For the esteemed Brazilian composer/arranger/pianist Antonio Adolfo, his life’s work has been to bring to the world the diverse richness of the Brazilian musical traditions – with a particular focus upon its parallel developments with the profound legacy of jazz. But of equal importance is making great music, to which his many highly acclaimed and Latin Grammy-nominated albums clearly testify. For his latest delightful excursion, the incomparable Wayne Shorter provides the essence of his focus with HYBRIDO, subtitled From Rio to Wayne Shorter.
“Mr. Wayne Shorter is one of my musical idols, both as instrumentalist and composer. His compositions have very rich harmonies and melodies, and in my opinion, they can fit very well with the Brazilian style.”
This wonderful album clearly supports that opinion. In his masterful hands, eight iconic Wayne Shorter compositions – along with one outstanding and fully compatible Adolfo original – are brilliantly re-imagined, while remaining utterly respectful and confluent with the composers intent. Shorter’s richly lyrical and compelling compositions are ripe for interpretation and sophisticated in both harmony and rhythm to allow for adventurous exploration while holding to their essential musicality. They also provide the ideal springboard for Antonio’s multi-cultural approach to creativity, further clarifying the album’s title. “I love this hybridism of cultural and music styles, since new ideas and possibilities come from it.”
As with so many of the finest ensemble-focused artists – musicians, choreographers, filmmakers alike – a consistency of collaborators is so often a key ingredient of artistic achievement. Of his nine musicians here, only two are new to his circle – the excellent electric guitarist Lula Galvao and the fine vocalist Ze Renato (who performs on only one track). The core four, who bring their superb talents to all nine pieces, are Marcelo Martins on tenor/soprano sax and flute, double bassist Jorge Helder, Rafael Barata on drums & percussion, and Galvao. Andre Siqueira adds his percussion wizardry to five tracks, and the acoustic guitar of the masterful Claudio Spiewak graces one. Trumpeter Jessé Sadoc and trombonist Serginho Trombone round out the horn section into a powerful threesome on five tracks, with Adolfo’s marvelous arrangements making it sound even more sumptuous.
The consummate musicianship that one has come to expect from Antonio’s ensembles is in full bloom here as well. Sadoc’s hard-bop fluency clearly evokes the Lee Morgan/Freddie Hubbard accompaniment that Wayne called upon, and Serginho augments his raw roots-of-jazz-trombone sound with the fluidity of Curtis Fuller, while Martins muscular tenor and sinuously lyrical soprano stylings are ideal for this homage. Galvao’s flawless buoyancy and imaginative solos sparkle, and Helder’s bass is always vitally rhythmic and deeply wooded in providing the heartbeat. Barata’s splendid creativity and ingenious subtlety is always in play as he consistently probes, colors, emphasizes and drives the music at all times. The seamless synchronicity he shares with Siqueira is spectacular. And Antonio of course, continues to be a revelation of piano artistry while providing the substance that always ties all the music together within his own singular vision through his marvelous arrangements, spirited embellishment and energetically lyrical, inspired solos.
The compositions chosen by Adolfo are predominantly from the 1960s, with two notable and quite fitting exceptions – both coming from Shorter’s 1974 collaboration with the legendary Brazilian composer, musician and singer Milton Nascimento – and both truly beautiful compositions. For Beauty and the Beast Antonio employs what he calls a SamBossa, with a shifted groove during the exposition of the melodic line. Martins plays soprano and flute here, with a splendid solo on flute. Spiewak’s acoustic guitar accompaniment is captivating, as is Antonio’s solo. Ana Maria, Wayne’s exquisite Eastern-tinged paean to his wife is lovingly stated by piano and soprano – gently in front and more intensely going out. The straight Bossa approach is enhanced by Adolfo’s and Lula’s stimulating solos and Martins’ spiraling excursion.
There are two pieces whose initial incarnations came through Wayne’s participation in Miles Davis’ classic ‘60s quintet. E.S.P. an adventurous item in its original version is taken even further here with a deliciously de-constructed approach by piano and then soprano. The rubato exposition flows into a daringly staggering groove with a Baião flavor. Brilliant piano interplay with bass and rhythm, as well as a fine soprano and terrific chordal based guitar solo add to the mix. Prince of Darkness sizzles with an original intro in Baião style with colorful percussion, a few interesting new harmonic changes, soaring piano, lithely limber soprano and sparkling guitar solos.
The remaining five pieces feature the full three-horn ensemble. Footprints, while also initially heard through Miles’ quintet can comfortably be called Wayne’s best-known and most-played work. But Antonio’s take on it is thoroughly fresh, with a taste of Brazilian Central West Guarânia rhythms. Retaining the original 3/4 rhythm, the scintillating percussion and the alluring wordless vocalizing of the great Ze Renato provide new dimensions. Soulfully syncopated guitar, lush and vividly rhythmic piano, and a rousing trombone solo that is fully controlled but emotionally raw add to the transformation.
Deluge, which opens the album, is loyal to the straightforward concept of the JuJu album where it first appeared, but renewed in feeling by some syncopated rhythmic shifts on the head that significantly alter the context. Lyrical trumpet, virile tenor and effervescent piano (Rhodes for the only time on the album) are perfect for the fiery atmosphere. The powerful horn ensemble on its bridge helps Black Nile crackle with energy, further emphasized by blazing tenor, piano and guitar solos. Speak No Evil superbly captures the aura of controlled intensity and palpable tension of the original, holding to the adventurously modern harmonies, but spiced with Brazilian flavor through its rhythmic approach. Riveting trombone, rollicking tenor and subtly shaded piano all lead to a short but explosive drum solo that starts the drive home.
The Adolfo original Afosamba closes the album, with a blend of the ritualistic Afoxé style combined with the hugely popular Samba. A full-bodied theme sets the tone for robust trumpet and dynamic percussion interplay that introduces a delectable piano solo. It’s a perfect closure to this radiant album, providing a summary overview that places a clear perspective on the overall theme, demonstrating both Shorter’s influence upon Antonio, as well as the always ongoing continuity of inspiration and development that great artists have not only on each other, but on the entire art of music.
Given Wayne Shorter’s various forays into the world of Brazilian music, the question has arisen… what if Wayne Shorter had been born in Brazil? Antonio Adolfo’s extraordinary HYBRIDO provides a very appropriate answer.