Brazil’s Cultural Warrior Adnet Reinvents Jobim

    Jobim Jazz by Mario Adnet

    Jobim Jazz by Mario Adnet While fine art can definitely arrive in conventional containers, we experience another kind of seductive and elevating glow when music, already rich with timeless magic, is delivered from a unique perspective. In the years since Tom Jobim’s death, all manner of material has been found and issued on a variety of labels.

    In addition to the posthumous releases and album reissues, there has been a plethora of tribute concerts. But nowhere else do you hear composer and arranger Moacir Santos and West Coast Jazz intersect more happily with the spirit of Antonio Carlos Jobim than on Mario Adnet’s latest release, Jobim Jazz.

    One of the most admired arrangers in modern Brazilian music, Adnet has written for, among others, Joyce, Vinícius Cantuária, and Claudio Nucci. Few arrangers have shown comparable orchestral imagination and love of subtle sonorities.

    His mastery of orchestration, like Debussy’s, is astounding; he can voice a phrase for flute and French horn in such a way that you can hear the ghostly harmonies between. His instrumental textures change like cloud formations, altering their patterns of light and shade. At the same time, his arrangements are full of rhythmic energy.

    A fine composer in his own right, as shown by his excellently crafted Pedra Bonita (1994), Rio Carioca (2002), and From the Heart (2006); Adnet concedes that orchestration is one of the elements of composition, that the choice and manipulation of sound units is part of expressing a musical idea.

    His most adventurous works reintroduced Brazil to its masters Moacir Santos, Luiz Eça, and Villa-Lobos. Together with Paulo Jobim he created and produced Jobim Sinfônico, the definitive compilation of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s orchestral works and winner of the Latin Grammy.

    Adnet believes in using creative players who, rather than splitting the seams of his scores, on the whole enhance his original conception. His parts for soloists are written with such understanding of their style that it is often impossible to tell where the written part ends and the improvisation begins.

    By placing the soloists under pressure at certain points, and raising then relaxing tension, he sets them off in a tailor-made backdrop with a fine-tuned complement of repertoire and instrumentation, stimulating them to inspired improvisations.

    And Adnet is well-served by all his musicians, many of whom he worked with at the sessions for his Moacir Santos projects, Choros & Alegria and Ouro Negro, which utilized a group similar to the one Santos assembled for his landmark album Coisas.

    Creating a unique and instantly recognizable sound world from a small, cogent ensemble, Adnet makes judicious use of a number of soloists, himself included, with Proveta and Marcos Nimrichter being the most persuasive in that role. The real surprise, however, turns out to be drummer Rafael Barata who often upstages the lot of them.

    For Jobim Jazz, he chose a diverse set of tunes from the Jobim canon, and arranging for a handful of instruments, used his wizardry with dynamics, motion, and original harmonic voicings to create orchestral effects that suggest a substantially larger ensemble.

    Some of the filigree figures he scored for French horn and bass trombone behind the various soloists are supreme examples of the orchestrator’s art, making them a textbook for arrangers. Brass and saxophones furnish a perfect translation of the buoyant carioca spirit on "Domingo Sincopado," from a forgotten partnership between Jobim and Luis Bonfá.

    "Quebra Pedra," a mix of baião and maracatu, highlights Adnet’s gift for counterpoint and features Marcos Nimrichter’s outstanding statement on accordion and the memorably penetrating banda de pífanos sound of Andrea Ernest Dias, one of Brazil’s most creative flautist.

    "Sue Ann," a bossa-flavored bolero written for the film The Adventurers, veers toward West Coast Jazz as Eduardo Neves on tenor shows eloquent involvement, while alto and bass flutes meld warmly rendered counter melodies.

    Adnet employs very close voicings for "Tema Jazz" and adds solos by the texture-conscious Ricardo Silveira on electric guitar and Marcelo Martins, a man who is never at a loss for ideas, on tenor. Adnet’s ability to home in on the part of a tune which will give the most dramatic reworking of its essence is starkly etched on "Rancho nas Nuvens."

    Unquestionably inspired by Jobim’s farm in the rich rain forest and tranquil mountains outside Rio and written for his Matita Perê album, the tune hints at the ethereal quality in nature, the idyllic ideal that preoccupied Jobim.

    Suggestive of Rio’s coastal topography, "Surfboard," a bossa masterpiece providing everything the genre has to offer, is orchestrated as a samba with Jobim’s original piano part arranged for flutes, clarinet, and French horn. In a tastefully understated virtuoso display, Helio Delmiro blows in a finely-wrought guitar solo.

    Control of texture and pace bring out the beauties and strengths of "Meninos Eu Vi," a marcha-rancho written for the film Para Viver um Grande Amor. Set here as a choro, its elegant orchestration showcases wordless vocals, C-flute, alto flute, and bass flute as well as a prodigious, albeit brief, flügelhorn solo.

    Adnet likes to take a familiar piece of material and open its fabric, which works well for "Só Danço Samba," an outstanding track with a refigured melody line, a change of key, and a brass, woodwind, and 7-string guitar repartee. Fragments of "Paulo Vôo Livre" appear as incidental music in the soundtrack for Gabriela, based on the novel Gabriela, Cravo e Canela (Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon) by Jorge Amado.

