The music of Milton Nascimento shares common ground with fellow Brazilian Egberto Gismonti, but there are differences. What they share is a root in the traditional folk music of the forests of Brazil. But whereas Gismonti leans towards the abstract and to compositions that are more complex, sharing an equal affinity with modern classical music, Nascimento is more straightforward, more accessibly lyrical. He's also almost inimitably positive. His songs may portray a variety of feelings, but even his most tender pieces have an infectious joy that lifts the spirit.
Guitarist Ricardo Silveira, who worked with Nascimento in the '80s, understands the pure delight of his compositions and so, when teamed with pianist Luiz Avellar, another Nascimento collaborator, for a series of live concerts in January '02, it was clear from the start that both musicians would understand the essence of Nascimento's writing while, at the same time, bringing their own distinct voices to the table. Live: Play the Music of Milton Nascimento documents some of the highlights from those concerts, and it's clear from the get-go that Silveira and Avellar were having more fun than anyone should be entitled.
There's a simplicity to Nascimento's writing that, as capable as Silveira and Avellar are as players, demands a certain degree of surrender. While Silveira has dabbled in a variety of genres, he seems most at home here, where his passionate playing and subtle sense of swing combines with Avellar's broader sense of drama. The two are clearly comfortable together, with each player alternating between support and dominance seamlessly and effortlessly. A remarkable aspect of their playing is how easily they shift roles, often seemingly mid-phrase, creating a strong sense of dialogue. Percussionist Robertinho Silva adds colour on five of the ten tracks, an equal participant in the interplay.
Ranging from the Beatles-esque "Para Lennon e McCartney" to the joyful yet delicate "Maria, Maria," from the samba of "Vera Cruz" to carnival of "Cravo e Canela," Silveira, Avellar and Silva capture the nature of Nascimento's work. "Travessia," a solo piece for Silveira, demonstrates his ability to tell a story in that most exposed of settings, while "Saudade dos Aviõs da Panair (Conversando No Bar)" is a solo opportunity for Avellar to show the more impressionistic side of his playing.
Nascimento's place in the history of modern music has long been assured through albums of his own, with compositions that have become almost iconic examples of the Brazilian impact on modern music, as well as in significant collaborations including saxophonist Wayne Shorter's classic Native Dancer. With Live , Silveira, Avellar and Silva have created a personal homage, an individual tribute to a man whose impact on modern music will be felt long after he is gone.
Visit Ricardo Silveira on the web.
Personnel: Ricardo Silveira (acoustic nylon-string guitar), Luiz Avellar (acoustic piano), Robertinho Silva (percussion)