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  • Jonathan Widran

ANTONIO ADOLFO, Samba Jazz Alley

It’s always inspiring when contemporary legends pay homage to their legendary musical influences, and Brazilian piano great Antonio Adolfo finds the perfect place to merge the past and present – Samba Jazz Alley. The multi-talented jazz performer follows his groundbreaking first big band ensemble album Encontros – Orquestra Atlantica with a sunny, fanciful collection whose back story is as compelling as the ten dynamic tracks that capture the narrative’s musical essence.

Numerous generations of jazz and Brazilian music fans reflect fondly on the early 60s bossa nova revolution – but only a select few musicians who were there, like a teenage Adolfo, for its gritty origin know the deeper tale. The cool album title isn’t just a clever turn of phrase – its an ode to an obscure dead-end alley in Rio’s famed Copacabana neighborhood that served as an incubator for up and coming singers and musicians during the heyday of Bossa nova.As Adolfo describes in his insightful liner notes, “It was like a cauldron of jazz, samba and bossa nova, thanks to adventurous young musicians who found it an ideal place to get together.”

The same description perfectly fits the simmering, fiery vibes Adolfo and his current ensemble of top Brazilian players stir up on these nine tracks. From the rambunctious and funky, horn-drenched dash through Johnny Alf’s “Ceu E Mar” through a gently swaying piano, guitar and flugelhorn interpretation of Jobim’s lush “Corcovado,” the set rolls like a spirited history lesson putting a fresh spotlight on Brazilian composers like Edu Lobo, Baden Powell and Joao Donata. Adolfo himself contributes two compositions, most notably the sizzling, trumpet laced tribute “Hello, Herbie.”

Also of note, a graceful, easy flowing rendition of “Tristeza De Nos Dois” features one of the song’s composers, legendary harmonica player Mauricio Einhorn, playing magnificently alongside Brazil’s current harmonica sensation Gabriel Grossi.

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