    Under Jobim’s tutelage, his grandson, Daniel, arranged the fragments into a single composition to which Adnet adds Joyce’s voice as another instrument that catches every shade of expression, blending beautifully with the elegant cushion of his orchestrations. Says Joyce, "The melody seems to be floating in the sky like the flying men Tom had in mind when he wrote it."

    Unmistakably influenced by French Impressionism, Jobim scored "Valsa do Porto das Caixas" (Waltz of the Port of Boxes) for piano, cello, and flute in 1961 for a film by Paulo César Saraceni. Looking for lilt and dynamics, Adnet elaborates the texture with clarinet, alto saxophone, and French horn, and changes the metric underpinning to bring expressive range to this material.

    Adnet is a master of ensemble writing and achieving section perfection; the ensemble plays his "Frevo de Orfeu," from the film Black Orpheus, with kaleidoscopic color and lethal precision. Solos by Romero Lubambo on guitar and Marcos Nimrichter on accordion float, fly, and groove.

    "Bate Boca" (Shouting) is an instrumental choro that Jobim never recorded. Harmonically it shimmers like a desert mirage, but it is lifted and kept airborne by some of the finest soloists of the day, notably Andrea Ernest Dias, flute; Proveta, clarinet; and Dirceu Leitte, bass clarinet; who provide amazing color and reach the tune’s climax in a surprisingly different hue.

    Adnet retains the mix of bossa and seventies funk for "Polo Pony," a tune titled "Dax Rides" in Paramount’s film The Adventurers, because, says Adnet, "It sounds a lot like the beginning of Moacir’s "Nanã." The soloists – Ricardo Silveira, electric guitar; Marcos Nimrichter, Fender rhodes piano; Proveta, alto sax; and Vander Nascimento, trumpet – all equally impressive, obviously enjoyed working on this track. In-the-pocket support by the rhythm section cements their good feelings.

    When its mastering was finished, Paulo Jobim, who only knew that the recording was being made, and Adnet had dinner together and then went to Paulo’s apartment to listen. Afterward, the typically stoic Paulo, selected an LP from a shelf and said, "When I was 5 years old, my father listened to this album so many times that, just by observation, I learned how to operate our turntable."

    The disc was Gerry Mulligan Tentet and Quartet. Bossa nova would not surface for another five years. Says Adnet, "I was especially moved, because Moacir told me many times about Gerry Mulligan’s arrangements and how it was Mulligan’s playing that inspired him to take up baritone sax.

    The average recording unit in contemporary jazz usually consists of a rhythm section (piano, bass, and drums) in back of a saxophone (alto or tenor) and trumpet front line. Whatever the stylistic difference within the general area into which most of these groups fall, their sound is essentially very similar.

    When you put together an ensemble of voice, woodwinds, brass, accordion, guitar, and rhythm section; you hear some textures that are out of the ordinary. Even apart from the ideas of the individual soloists, the session cannot help but be of a different bent.

    The instrumentation on Jobim Jazz shares a distinct affinity with the ensemble Gerry Mulligan brought together for his Tentet and Quartet album and with the group Moacir Santos selected for Coisas. Having adopted few instruments, Adnet uses great ingenuity to extract more tonal variety from them than many arrangers could. The choice of instruments balanced off against each other, and the inner voicings of the harmonic paths they follow, give Jobim Jazz its often startling identity.

    Antonio Carlos Jobim has remained a basic reference of Brazilian popular music for almost 60 years, his creative tides succeeding him in wave after wave. His output – baiões, toadas, Afro-sambas, serenades, waltzes, frevos, boleros, film scores, chamber music in popular formats, popular song, and symphonic works – is truly restricted by the term bossa nova.

    That the passage of time hasn’t diminished Jobim’s achievement, his phenomenal consistency, is seen by the many fine recordings his music has generated, and here’s one more, beautifully presented.

    Characterized by ingenious sectional scoring, these charts balance brilliance with tact, agility with craft, seamlessly fusing Jobim and Moacir Santos with prime elements from the highly arranged and structured jazz that developed around Los Angeles at the time hard bop was intensifying in New York.

    All rich, vigorous, and subtle, the arrangements on Jobim Jazz must rank as some of Mario Adnet’s finest. Their continuity, flow, vitality, and tight structure gleam like jewels in the jumble and dreariness of popular Brazilian music.

    Journalist, musician, and educator Bruce Gilman has served as music  editor of Brazzil magazine, an international monthly publication based  in Los Angeles, for close to a decade.  During that time he has written scores of articles on the most influential Brazilian artists and genres, program notes for festivals in the United States and abroad, numerous CD liner notes, and an essay, "The Politics of Samba," that appeared in the Georgetown Journal. 

    He is the recipient of three government grants that allowed him to research traditional music in China, India, and Brazil.  His articles on Brazilian music have been translated and published in Dutch, German, Portuguese, Serbian, and Spanish.  You can reach him through his e-mail: cuica@interworld.net.

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