All About Jazz

Home » Member Page

Antonio Adolfo

Antonio Adolfo is a Brazilian born pianist, composer and arranger

About Me

Antonio Adolfo grew up in a musical family in Rio de Janeiro (his mother was a violinist in the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra), and began his studies at the age of seven. At seventeen he was already a professional musician. His teachers include Eumir Deodato and the great Nadia Boulanger in Paris. During the 60's he led his own trio and toured with singers Elis Regina and Milton Nascimento. Adolfo wrote tunes that gained great success and have been recorded by such artists as Sérgio Mendes, Stevie Wonder, Herb Alpert, Earl Klugh, Dionne Warwick, and others. He won International Song Contests on two occasions. As a musician and arranger he has worked with some of the most representative Brazilian names, besides having released more than 25 albums under his name. In 1985 Mr. Adolfo created his own school in Rio, Brazil. His 2010 CD album, Lá e Cá/Here and There, follows the footsteps of 2007 live recording Antonio Adolfo e Carol Saboya Ao Vivo/ Live. In 2011 his CD Chora Baiao was released and became awarded. Antonio Adolfo is currently releasing Finas Misturas/Fine Mixtures.

A N T O N I O A D O L F O & C A R O L S A B O Y A


From Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, and Herb Alpert to Elis Regina, Beth Carvalho, and Sergio Mendes, some of the world’s most popular and influential artists have recorded the songs of Antonio Adolfo. But on his gorgeous new album Lá e Cá (Here and There), the prolific Brazilian pianist, composer, and arranger once again shifts his focus from his own work to interpreting classic jazz tunes and American Songbook gems. In a follow-up to 2007’s award-winning collaboration with his vocalist daughter, Antonio Adolfo and Carol Saboya Ao Vivo, a seductive set of Brazilian standards, Adolfo undertakes a highly personal journey through a realm where the ravishing harmonies of Bill Evans co-mingle with the supple pulse of bossa nova.

“I fell in love with jazz as a teenager, and there were many great musicians in Rio who were also delving into jazz,” says Adolfo, 63. “At the same time, bossa nova was spreading around the world. The Carnegie Hall concert with João Gilberto, Luiz Bonfá, and Sergio Mendes came up in 1962. So I was swept up in both styles, and that remains my interest today.”

Numerous jazz musicians have made albums expressing their passion for Brazilian music. In many ways, Lá e Cá is the memoir of a Brazilian musician’s love affair with jazz. Now based in Hollywood, Florida, where he runs the U.S. outpost of the Rio music school he launched 25 years ago, Adolfo recorded the album last December while on a trip back home. Each American standard Adolfo interprets reveals the deep emotional and musical currents that inextricably link North America’s largest nation to South America’s continental powerhouse.

Adolfo and Saboya transform Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are” with sensuous Brazilian phrasing, while his solo highlights the way countless composers have borrowed the song’s chord changes by referencing Dori Caymmi’s “Amazon River.” His version of “Time After Time” is a loving homage to Chet Baker, whose classic 1954 Pacific Jazz recording of the song inspired bossa nova’s emerging pioneers. Adolfo weaves George Shearing’s anthem “Lullaby of Birdland” together with Jobim’s “Garoto,” infusing both tunes with the propulsive feel of choro. And on “So in Love,” Saboya’s soft, luminous vocals and caressing phrasing draw an implicit parallel between Cole Porter and Jobim.

“I’ve loved jazz since I was young, and I thought that Ella was one of the most interesting singers I heard,” says Saboya, who was born in Rio de Janeiro on March 10, 1975. “Female jazz singers are always a reference for me, but I never sang any American standards. I thought everyone does that. Then my dad came with the idea to bring them together with Brazilian music in this way. I sang the way I like to sing, but with his beautiful phrasing.”

One reason that Adolfo’s bossa jazz vision is rendered so vividly and effectively is the superlative cast of accompanists, including Uruguayan-born guitarist Leo Amuedo (a frequent collaborator with Ivan Lins), bassist Jorge Helder (often heard with Chico Buarque and Maria Bethânia), drummer Rafael Barata (whose credits include Edu Lobo, Rosa Passos, and Monica Salmaso) and the aptly named trombonist Serginho Trombone. Fortunately, Adolfo doesn’t completely neglect his own material. He opens the album with his sinuous, oft-interpreted tune “Cascavel,” and closes with a medley including a remarkably mature piece written by the teenage Adolfo in the early 1960s, “Toada Jazz (O Retirante),” which segues gracefully into Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.” In between, Adolfo introduces a recent work, “Minor Chord,” a buoyantly swinging tune that finds a surprising seam of bliss within its minor key.

“I’m always writing,” he says. “These days I’m writing more instrumental tunes than songs. I love the combination of writing, arranging, playing, and teaching.”

