The celebrated Brasilian musician, composer, pianist and pedagogue Antonio Adolfo shows that it is possible to be nostalgic without having to be sentimental on Samba Jazz Alley by going to a place when (and where) music fired up his imagination. That place, he tells us in a short introduction to the music, is Beco das Garrafas or Bottles Alley; which was a place where Brasilian musicians shared a love for their music and Jazz and he haunted one particular bar down the alley; the Bottles Bar where its musicians and patrons fell prey to the charms of Jazz. Clearly, Brasilian musical forms were never abandoned here. The experience that first gripped a teenage Mr Adolfo has stayed with him for over four decades as he continues to spread the word – and the music – with his work and that of the pantheon of Brasilian gods whose music adorns this recording.
Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Antonio Adolfo: Samba Jazz Alley
However, clearly for Mr Adolfo while tradition is a wonderful reality, it is clear that the inner dynamic of tradition is always to innovate and we see that with the music he brings to this recording. Whether original work or a re-imagination of the works of others, Mr Adolfo has chiselled this uniquely beautiful body of work from out of the bedrock of the Brasilian-Jazz tradition that was first carved by the likes of Tom Jobim, Johnny Alf, Baden Powell, João Donato and others. What Mr Adolfo does so expertly here (as always) is to actively throw overboard melodic, structural and harmonic hooks – from both Brasilian and African American traditions – that have become expressively blunted through overuse. He then builds this gorgeous music from what might – or might not – be left.
In “Casa Forte” for instance, Mr Adolfo shreds the familiar tempo of Brasilian street dance puréeing the sublime gestures of past masters into agitatedly ticking motor rhythms and volatile harmonies that are expertly worked into the song by his brilliant musicians including guitarist Lula Galvão, trumpeter Jesse Sadoc and saxophonist Marcelo Martins (whose soaring and swooping solo on “Passirim” virtually redefines the song) together with the masterful percussionists fronted by drummer Rafael Barata. Following that superb performance is one in which two chromatic harmonica players, Mauricio Einhorn and Gabriel Grossi, combine in rhapsodic harmony to paint a heartbreaking picture of sadness on “Tristeza de nos Dios”. Indeed definitions of beauty are central to everything that Mr Adolfo brings to this album, from the repertoire to the arrangements and finally to the musicians whom he has assembled to bring his music to fruition.
In everything we listen to on this album there is also clearly a distinction between beauty of the overly perfumed kind in the commercial sense. This is replaced by authentic evocative beauty and is evident in the idiomatic playing of Mr Adolfo’s arrangements by these musicians. Brass and winds, for instance blow through their instruments evoking a sound as natural as the wind through the trees that rustles the scraps from the Bottle Alley on a dark night. Guitarists wield plectrums and fingers to evoke the chill of winter nights and the reflected glittering of a star-filled sky. Together with Mr Adolfo whose masterful pianism leads the way these musicians make a joyful noise that brings a whole cultural event to life all over again; this time through the music of Samba Jazz Alley.
Track list – 1: Ceu e mar; 2: Hello Herbie; 3: So Por Amor; 4: Casa Forte; 5: Tristeza de nos dois; 6: The Frog; 7: Obrigado; 8: Passarim; 9: Corcovado
Personnel – Antonio Adolfo: piano and arrangements; Lula Galvão acoustic and electric guitars; Jorge Helder: double bass; Rafael Barata: drums and percussion (2, 4, 6, 8); Dada Costa: percussion (2, 4, 6, 8); Jesse Sadoc: trumpet and flugelhorn (9); Marcelo Martins: soprano and tenor saxophones, and alto flute (9); Rafael Rocha: trombone; Special Guests – Serginho Trombone: valve trombone (6); Mauricio Einhorn: harmonica (5); Gabriel Grossi: harmonica (5); Claudio Spiewak: acoustic guitar (1) and shaker (1, 5, 8)
Released – 2019
Label – AAM Music (AAM 0713)
Runtime – 49:09