Album review

Antonio Adolfo – ‘Jobim Forever’

Antonio Adolfo – Jobim Forever
(AAM Music. Album review by John Arnett)

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This fine collection of new arrangements of 1960s Antonio Carlos Jobim tunes has been my motoring companion of choice for several weeks, and a very likeable one it is too. A largely instrumental album, it features the eight-piece ensemble of accomplished Brazilian musicians who have collaborated with Antonio Adolfo on his recent releases, with two additional guests. The overall sound is rich and pleasing to the ear, thanks to some inspired playing certainly, but pre-eminently also to the quality and originality of the arrangements themselves. Any reservations one may have had about the need for another rendition of The Girl from Ipanema, the opening track here, are instantly forgotten: this is something new. The tune is immediately recognisable and yet subtly different, rhythmically and harmonically re-imagined in a way that makes perfect sense.

This is pianist and composer Adolfo’s first complete album of Jobim’s music. Now 74, he has been a professional jazz musician since the age of 17. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, and has toured with the likes of Flora Purim and Milton Nascimento. His compositions have been recorded by, amongst others, Stevie Wonder, Sergio Mendes and Dionne Warwick. In the sleeve notes he describes the life-changing revelation of hearing A Felicidade for the first time, age 12, on his mother’s car radio. The album’s focus on Jobim’s 1960s compositions then acknowledges not only his own awakening to Brazilian bossa nova, but the world’s.

A Felicidade, track three, is the only piece to feature vocals, at the opening and close, courtesy of guest artist Zé Renato. In between are sinuous, flowing solos by Jesse Sadoc on trumpet and Adolfo himself on piano. The variety of instrumentation and mood generally is a real pleasure with this album. The following track, How Insensitive, a slow bossa, features beautifully complementary solos on flugelhorn (Sadoc again) and then flute (Marcelo Martins), over subtle ensemble voicings, all perfectly suited to the sombre mood. Track five, Favela, signals a different side to the music and life of Rio, lifting the spirits with its celebratory, rip roaring trumpet and alto (Danilo Sinna) solos. Further excursions in this vein are to be heard on Aqua de Beber with its propulsive, syncopated dance groove, and delightful trombone solo by Rafael Rocha.

Penultimate track Amparo (“refuge” or “shelter” in Spanish and Portuguese, and also a girl’s name) is, at seven minutes, the longest piece on the album. Melancholic but also pulsing, evocative and full of space, it showcases Adolfo’s piano stylings and sonorous arrangements. Marcelo Martins’ soprano sax solo is haunting and beautifully judged. Closing piece Estrada do Sol brings all these moods together to great effect, a jazz waltz and an uplifting, happy melody with just a hint of sadness. It features a joyous flute solo that seems to skip along the estrada, with the ensuing acoustic guitar solo adding to the sunny, airy feeling. A fitting end to a very rewarding album.

LINK: Antonio Adolfo’s website

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