[4 September 2008]
Over the past decade, many of Brazil’s greatest superstars—Maria Bethania, Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, and Jorge Benjor—have created recordings below their respective standard, plagued by overproduction. While these recordings aren’t necessarily bad, the production quality changes the effect of their impact immensely. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked to any of the legends’ benefits until now, with the release of Milton Nascimento’s latest recording with the Jobim Trio, Novas Bossas. The album features glossy production that produces the idyllic atmosphere for this homage to Bossa Nova—now 50 years in the making after Joao Gilberto developed the acoustic guitar beat that would change the world.
Tom Jobim used to say that Milton Nasicmento was the only singer able to carry the pitches in the manner of Jobim—and Novas Bossas is arguably Nascimento’s best vocal performance in over a decade. It is particularly highlighted on the Dorival Caymmi tune “O Vento”, where in the beginning of the recording the singing and the band are in an extremely low register, and in the last segment of the tune his vocal high end is otherworldly. Try finding anyone at the age of 66 that still has this kind of range—it’s truly remarkable.
Let’s also not forget who is backing Nascimento on these recordings—Tom Jobim’s son, Paulo, and his grandson, Daniel, take care of guitar and piano duties and help bring renditions of Tom and Nascimento’s music into the 21st century. Also included is a surprisingly fresh tune from the freshest mind, Daniel Jobim, entitled “Dias Azuis” that brings the album a modern Musica Populeira Brasilia sound, and fits well right after the atmospheric opener written by Lo Borges, “Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser”. Jobim’s song is full of three-part, complex harmonies, and even a tasteful moog synth line here and there as played by Daniel. The group also includes longtime friend and collaborator of Nascimento, drummer Paulo Braga, whose presence is always subtle, but substantial. The jazz style works for Nascimento and the trio, and provides an openness to the recordings not present in the majority of his recording career (except arguably at periods in the ‘70s).
The aforementioned sleek production actually gives these recordings life—and works much in the same way that some of Blue Note’s best recording efforts of the past few years have (i.e. Robert Glasper’s In My Element and Cassandra Wilson’s Loverly) in that they don’t work to steer away from their respective genres, but bring new life to an old sound. The literal translation of Novas Bossas into English is, “New Bossas”—exactly what the album lays on the table. They are producing the Bossa Nova sound for a crowd of 21st century ears, and doing it with extreme understanding and loyalty to the genre.
Nascimento has had the luck of breaking the boundaries of Brasil and venturing out into the world with his songs—becoming very popular in America and Britain over the course of his career (although you’ll find him in theatres in these parts, where in Brazil, you may find him in stadiums) and even playing with jazz giant, saxophonist Wayne Shorter (a duet can be found on Nascimento’s Angelus). Here, he embraces Brasil’s greatest original art form, bossa nova, and (arguably) America’s greatest art form, jazz. The blending of the two is a natural progression for Nascimento and the Jobim Trio—where both genres have interchanged ideas since the conception of bossa nova.
If Novas Bossas is any indication of the current trend Nascimento is following, one can only hope he sticks with it. The mutual appreciation and understanding between everyone on this record is uncanny, and its hard to believe its only just begun. With a connection like this, a band can last a lifetime—and if Nascimento stuck with the Jobim Trio for the remainder of his career, there would be no complaints on this side of the table.