TEMA, by Egidio Leitão – Musica Brasileira A/Z

Prolific probably is not an accurate word when it comes to Antonio Adolfo (1947, Rio de Janeiro). It doesn’t quite describe just how much this composer, pianist, arranger, producer and teacher does in what most of us struggle with in a mere 24-hour day. In the last two years, for example, he has recorded and released four very polished and well acclaimed albums: Finas Misturas (2013), O Piano de Antonio Adolfo (2014), Rio, Choro, Jazz… (2014) and Copa Village (2015). Competently prolific, however, is a better way to describe an artist of his caliber. Having written over 200 songs in the course of a successful career, Antonio Adolfo was a fixture in Brazilian music already in the 1960s. From those early days in 1963 at the famous Beco das Garrafas, playing with the group Samba Cinco, Adolfo began a musical career that would only climb higher and higher. Along with steady collaborators, most notably Tibério Gaspar (1943, Rio de Janeiro), Adolfo created themes to Brazilian TV novelas and also solidified his name with winning songs in music festivals. Among those early hits, “Juliana," “BR 3" and “Teletema" (all co-written with Tibério Gaspar) put Brazil’s name as a solid contender and winner in international music festivals. His music has been recorded by artists all over the world, including Sergio Mendes, Stevie Wonder, Earl Klugh, Herb Alpert, Josee Koning and several others. He even recorded with Mick Jagger in 1975 (the song was “Scarlet"). In Brazil, he has always been in high demand as an arranger and musician in recordings with Elis Regina, Edu Lobo, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso and Maria Bethânia, just to name a few.

Although in his most recent solo works Antonio Adolfo has covered a wide range of genres and composers, with his latest release, Tema, the focus in his own music. This was the right time to revisit some of his old compositions and wrap them up in a jazz approach. The result is stupendous! That should not surprise anyone who is familiar with his music, though. In his own words, this is what he says about Tema:

My impression is that when composers are very young they express great spontaneity, but sometimes do not have enough musical maturity to be able to organize ideas as they can when they are more experienced. I have redeveloped my earlier ideas with new arrangements, made new bridges or even new changes and chords for the original melodies.

Adolfo surrounds himself with great musicians who help him accomplish his vision and ideas. In Tema he works with Marcelo Martins (soprano sax and flute), Leo Amuedo (electric guitar), Claudio Spiewak (acoustic guitar), Jorge Helder (bass), Rafael Barata (drums and percussion) and Armando Marçal (percussion). Special guest Hugo Sandim (percussion) is also at hand in one track.

The music in the album is varied and covers a wide range of Brazilian genres. “Alegria for All," for example, draws from the Brazilian northeast baião. Martins’ flute solo brings to the forefront all the joy and party atmosphere so present in forró parties. Similarly, with “Phrygia Brasileira" the influence we hear takes us back to Portugal and the Moorish influence from years gone by. The song title is derived from the fact that the melody is structured on the Phrygian scale. Yet another great composition and arrangement is “SamboJazz," one of the liveliest and certainly the most infectious track of the album. Marçal’s fiery percussion lays the base for Amuedo’s and Spiewak’s dueling guitars along with Adolfo’s dazzling acoustic and electric piano solos. Throughout the entire album, the way these musicians interact is brilliant. The solos are well contained and yet very vibrant. Just listen to the fast-paced “São Paulo Express," and don’t forget to breathe!

Jazz has never been so smooth as what you will hear in Tema. The unrivalled Antonio Adolfo arrangements will not let you down. This is a very solid release.