After forty years of gigging around the world with a who's who of jazz instrumentalists and singers, the celebrated Brazilian pianist/composer Antonio Adolfo has realized his life-long dream of writing for and recording with a world-class big bandand what a band it is: the remarkable Orquestra Atlantica from Adolfo's home country, formed in 2012 and molded since then into a superior ensemble fully capable of carrying out his every wish and desire.
On Encontros, the Orquestra adeptly performs nine of Adolfo's sunny compositions and one jazz standard, Miles Davis' "Milestones," neatly arranged by Atlantica trumpeter Jesse Sadoc (seven tracks) and saxophonist Marcelo Martins (three). As one would expect, the music on offer is expressly Brazilian in tone and temperwhich places an enormous exclamation mark on the winning side of the ledger. On top of which, Adolfo's themesranging from samba, Frevo and capoeira to waltz, ballad and Afro-Brazilianare invariably agreeable and charming. Impressive as each one is, however, Adolfo saves the best for last: a big-band arrangement of his biggest hit, "Sa Marina," written in 1967 and released globally as "Pretty World" with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. The new version embodies handsome solos by Adolfo and tenor saxophonist Martins, crisp exchanges between baritone Levi Chaves and trombonist Aldivas Ayres, and more exemplary work by the cleanly recorded ensemble.
The opener, "Partido Samba-Funk," is explicitly designed for dancing as well as listening. Adolfo's nimble piano is front and center alongside alto Danilo Sinna and trumpeter Sadoc. The ensemble is on top of its game, as it is on "Atlantica," a medium-tempo ballad named for the band and featuring Martins and guitarist Leo Amuedo, and "Luizao," a lively samba that salutes the late bassist Luizao Maia. The forceful solo is by valve trombonist Serginho Trombone (yes, that really is his name). Bop meets Frevo on the impulsive "Milestones," wherein tight ensemble work by the horns enwraps lustrous solos by Adolfo and accordionist Marcos Nimrichter.
The mood darkens on "Saudade," whose fluid rhythms underscore earnest statements by Adolfo's piano and Sadoc's flugelhorn, then lightens again on "Capoeira Ya," which turns the spotlight on an unusual Brazilian dance that is combined with martial art as well as on ace guitarist Nelson Faria. Adolfo teams with alto Sinna to enhearten "Africa Bahia Brazil," which celebrates the African influence in Brazilian culture and precedes the gentle "Delicada Jazz Waltz," whose lyrical solos are neatly designed by Adolfo and Nimrichter. "Sa Marina" rings down the curtain on a consistently bright and pleasing album that was a long time coming but well worth the wait.
Partido Samba-Funk; Pentatonica; Atlantica; Luizao; Milestones; Saudade; Capoeira Yá; Africa Bahia Brasil; Delicada jazz Waltz; Sa Marina.
Antonio Adolfo: piano; Nelson Faria, Claudio Jorge, Leo Amuedo: guitars; Jorge Helder: bass; Rafael Barata: drums; Dada Costa: percussion; Danilo Sinna: alto saxophone and flute; Marcelo Martins: tenor saxophone and flute; Marcos Nimrichter: accordion; Ze Renato: vocals.