Brilliant Brazilian pianist/composer/arranger Antonio Adolfo has been busy. Witness next month’s release of Tropical Infinito, a new album that has him fronting an octet enhanced with a horn section. It is a musical lineup, he explains, that he has not used for “a great deal of time.”
Witness also Carolina, the lovely new album from vocalist Carol Saboya (out in May), which was produced and arranged by Adolfo. For fans of top-flight Brazilian-oriented jazz, any time Adolfo is busy, that is one very good thing.
With the addition of trumpet/flugelhorn, tenor and soprano sax, and trombone, the Tropical Infinito octet works its way through a nine-song set focusing on what could easily be called a Brazilian translation of a variety of jazz classics, plus a selection of Adolfo originals.
They open with two Benny Golson gems, a frenetic version of “Killer Joe” and a witty exploration of “Whisper Not.” The latter features a blast of a tenor solo from Marcelo Martins. Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments” has a noir feel with another fine tenor solo, as well as some wicked work from Leo Amuedo on electric guitar. This is followed by Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father,” featuring the trumpet of Jessé Sadoc and the trombone of Serginho—would you believe it—Trombone. There is also a quite interesting reinterpretation of the one selection from the Great American Songbook, “All the Things You Are.”
The four original pieces are “Cascavel (Rattle Snake),” “Partido Alto Samba (Light Partido Alto Samba),” “Luar Da Bahia (Moon Over Bahia),” a kind of nocturne which closes the set, and an eloquent tribute to the composer’s mother, “Yolanda, Yolanda.”
Bassist Jorge Helder, drummer Rafael Barata and percussionist André Siqueira round out, with Claudio Spiewak guesting on three tracks, the octet, the same group, with the exception of Trombone and Sadoc, which works behind Saboya.
Carolina is Saboya’s first U.S. album release since her 2012 debut disc, Belezas – the Music of Ivan Lins and Milton Nascimento. A voice very like the popular Astrud Gilberto, she sparkles on Adolfo’s arrangements of eight classic pieces from Brazilian composers. Of course, there is Jobim: She begins with “Passarim (Little Bird)” and adds “Olha, Maria (Hey, Maria).” There is also a gorgeous version of the famous “A Felicidade (Joy/Happiness)” from Black Orpheus.
“1 x 0,” the title reflecting a soccer score, gets a playful treatment and includes her interesting vocalise duet with the flute of Martins. “Zanzibar,” which closes the album, also features some energetic vocal gymnastics. There are two pop tunes, Lennon and McCartney’s “Hello Goodbye” and Sting’s “Fragile,” and they are pleasant enough. After all, she has a beautiful voice, but my own preference is for her work on tunes like Djavan’s “Avião (Airplane) and “Faltando um Pedaço (Missing a Piece).”