TEMA – by CJ Shearn – Tumbir

Antonio Adolfo: piano, Marcelo Martins: flute, soprano sax, Leo Amuedo: electric guitar, Claudio Spiewak: acoustic guitar, Jorge Helder: double bass, Rafael Barata: drums, percussion, Armando Marcal: percussion.
Tracks: Alegria For All, Natureza, Phrygia Brasileira, SamboJazz, Alem Mares, Sao Paulo Express, Todo Dia, Trem da Serra, Melos, Variations on a Tema Triste.

Pianist and composer Antonio Adolfo has been a fixture on the Brazilian jazz scene for decades. His compositions have been interpreted by many well known names such as Sergio Mendes, Earl Klugh and Herb Alpert. “Tema”, shines a spotlight on the pianist’s own compositions, some of which were written as early as 1967, and revised for this new album.
The group joining Adolfo, including saxophonist Marcelo Martins, electric guitarist Leo Amuedo, acoustic guitarist Claudio Spiewak, former Pat Metheny Group percussionist Armando Marcal, and drummer Rafael Barrata (a member of guitarist Ricardo Silveira’s organ trio) is very compatible. The ensemble interprets Adolfo’s compositions with elan and there is plenty of room for the musicians to flex their improvisational muscles. Amuedo’s impressive warm hollow body guitar tone graces the first track “Alegria for All” and his fluid ideas recall George Benson and Pat Metheny, following a sprightly flute solo from Martins. “SamboJazz” sets a lively atmosphere, where one can just imagine the sights and sounds of Carnival time in Rio, Adolfo’s bright melody complemented by barking cuica and other percussion sets an impetus for such a mood. Armando Marcal has always been a tasteful percussionist, contributing thoughtful colors to whatever setting he is in, and the groove he creates is a wonderful cushion behind another fine Amuedo solo, and Adolfo’s Fender Rhodes backing.

Antonio Adolfo is one of Brazil’s musical treasures, and the musicians gathered on this recording are obviously joyful playing with him. “Tema” exemplifies Brazilian jazz at its highest level, wonderful melodies and atmospheres with solo turns that cut right to the core of the song, Adolfo’s piano playing is inventive throughout in his comping and solo lines, and there is much to savor on this disc.

Rating: 9.5/10