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 ; Lula Galvão: electric guitar [7, 8]; Leo Amuedo: electric guitar ; Jesse Sadoc: trumpet and flugelhorn [5, 9]; Marcelo Martins: tenor saxophone and alto flute [5, 9]; Danilo Sinna: alto saxophone
Released – 2020
Label – AAM 
Runtime – 47:44