Music was omnipresent in the Adolfo household when he was growing up. His mother played first violin in the orchestra of the Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, and Adolfo started studying the instrument at seven. Intrigued by the piano’s harmonic possibilities, he began investigating it on his own at 14. It was the early 1960s, and Rio was vibrating to the pulse created by João Gilberto. The underage pianist honed his chops by wangling his way into Copacabana jam sessions and by 17 was working professionally with Samba Cinco, a mainstay in Rio’s bossa nova showcase Beco das Garrafas.

In 1964, Carlos Lyra and Vinicius de Moraes recruited Adolfo for their play Pobre Menina Rica, which put him at the center of the burgeoning MPB scene with his trio 3-D. The group gained widespread attention accompanying the great jazz singer Leny Andrade, and toured with budding superstar Milton Nascimento in 1967, right after his triumph at the First International Pop Song Festival in Rio. “He was a very shy guy,” Adolfo recalls. “He always had that wonderful voice.”

Like Nascimento, whose songs were first performed by the late Elis Regina, Adolfo was one of the brilliant young musicians championed by the legendary Brazilian jazz singer. He toured with Regina for about two years in a group with guitarist Roberto Menescal, often performing in Europe (where he took the opportunity to study with the great Nadia Boulanger in Paris). He appears on Regina’s classic collaboration with harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielemans, Aquarela do Brasil, and Elis Regina in London, where she recorded Adolfo’s song “Giro.”

“She was sort of like Miles Davis, always looking for new musicians who could bring her something,” Adolfo says. “She discovered Milton and Edu Lobo and recorded many new composers and made them famous. She was always in the vanguard, trying to find new material. She had a sense of rhythm that I’ve seen very rarely. She could totally float with the band, and that’s why she liked to play with jazz-oriented musicians. She was a great artist.”

By the late 1960s, Adolfo was an esteemed songwriter and bandleader. Working with lyricist Tibério Gaspar, he went on to create Antonio Adolfo & Brazuca, a groovy futuristic pop band with female vocalists that expanded the catchier side of Tropicalia. Regina covered their song “Sá Marina,” which found a new audience as “Pretty World” through recordings by Stevie Wonder and Sergio Mendes with an English lyric by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. As Brazil’s televised song contest era was winding down, he won second place in 1969 with “Juliana” and first place the following year with “BR3.”

Sought after as an arranger, Adolfo worked with many of Brazil’s leading recording artists. But he may have made a bigger impact as a producer and entrepreneur who created the independent label Artezanal in 1977. Whether releasing albums focusing on his original compositions, like Feito em Casa and Encontro Musical with Joyce and Erasmo Carlos, or supervising projects highlighting overlooked artists like Belle Époque choro pioneer Ernesto Nazareth, seminal female pianist/composer Chiquinha Gonzaga, and guitarist/composer João Pernambuco, Adolfo assembled exceptional casts for first-rate productions.

By the late 1970s, Adolfo was exploring jazz/funk and writing for Brazilian film and television. His interest in musical education also took root, eventually leading to the creation in 1985 of Centro Musical Antonio Adolfo, which grew into Rio’s leading music school, with an international student body of more than 1000. He has served as the IAJE’s (International Association for Jazz Education) Latin American Section Coordinator for eight years. Over the years he’s taught around the world, including numerous stints in the U.S. He spent two years in Los Angeles in the late 1980s, teaching and performing at leading jazz clubs.

Carol Saboya, the elder of Adolfo’s two musical daughters, made her first recording at eight, but began her professional career as an adult on Sergio Mendes’s Grammy-winning album Brasileiro, recorded during the family’s Southern California sojourn. When the family moved back to Rio, she continued to study and refine her craft, releasing an impressive debut album in 1997, Dança da Voz, which won Brazil’s coveted Sharp Prêmio award for Best New Pop (MPB) Singer.

While Saboya spends much of her time teaching at Centro Musical Antonio Adolfo, she has continued to release acclaimed albums, including a 1999 session with guitarist Nelson Faria, Janelas Abertas, exploring the music of Jobim. Her most frequent collaborator over the years has been Adolfo, a creatively charged relationship that’s complicated and sustained by their blood ties.

“I love performing with her,” Adolfo says. “Carol’s very jazz-oriented. She’s the type of singer musicians like to play with. She has that sense of rhythm. In the beginning I wanted her to be a singer, and maybe put some pressure on her, so I have to take care.”

With Lá e Cá, Adolfo and Saboya attain a new musical understanding, a singular melding of the best of Brazil and the United States. •

Antonio Adolfo & Carol Saboya: Lá e Cá (Here and There) (AAM Music) Street Date: April 20, 2010

Media Contact: Terri Hinte [email protected] 510-234-8781

My Favorites

All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.