Belmondo are the French jazz musicians Lionel and Stephane Belmondothe first a saxophonist and flautist, the second a trumpeter and flugelhornistwho have developed an interesting sideline in tribute albums featuring the artists being celebrated.
With pianist Horace Silver, the brothers recorded Love & Peace: A Tribute To Horace Silver (Verve, 1995), featuring Silver and singer Dee Dee Bridgewater on a selection of Silver hits. With multi-reed player Yusef Lateef, they made Influence (B-Flat Recordings, 2005), showcasing Lateef on the "exotic" instruments he has introduced to the jazz palette.
Along the way, Belmondo have taken in modern classical music, focusing on lesser-known twentieth century French composers. Inventive orchestral arrangers, they bring this strand centrestage on Milton Nascimento & Belmondo, in rich and expansive recastings of some of the Brazilian singer and composer's best known recordings. It's an ambitious and multi-layered album which does both Nascimento's voice and his gorgeously melodic songwriting proud.
Nascimentowho first came jazz's way on saxophonist Wayne Shorter's Native Dancer (Sony, 1974)is the youngest artist to get the Belmondo tribute treatment. Lateef was a somewhat frail 85 when he collaborated on Influence, but at a youthful sounding 66, Nascimento is still in strong voice, on both his trademark falsetto and engagingly lived-in tenor.
A prolific composer and recording artist who has moved freely between samba, bossa nova, jazz and MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira), Nascimento's songbook of originals is vast. Milton Nascimento & Belmondo is weighted towards his earlier writing, including "Porto De Areia" from Native Dancer, treatments of which bookend the album, and "Cancao Do Sal," reputedly the first song he recorded under his own name. Big samba/bossa nova hits include "Travessia," "Milagre Dos Peixes" and "Nada Sera Como Antes." The album's co-arrangers, Lionel Belmondo and Christophe Dal Sasso, each contribute an original inspired by classical composersBelmondo's "Berceuse/Malilia" by Maurice Ravel, Dal Sasso's "Oracao" by Cesar Franck.
The focus of the arrangements is Nascimento's voice, cradled by lyrical string and woodwind arrangements. But the "pure" jazz content is substantial. Stephane Belmondo solos adventurously and frequently on flugelhorn, as does Eric Legnini on piano. Lionel Belmondo concentrates on leading the woodwind ensemble, soloing more briefly on soprano saxophone and alto flute. The pulse is strong and vigorous, with jazz rhythms morphing in and out of Brazilian dance patterns.
A sumptuous and lovingly made album which, in the best sense, will encourage re-aquaintance with Nascimento's earlier work.
Personnel: Milton Nascimento: vocal, acoustic guitar, accordion; Lionel Belmondo: soprano
saxophone, flute; Stephane Belmondo: flugelhorn; Eric Legnini: piano; Thomas Bramerie:
acoustic bass; Andre Ceccarelli: drums; Sabine Tavenard: flute: Bernard Burgun: oboe,
English horn; Jerome Volsin: clarinet, bass clarinet; Cecile Hardouin: bassoon; Jean-Pierre
Bouchard: French horn; Bastien Stil: tuba; Wilson Lopes: guitars; Lionel Cheib: percussion;
Ricard Chieb: percussion; L'Orchestre National d'Ile de France: strings.