Jazz CD Reviews

Antônio Adolfo – Finas Misturas (Fine Mixtures) – Antônio Adolfo Music

A refined blend of Brazilian and jazz influences.

Published on June 24, 2013

Antônio Adolfo – Finas Misturas (Fine Mixtures) – Antônio Adolfo Music AAM 0705, 57:43 [4/2/13] ***1/2:

(Antônio Adolfo – piano, producer, arranger; Leo Amuedo – electric guitar (tracks 1, 4-8); Claudio Spiewak – acoustic guitar (tracks 2-5, 9); Marcelo Martins – tenor sax, flute (tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9-10); Jorge Helder – doublebass; Rafael Barata – drums, percussion)

Composer/arranger/pianist Antônio Adolfo is a legend in Brazil. He’s spent more than half a century accompanying various musicians; penned songs for others; was a pioneer in independent Brazilian record production and distribution; brought nearly-forgotten composers back into the limelight via culturally important releases; issued more than a dozen albums as a leader; and produced and arranged for a staggering assortment of artists. Stateside, he may be most notable as a songwriter whose tunes have been recorded by Sergio Mendes, Earl Klugh, Dionne Warwick and Stevie Wonder.

Adolfo’s latest, the almost hour-long Finas Misturas (aka Fine Mixtures), gestated for a while and is the result of an aspiration Adolfo had of combining his compositions with some of his so-called “Jazz Masters.” Adolfo’s four originals are balanced with Latin-tinged versions of works by John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea and Bill Evans. The ten tunes share a finely-crafted ambiance, where virtuosity is understated (but evident) and a tender vibe is paramount. The playing by Adolfo and his sextet is cheerful and integrated: moderate but at the same time shaped to create admiration. “Floresta Azul” (Portuguese for “Blue Forest”) has an easygoing, sunny disposition which stresses Marcelo Martins’ flute and Adolfo’s acoustic piano, which build suspended chords over a flowing, medium toada tempo (as explained in the liner notes, toada is “characterized by a slower, softer and romantic form” of the well-known baião style). Jorge Helder’s resonant bass (which has an agreeable woody tone), Leo Amuedo’s lightly-plucked electric guitar, and Rafael Barata’s lithe brushes and cymbals specify a pleasing backdrop.

A similar geniality imbues “Balada” (which translates as “Ballad”), which features Claudio Spiewak’s lustrous acoustic guitar, akin to Earl Klugh’s airiest expositions, Adolfo’s steadily unfurled keyboards and supple bass and drums (Barata’s cymbals in particular provide a willowy impression). Adolfo’s most memorable number is “Misturando” (i.e., “Mixing”), which is the best example of how Adolfo blends collective improvisation, a Brazilian deportment and nimbly-paced jazz: this is one of two pieces which merge both acoustic and electric guitar, and also has a swinging groove which most listeners will find enticing. Adolfo’s final original is “Três Meninos,” (“Three Little Boys” in English) which coalesces baião, samba and calango (a Brazilian dance style which contains elements of samba and baião, thus perfectly suited to mingle with both). This involves an appetizing staccato theme and first-rate electric guitar, piano and bass solos and concludes with a fiery outro in the splashy and popular forró style, guaranteed to generate a party atmosphere.

The cover cuts are all famous. Adolfo re-invents two Coltrane standards. “Giant Steps” is performed in a more refined but no less striking way. Adolfo’s arrangement incorporates a baião variation called quadrilha, and the tune has a punchy 4/4 time signature and structural changes via Martins’ warm tenor sax, Helder’s evocative bass and Adolfo’s rhythmically vivid piano, which is goaded by Barata’s sprinting beat. “Naima” is also opened up to bring out a Brazilian flavor, infused by Martins’ floating flute, Barata’s ticking cymbals and hand percussion, and complementary forays by Adolfo and Amuedo. Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma” is always fun to hear and is the other cut which has the full sextet. Adolfo gives the oft-recorded tune an appealing bossa nova approach. Spiewak and Adolfo layer a smooth rhythmic foundation, while Amuedo and Martins (on flute) are positioned atop and offer perceptive improvisations.

Jarrett’s “Memories of Tomorrow” was initially done in the toada mode, so Adolfo does not swap out that quality, but adapts the piece (which can be found as an encore dubbed “Part IIc,” on Jarrett’s 1975 record The Köln Concert) as a shining if somewhat saccharine duet with Amuedo. Adolfo closes with two numbers by other pianists. Corea’s “Crystal Silence” is intricately arrayed, with bossa nova, Spanish and jazz inflections: a subtle creation broadened by Spiewak’s sinuous acoustic guitar, Helder’s understated bass punctuation, and Martins’ shimmering flute. The lengthiest rendering is Evans’ sublime “Time Remembered,” an impressionistic meeting of samba and jazz, where Martins’ flute once again is the genial glaze which drifts above a gently rhythmic base. Adolfo’s piano holds a delicate dynamism throughout, softly spurred by Helder. Adolfo’s production and arrangements are beautifully articulated by engineer Roger Freret and Spiewak (who is listed as mixing engineer). The audio levels and fidelity are tastefully accomplished and bring out the detailed and sensitive aspects of each composition and emphasize the seductive contemplation and quietude which pervades the recording.

TrackList: Floresta Azul (Blue Forest); Balada (Ballad); Giant Steps; Con Alma; Misturando (Mixing); Memories of Tomorrow; Naima; Três Meninos (Three Little Boys); Crystal Silence; Time Remembered.

—Doug Simpson

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