Throughout the past 40 years, Antonio Adolfo has had a very busy career as a pianist, composer and arranger. Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, his teachers included Eumir Deodato and Nadia Boulanger (in Paris). A jazz pianist since the mid-1960s in Brazil, Adolfo worked with such major singers as Leny Andrade, Flora Purim, Elis Regina and Milton Nascimento and has recorded more than 25 albums as a leader. A major name for decades, his music combines together Brazilian rhythmic styles with jazz. His previous recording, Antonio Adolfo "HYBRIDO – From Rio to Wayne Shorter,” was a 2018 Grammy finalist.
As a bandleader, Antonio Adolfo has mostly been featured with small groups that showcase his music and his solo abilities. However he has long considered it a major goal to someday record an album with a larger ensemble, a big band that had a full understanding of both Brazilian music and jazz.
Encontros – Orquestra Atlantica
is the realization of that dream. After having seen a performance in Rio de Janeiro by Orquestra Atlantica, a Brazilian jazz orchestra founded in 2012, Antonio Adolfo was so impressed that he invited the group to be a major part of his new recording. With up to seven horns and several guests, Adolfo had many new tone colors at his disposal along with the powerful sound of a big band. The result is an exciting set comprised of nine of Adolfo’s compositions plus Miles Davis’ “Milestones.” The inventive arrangements of Jesse Sadoc and Marcelo Martins mix together the sound of big band jazz with such Brazilian styles as the Samba, Bossa Nova, Baiao, Frevo, and the Afoxe to create memorable and infectious music.
The program begins with “Partido Samba-Funk,” a tune that combines Samba with the type of Brazilian funk often heard at dance parties in Rio and Sao Paulo. The colorful percussion, the horn riffs, and the solos by Adolfo, altoist Danilo Sinna, and trumpeter Jesse Sadoc (who makes a particularly explosive statement) get Encontros Orquestra Atlantica off to a stirring start.
“Pentatonica,” a melodic piece with strong forward momentum, has spots for guest guitarist Leo Amuedo and tenor-saxophonist Marcelo Martins along with some singing by Ze Renato.
“Atlantica,” which Adolfo named after the big band, is a warm medium-tempo ballad. The concise bass, flute and piano solos are strong assets during the atmospheric work.
“Luizao” is a tribute to the late great bassist Luizao Maia, an innovator in reinventing the way that the samba is played on bass, and a member of Antonio Adolfo’s early groups. The mostly straight ahead performance by the big band is highlighted by valve trombonist Serginho Trombone’s inventive solo.
The set’s lone standard, “Milestones,” is a combination of boppish jazz and Frevo. The rapid ensemble work by the horns is quite impressive and there are also excellent solos from Adolfo and accordionist Marcos Nimrichter.
Brazilian music often alternates in the same piece (and sometimes the same chorus) between happiness and a melancholy mood. “Saudade” gives listeners a good example of that unique feel, accentuated by the playing of flugelhornist Jesse Sadoc.
Capoeira is an unusual Brazilian dance that is combined with martial art. The berimbau, a one-string instrument, is a major part of that style. “Capoeira Ya” has a strong hint of both the berimbau and flamenco guitar in Nelson Faria’s playing along with impressive trumpet and piano solos.
“Africa Bahia Brasil” shows the African influence in Brazilian culture, blending together Afoxe and jazz in a very danceable performance. Danilo Sinna takes a particularly passionate alto solo while Adolfo makes one of his strongest statements of the album.
Contrasting the mood a bit, “Delicada Jazz Waltz” is a gentle piece with a delicate melody. The solos of Adolfo and accordionist Marcos Nimrichter are subtle and pleasing.
Encontros – Orquestra Atlantica
concludes with a new version of Antonio Adolfo’s biggest hit, “Sa Marina.” Composed in 1967 and released internationally as “Pretty World” with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, the number has been recorded by more than 200 artists. In addition to a fine solo from the leader, this memorable rendition has Marcelo Martins featured on tenor, and there is also a colorful tradeoff between baritonist Levi Chaves and trombonist Aldivas Ayres.
It is very rare for Brazilian jazz to be performed by a big band, particularly one of this quality. Hearing Antonio Adolfo’s music played by a top-notch orchestra casts new light on his writing abilities. Whether one loves Brazilian music, big bands or modern jazz, Encontros – Orquestra Atlantica
makes for a memorable and stimulating listening experience. For more information about this album and its artists, visit www.antonioadolfomusic.com