TEMA – AAM 0708 – www.aammusic.com. Alegria For All; Natureza; Phrygia Brasileira; SamhoJazz; Alem Mares; Sao Paulo Express; Todo Dia; Trem da Serra; Melos; Variations On A Tema Triste
PERSONNEL: Antonio Adolfo, piano, electric piano; Marcelo Martins, flute, alto flute; soprano; Leo Amuedo, electric guitar; Claudia Spiewak, acoustic guitar, electric bass; Jorge Helder, bass; Rafael Barata, drums, percussion; Armando Marcal, Hugo Sandim, percussion;
By Scott Yanow
Antonio Adolfo can always be relied upon to create pleasing music. When he plays piano, he keeps the melody in mind while creating sophisticated variations. His music perfectly blends together modern melodic jazz with Brazilian rhythms resulting in accessible music that contains subtle and inventive creativity.
Antonio Adolfo has been a major force in the jazz scene in Brazil for many decades. He was born in Rio de Janeiro and grew up around music since his mother was a violinist in the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra. Adolfo started playing piano when he was seven and by the 1960s was working professionally with his trio. He mastered jazz, was part of the bossa-nova scene, and worked with such significant singers as Elis Regina, Leny Andrade, Flora Purim and Milton Nascimento. Adolfo has been very productive throughout his career, leading over 25 albums, founding and running his own sizable music school in Rio, producing recordings, arranging and composing for others, and maintaining a busy performance schedule. Many of his songs have been recorded by other jazz and pop artists.
Tema is Antonio Adolfo’s first recording in a while to exclusively focus on his own compositions. The music is both relaxing and quietly stirring, rhythmic yet slightly unpredictable. For this project Adolfo shares the solo space with the excellent flutist Marcelo Martins and guitarist Leo Amuedo whose playing is often influenced by 1970s George Benson (particularly from his CTI period). The rhythm section is flexible enough to switch between hard bop and Brazilian jazz with the percussionists adding fire to some of the selections.
Tema (which means song, melody or an invitation to play) begins with the playful theme of “Alegria For All.” Basically a blues, this piece has spots for Martins, Adolfo and Amuedo. “Natureza” is a lazy and relaxed jazz song that is never sleepy. “Phrygia Brasileira” is another melodic piece that perfectly fits the musicians’ styles; Jorge Helder has a fine spot on bass.
“SamboJazz” transports listeners off to Carnaval. It starts with some enthusiastic work on percussion by Armando Marcal and Hugo Sandim. When Adolfo enters, the percussionists drop out at first but the pianist retains the rhythm and builds on their ideas. When the percussionists return, the music gains strong momentum and the rhythm stays hot up until the piece’s conclusion.
“Alem Mares” is a bit reminiscent (but not a copy) of Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” and has some fine drum breaks. The heated “Sao Paulo Express” and the lyrical “Todo Dia” give Marcelo Martins opportunities to stretch out on soprano sax. “Trem da Serra” is quietly joyful and infectious. “Melos” and Adolfo’s brief solo piano on “Variations On A Terma Triste” end this CD in a mellow mood.
Tema is a highly enjoyable listening experience and is the type of melodic jazz set that will appeal beyond a strictly jazz audience while remaining true to the musical vision of Antonio Adolfo.