and producer Antonio Adolfo is a tribute to the music of Ernesto Nazareth recorded last year and released a couple of weeks ago at Adolfo’s own label, AAM Music. The CD has ten tracks, nine of them are compositions by Nazareth and the title track is a new composition by Antonio Adolfo, a contemporary interpretation of the different musical influences that are the inspiration of this project: choro and jazz. The musicians taking part in the recorded ten tracks are: Antonio Adolfo (piano, arranger), Claudio Spiewak (guitars), Jorge Helder (bass), Marcelo Martins (flute, soprano saxophone), Rafael Barata (drums, percussion) and Marcos Suzano (percussion). – The nine featured compositions by Nazareth are “Feitiço” (1897), “Brejeiro” (1893), “Fon-fon” (1913), “Tenebroso” (1913), “Não caio noutra” (1881), “Coração que sente” (1903), “Cuéra” (1912), “Nenê” (1895) and “Odeon” (1909) – the audio of the last mentioned in Antonio Adolfo’s new arrangement has been uploaded at YouTube
What caracterizes Adolfo’s interpretations of Nazareth’s music is the freedom of improvisation, an element exposed in both choro and jazz, here in a contemporary form that may be considered a hybrid between the two genres. The result is neither traditional jazz nor choro, but a mixture that blows fresh air into Nazareth’s musical themes through be bop inspired improvisation – in the liner notes Adolfo mentions Bill Evans as an inspiration working with the arrangements featured on the disc.
Antonio Adolfo (b 1947) grew up in a musical family in Rio de Janeiro and began his studies at the age of seven. At seventeen he was already a professional musician. His teachers include Eumir Deodato and Nadia Boulanger. During the 60’s he led his own trio and toured with singers Elis Regina and Milton Nascimento. Adolfo wrote tunes that gained great success and have been recorded by such artists as Sérgio Mendes, Stevie Wonder, Herb Alpert, Earl Klugh, Dionne Warwick, and others. He won International Song Contests on two occasions. As a musician and arranger he has worked with some of the most representative Brazilian names, besides having released several albums. In 1985 he created his own school of music in Rio de Janeiro. Currently he is conducting a music school in Hollywood and teaches Brazilian music and jazz. More info on Antonio Adolfo’s career at his official website, here
The new arrangements of Nazareth’s music by Antonio Adolfo continue and extend a longtime fascination with the founders of Brazilian Choro music, Adolfo released another CD featuring music by Nazareth and Chiquinha Gonzaga in 1991 and he has participated in other choro and jazz projects in Brazil as well. To end this small review of the new CD, here’s another audio take from the CD uploaded at YouTube, Nazareth’s “Fon-Fon”