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Antonio Adolfo: BruMa – Celebrating Milton Nascimento



Milton Nascimento remains one of the greatest musicians to come out of that country. He is revered and adored by Brasilians living in Brasil and the cognoscenti and discerning music listeners in the world at large. However, apart from Wayne Shorter, the late George Duke and perhaps, the Manhattan Transfer few musicians outside Brasil have attempted to interpret his repertoire; few, that is, with much success. But now Antonio Adolfo has a full-length recording, BruMa – Celebrating Milton Nascimento. It is a significant work even by the highest standards set by Mr Adolfo, a brilliant musician [composer and arranger, pianist and pedagogue, whose music was forged in the fire of the Música popular brasileira movement that grew out of bossa-nova.

The first aspect of this recording that delights the senses is the eloquence of the arrangements. Antonio Adolfo has made as close approximations of the Milton Nascimento’s originals with their unique melding of traditional forms from Três Pontas – a municipality located in southern Brasilian state of Minas Gerais, where Mr Nascimento originally hails from – with the music of the rest of Brasil. In fact Mr Nascimento became one of the principal figures – an icon, in fact – in Clube da Esquina, which took its name from a venue in Mr Nacimento’s town, and which, together with Tropicália [that grew out of Música popular brasileira], is usually regarded as birthing an equally important [and eponymous] musical movement that achieved its greatest international resonance in the late 1960s and early 1970s with musicians such as Mr Nascimento and Beto Guedes in the vanguard of the movement.

So, in fact, with this recording, Mr Adolfo is also shining a spotlight on that seminal musical movement. And what a superb glow he brings to Mr Nascimento, his role in the movement and his [ongoing] role in Brasilian music and culture. However, make no mistake, Mr Adolfo’s BruMa is no folkloric clone of that music. Mr Adolfo is far too forward-thinking a musician for that kind of homage. Moreover, Mr Adolfo has re-imagined the characteristic sound of the music of Clube da Esquina in a broader [North American] context, using the idea of improvisation from Jazz, ideas from Western Classical music – canons, fugal patterns and so on – to breathe fresh life into Mr Nascimento’s originals. All the while Mr Adolfo maintains the integrity of the dancing Brasilian musical forms of which “Caxangá” is a fine example.

Another striking factor in this repertoire is the fact that Mr Adolfo’s homage is all-instrumental. This must have surely presented an unique challenge for the arranger and pianist as the lyrics [by the late Fernando Brant, Lô Borges and Ronaldo Bastos] for Mr Nascimentos songs was – and is – an integral part of their aura. Still, in these versions, none of that atmosphere is lost. Mr Adolfo has always been extremely clever in this regard and his arrangements have always employed horns and guitars – by such brilliant musicians as Marcelo Martins, Danilo Sinna, Jesse Sadok, Claudio Spiwak, Lula Galvão and Leo Amuedo – to pick up the proverbial slack without the presence of a vocalist. Soloing with idiomatic grace, these associates of Mr Adolfo have replaced the vocalists’ telling of the stories with an instrumental chorale, who play with uncommon and compelling “narrative” lyricism. All of this is grounded in the music of superb rhythmists, Jorge Helder, Rafael Barata and Dada Costa.

Whether it is on the music of “Trés Pontas”, “Canção do Sal” and “Encontros e Despedidas” the profound melancholia that evokes the melting eloquence of Milton Nascimento’s take on Brasil – both  “saudade” and “alegria”, Antonio Adolfo offers us the music of one of the greatest Brasilian songwriters in his own image, while re-creating them in a wholly new context of his [Mr Adolfo’s] own making.

Track list – 1: Fé Cega, Faca Amolada; 2: Nada Será Como Antes; 3: Outrobro; 4: Canção do Sal; 5: Encontros e Despedidas; 6: Trés Pontas; 7: Cais; 8: Caxangá; 9: Tristesse

Personnel – Antonio Adolfo: piano and arrangements; Jorge Helder: contrabass; Rafael Barata: drums and percussion [1, 2, 6 – 8]; Dada Costa: percussion; Claudio Spiwak: electric guitar [1, 2, 4, 8], acoustic guitar [3, 4, 5, 9] and percussion [4]; Lula Galvão: electric guitar [7, 8]; Leo Amuedo: electric guitar [9]; Jesse Sadoc: trumpet and flugelhorn [5, 9]; Marcelo Martins: tenor saxophone and alto flute [5, 9]; Danilo Sinna: alto saxophone

Released – 2020
Label – AAM [0714]
Runtime – 47:44

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Featured Albums

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá



Roberto Jr. Vizcaino, Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaino Guillot - Photo Nayeli Mejia
Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot - Photo: Nayeli Mejia.

