At every turn you get a sense of Antonio Adolfo flexing his compositional muscles in this music that goes back almost fifty-five years. There is a sense of Mr. Adolfo demonstrating just how much variety could be built around a tema of melodies. In Antonio Adolfo’s hands the music occupies its own world of mood and rhythmic delight. This music is also fashioned in Mr. Adolfo’s unique way with counterpoint that is at once strong-jawed and supple. We are always aware of the music’s subject , for instance, as it peeks through the texture in different registers or reappears stood on its head, yet is never exaggerated as is sometimes the tendency with less imaginative musicians.
Tema – Antonio AdolfoAnd how Mr. Adolfo can dance at least at his keyboard – in “SamboJazz”, as it is urged into life through subtle dynamics, voicings, articulation and judicious ornamentation. A very different kind of dance reveals itself in “Sao Paulo Express” a Paulista musical vignette in which he takes a more impish view than many, the sonorous drone effect contrasting delightfully with the tripping upper lines. The way he (and his guitarists Leo Amuedo and Claudio Spiewak) has considered the touch and dynamic of every phrase means that these readings constantly impress with fresh details each time you hear them. This is a classic illustration of the exceptional genius of Antonio Adolfo, as a pianist, composer, arranger and guide of the musicians who have given everything of themselves to follow him.
Even the most unassuming numbers such as “Todo Dia” gain a sense of intrigue as he invites the musicians of the ensemble to re-examine this from every angle, again bringing multifarious shadings to the music. And it all flows effortlessly though a journey might have been anything but that. Highlights abound: in the murmuring “Trem da Serra” the pianist’s reactivity leaves other Brasilians – including some guitarists – sounding a touch unsubtle, which is really saying something. This is followed by one of the most extraordinary of pieces on the disc, “Melos”. While many musicians would revel in echoing harmonies expressed in a piece such as this, Mr. Adolfo draws you daringly into his own world. This whispered intimacy extends into his insertion of an ornamented version of “Variations on a Tema Triste” which proves to be a masterclass in ornamentation, yet never overburdening the melodic lines. Fittingly there are long meditative silences as the piece fades.
You can be in no doubt of the thought that has gone into this enterprise from Mr. Adolfo’s ordering of tema which he explains in his brief liner notes to their devolution into the songs themselves. At every turn he harnesses the possibilities of the piano in the service of his music. The result is a clear labour of love , and one in which he shines new light on older music to mesmerising effect, all of which is captured by a warmly sympathetic recording.