Closing in on 60 years since emerging as a member of Samba Cinco, which played the renowned Beco das Garrafas in Rio, Antonio Adolfo, at the age of 75, is on one of his most prolific career rolls as a recording artist. Over the past decade, the legendary pianist, composer, arranger and bandleader has averaged an album a year, including stylish and deeply compelling tributes to Wayne Shorter (Hybrido: From Rio to Wayne Shorter), Milton Nascimento (BruMa: Celebrating Milton Nascimento) and Antonio Carlos Jobim (his 2021 epic Jobim Forever).
Reflective of its unique title, Adolfo’s latest collection Octet and Originals finds him paying homage not to his fellow icons but to his own colorful history and artistry. The “octet” part of the title refers to the group of seven loyal longtime musicians – including Jesse Sadoc (trumpet and flugelhorn), Danilo Sinna (alto sax) and Ricardo Silveira (guitar) – who have fueled the expansive exotic energy of the pianist’s recent projects. The “originals” refer to the grand reality that each of the ten tracks here – from the sensual, hypnotic, subtly brassy and swinging Amazon rainforest tribute “Heart of Brazil” through the graceful, sparsely arranged Bill Evans inspired ballad “Modern Toada” – are original Adolfo compositions.
Two other instant favorites showcasing Adolfo’s rhythmic and harmonic range are the fun and feisty “Boogie Baiao” (the Brazilian equivalent of Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn Theme”) and the whirlwind, high octane jam “Emau,” which features intense solos by Sadoc and Sinna. Besides enjoying contemporary twists on some of Adolfo’s most impactful and beloved tunes, part of the fun of listening to Octet and Originals is cross referencing the songs with their earlier versions, recorded by everyone from Sergio Mendes and Stevie Wonder to Herb Alpert, Earl Klugh and Dionne Warwick and dating back to the 60s and 70s.
For the detail-oriented aficionado of Brazilian musical styles, the pleasure beyond a lively listen in the present will be figuring out what songs are Partido alto, baiao, quadrilha, etc. On the booming yet intricately percussive “Cascavel,” Adolfo pulls off the magic of incorporating three other styles – maracatu, calando and sambao.