Sunday, February 24, 2013

Jazz Standards with Brazilian Style: Antonio Adolfo’s Finas Misturas


Antonio Adolfo: Finas Misturas 



How do you put a fresh and interesting spin on some old jazz favorites? If your Antonio Adolfo, the Brazilian pianist and composer, you take some of your own personal material and add some favorite songs from jazz masters like John Coltrane, Chick Corea, Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie and Keith Jarrett and you infuse them with your own Brazilian imprimatur-the result is Adolfo's latest release Finas Misturas.

Reworkings of recognized standards that are strongly associated with their composer/performers can be a tricky business. Successful  re-imagining of songs like John Coltrane's "Naima" or Chick Corea's "Crystal Silence"  require both a thorough understanding of the original material and the conviction that you can create something new and complimentary to the original recording. Adolfo uses his understanding and appreciation of the jazz tradition and incorporates the multi-faceted elements that make up Brazilian music to create this alive and sensuously appealing album.

Antonio Adolfo is an Brazilian musician and educator who started his own school in 1985 in Rio De Janeiro. He continues to perform, arrange and produce music in his native country and internationally. During his career he has worked with artists of stature including Sergio Mendes, Dionne Warwick and  Stevie Wonder to name a few.

In the album's liner notes Antonio refers to some of the elements that he has incorporated into his treatments of what are for the most part jazz standards. On his own opening number the "Florestra Azul," literally Blue Forest, but also a reference to a town by the same name in the Bahia Northeastern region of Brazil, Adolfo uses the sumptuous flute of Marcelo Martins,  a warm-toned probing double bass solo by Jorge Helder, along with his own Bahia influenced piano phrasing steeped in a definitive blues sensibility to create music that transcends category.

Another Adolfo Composition titled "Balada" is in the style of the Brazilian Toada, with its soft guitar strums by Claudio Spiewak and some rolling drum accents by Rafael Barata, the music is romantic, sensitive and intoxicating.

On John Coltrane's seminal "Giant Steps" Adolfo uses another Northeastern Brazilian form, Quadrilha,  which has a relentless driving four beat rhythm. The music takes on a Rio Carnival-inspired, dance-like quality that may offend some purists. The treatment has its own appeal, revealing how songs like this continue to inspire the multi-cultural possibilities from musicians throughout the world. 

Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma" is given a airy Bossa treatment that is striped of  almost all of its be-bop heritage. Guitar solos by Leo Amudeo and Claudio Spiewak and a brief saxophone solo by Martins are featured over the Bossa beat. Some plangent piano by Adolfo at the coda is played with a polish and heartfelt sincerity that is nothing short of beautiful.

"Misturando" or "mixing" in Portuguese, is an Adolfo composition and  perhaps the most freely played number on the album. The song's moving spirit permeates the performances of the musicians, you can hear them moan faintly in the background enthusiastically nudging each other on as they perform.  The group weaves in and around each other effortlessly, like a flock of birds tracking each others motion precisely, telepathically in flight. This "mixing" includes a stirringly fluid guitar solo by Leo Amuedo and an ascending build up by Adolfo on piano that culminates in a battery of sounds from Barata's drum kit. 

Keith Jarrett's "Memories of Tomorrow"  finds Adolfo performing a duet with Anudeo's electric guitar in the medium to slow tempo of  the Brazilian style known as Toada. Amudeo's accomplished playing is filled with sensitive and creative phrasing that converses magically with Adolfo's teasing piano lines.

Perhaps the most fetching of the recreations on this album is Antonio Adolfo's re-imagination of John Coltrane's gorgeous ballad to his wife "Naima." Adolfo creates a purely Brazilian take on this one. He uses the emotionally charged song to employ Marcelo Martin's hauntingly effective flute  ( some of the best  flute work I have heard recently) over the backing of his own piano lines and his empathetic rhythm section of Amudeo, Helder and  Barata. Rafael Barata's insertion of well timed percussive accents is particularly effective.

Adolfo's "Tres Meninos" or Three Little Boys is a delightful combination of styles that include elements of Baiao, Samba and Calango. The group has a tightness that seamlessly allows them to move through changes that could be challenging to musicians who were less familiar with each other.

On Chick Corea and Neville Potter's lingering "Crystal Silence" Adolfo effectively uses Marcelo Martins'  warm, almost woody sounding flute to carry the melody and create a different take on this song. The maestro arranges the piece in such a way that delicately intertwines Claudio Spewak's tasty Spanish influenced acoustic guitar into the Bossa mix.

The closing song is Bill Evans' "Time Remembered," which is transformed into a multi-layered piece by Adolfo's arrangement of Martin's wind swept flute played in tandem with his own piano lines. With a delicate touch that mimics Evans at times, Adolfo takes his most beautiful of piano solos, made all the more interesting by the dynamism of  Helder's warm bass lines and Barata's controlled bombastic coloration. When Martins re-enters the song, his flute solo is an eruption of tones and sounds that breathe sensuality and passion into each note he plays. 

Antonio Adolfo's Finas Misturas is true to its title, a fine mixture, a fusion of Brazilian sensibilities and rhythmic styles with jazz. A thoroughly enjoyable album that should not be  missed by anyone that likes fine music. 

Here is a cut from a previous album by Antonio Adolfo titled Chora baiĆ£o


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