Listening to the music of Siempre Más Allá, it certainly seems that the young French pianist, Adrien Brandeis has strengthened the belief that he is a proverbial citizen of the Afro-Caribbean universe. To be clear Mr Brandeis still loves all music and swings as hard as any pianist who loves Black American Music – that is, music that you can sing and dance to. But also continues to be beguiled by the rolling thunder of Afro-Caribbean music. The wild call of the rhythms and the joie de vivre of the questing melodies and harmonies not only appeal to his ear, but also speak to him in the hidden parts of his heart.

By his own admission Siempre Más Allá took root during three tours to Mexico undertaken under the aegis of the Fédération des Alliances Françaises du Mexique. The virtually all-Afro-Cuban repertoire of the album radiates charm at every turn. These disarmingly natural and eloquent performances bring out the music’s inherent drama and penchant for tumbao with a deft touch while indulging Brandeis’ lyrical instincts to the full. Meticulously balanced, the four quartet pieces, the trio and duo pieces feel as if they are chamber works. Brandeis’ astonishingly insightful playing is musically captivating and technically blemishless. Each phrase rings so completely true that one can’t imagine the music played any other way.

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

The album features Mr Brandeis and a group of very accomplished musicians. These include the celebrated Cuban percussionist Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot [on two tracks] and his son Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., Mexican drummer José Loria Triay make up the wall of percussion. The Brasilian bassist Giliard Lopes brings his distinctive veritas to the whole rhythm section. The big surprise here is, perhaps, the presence of the great Cuban Horacio “El Negro” Hernández sitting in the drum chair on La buena vibra.

Siempre Más Allá is an affirmation of Brandeis’ enduring love and natural affinity for Latin music. Not surprisingly the music seems to echo the famous Latin American phrase: “¡Que rico bailo yo!” [which, in English, exclaims: “How well I dance!”]. This is no hyperbole as the music – in its pulses and rhythms show as Brandeis traverses the rhythmic topography of the Caribbean and Latin America. Along the way Brandeis plunged into the world of changüí, the chacarera, Brasilian gaucho music and the ancient melodic thunder of bàtá drums.

From the get-go listeners will find themselves immersed in quite another world of rippling percussive grooves. The track Ek Bakam, for instance, conjures the intricate architecture; the line and flow of an epic Mayan civilisation located in the Yucatan. Narratives from the Latin world abound – often paying homage to famous traditional musicians. Pancho’s Power is one such chart inspired by the vivid world of the legendary trio Los Panchos. Brandeis gives his percussion section a lot of space when he puts the spotlight on them on Tierra de Oportunidades – a wistful memory of the pianist’s three tours to Mexico, which is also incidentally the popular provincial slogan of the Mexican state of Guanajuato. On Huachi-Huachi Brandeis digs deep into the epicurean delights of the only Latin country in North America with this song in praise of a kind of gourmet Mexican fish: the huachinango.

Brandeis then celebrates his association with percussion colourist Roberto Vizcaíno Jr. with the extraordinary music of Vizcaíno Blues, a piece unique with its exploratory chromaticisms and elegant sonorities that beautifully capture the eloquence of the percussionist in whose praise the music is written. Mindful of the fact that Vizcaíno is Cuban but makes his home in Mexico, Brandeis shapes the rhythmic and harmonic palette of the piece accordingly. On La Buena Vibra Brandeis delivers astonishing pianistic fireworks in the piece’s melodic and harmonic lines, played at a frenetic pace, to mirror the style of its dedicatee, Michel Camilo. The pianist demonstrates an authentic home-grown grasp of Cuban music as he reimages Voy a Apagar la Luz, by the legendary and late-singer Armando Manzanero, here adapted as a wistful solo piano work. Meanwhile on the dizzying ride of Humpty Dumpty the pianist pays homage to another idol: Chick Corea, by revisiting the sparkling composition of the recently-deceased piano maestro.

It is hard not to be mesmerised by this spirited and finely nuanced music artfully crafted in an album by Adrien Brandeis, a pianist who is about to take the world by storm with a recording that is going to be one of the finest by any musician located outside the Latin American sub-continent.

Deo gratis…

Tracks – 1: Huachi Huachi; 2: Alegría; 3: Pancho’s Power; 4: Ek balam; 5: Un peu d’espoir; 6: Vizcaíno’s Blues; 7: Tierra de oportunidades; 8: Humpty Dumpty; 9: La buena vibra; 10: Voy a apagar la luz

Musicians – Adrien Brandeis: piano; Giliard Lopes: contrabass; José Loria Triay: drums; Roberto Vizcaíno Jr: congas and bàtá drums. Featuring Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot: percussion [1, 6]; Horacio “El Negro” Hernández: drums [9]

Released – 2022
Label – Mantodea Music Productions
Runtime – 58:25

YouTube Video – Adrien Brandeis – Siempre más allá (EPK)

YouTube Audio – Adrien Brandeis – Vizcaíno’s Blues

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