If I had to choose one word to describe Finas Misturas, the new album from composer pianist Antonio Adolfo, it would be mellow.
The album’s title, which means “fine mixtures,” describes the artist’s basic concept. As Adolfo explains in the liner notes, he wanted to record an album combining some of his own music with compositions of some of the greats he considered his “jazz masters,” an album that would infuse all the musical selections with the heritage of his native Brazil. He would create an album, as he puts it, in which “musical borders vanish giving rise to fine musical mixtures seasoned by jazz and Brazilian phrasing.”
So he takes a tune like the Coltrane classic “Giant Steps.” His arrangement is based on a form of Northeastern Brazilian baião called quadrilha, giving the song a softer, more romantic reading. Conversely, he takes a composition of his own and adds what he calls a “blues phrasing” to blend with the Northeastern Brazilian scale. These are arrangements that look to marry the best of the two major cultural influences on his music. It is a marriage made in heaven.
Of course an artistic vision is nothing without the talent to carry it out, and Adolfo has put together an ensemble of musicians who not only have bought into his vision, but have the cultural chops to bring it to life. Leo Amuedo plays electric guitar and Claudio Spiewak is on acoustic guitar. Marcelo Martins plays tenor sax and flute. Jorge Helder is on double bass and Rafael Barata handles drums and percussion. It is an ensemble that does full justice to Adolfo’s vision.
In addition to “Giant Steps,” the album includes Coltrane’s classic ballad, “Naima,” which gets some elegant soulful work from Adolfo on piano and Martins on flute. Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma,” gets a bossa nova treatment. Keith Jarrett’s paradoxically-titled “Memories of Tomorrow,” originally composed in the Brazilian style, has some nice interplay between the piano and electric guitar. Then there’s “Crystal Silence,” by Chick Corea and Neville Potter, and a sweet rendition of Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered.”
Of the four original compostions, “Floresta Azul” opens the album on a dynamic note. It is followed by “Balada,” a gorgeous piano-centered piece played with passionate sensitivity. “Três Meninos” puts together baião, samba and calango (a Brazilian Southwestern dance). “Misturando” gets the whole sextet working together in an improvisatory triumph.