Note from BBT: Today’s piece incorporates a text written by Vitor Paiva called “Milton Nascimento: Clube da Esquina voted best Brazilian record of all time” as well as a snippet of a Terra article entitled Milton Nascimento receives a call from Quincy Jones: ‘A brother that I have’.
I’ve often said throughout my years of being immersed in ‘all things Brazil’, Brazilian music is another one of the things that contributed to my desire to know more things about this country. In my own ‘discovery’ of Brazil, the music was the soundtrack of my explorations into Brazilian culture and history. I’ve told this story of my introduction to Brazilian music in more than a few posts on the BBT blog, and the rhythms and melodies from my introduction to the genre remain in my head as strong as my memories of hearing the sounds of Soul in my father’s Cadillac Coupe Deville and going down south to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
If you should ever venture into Brazilian music, it will be a journey that you will never forget. In my first decade visiting Brazil, whatever city I would visit, I would always be sure to visit the little sebos, meaning used books and album stores, where I could find all sorts of rarities and classics. In Michigan, the most I could find in the record stores (remember those?) were the most popular Brazilian artists that managed to have some of their albums issued or sold in the United States. Some of those artists included Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes and a few others.
Another of those artists was Milton Nascimento. When I began buying compilation CDs of Brazilian music, I came across his song ‘Milagre dos Peixes’, meaning ‘Miracle of the Fish’ and I remember being instantly mesmorized by the song. Milton’s almost other worldly vocals, the acoustic guitar, string and horn arrangements were something I had never quite heard before. Toward the end of the track, if you were to clsoe your eyes, Milton’s soaring falsetto could give you the feeling that you were soaring the air. Well, at least that’s the feeling it gave me.
I can’t say for sure, but I’d be willing to bet, well, maybe not, but I swear ‘Milagre dos Peixes’ influenced the popular 1994 Pop hit ‘Kiss From a Rose’ by Seal. After hearing ‘Milagre’, I quickly added a number of Nascimento albums to my collection. All of his works from the 1970s, my favorite musical decade, have something to offer. His music can be nostalgic, meloncoly, dramatic as well as uplifting.
There are simply too many Nascimento classics to choose from, but a few of my favorites include “Fazenda”, Milton’s version of the Chico Buarque classic “O que será?”, “Para Lennon E McCartney”, “Tudo Que Você Podia Ser”, “Trem Azul”, “Os Escravos De Jo”, and “Tema dos Deuses”. Another song that always struck a chord with me was his cover of the famous, often covered classic ‘A Felicidade’ by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes. I’ve heard numerous versions of this song over the years, from the upbeat, in a Bossa Nova style, to a Samba style and even in orchestra settings. Nascimento’s version taken from his 1970 LP ‘Milton’ strips the song to its core with only Milton’s heart felt vocals sung with only an acoustic guitar.
As it turned out, I knew Nascimento before I really came to know him. That’s because in the 1990s, during my introduction to Jazz, I came to learn about Milton through the 1975 album Native Dancer by Jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Even though I loved this album, with Shorter and Nascimento covering the song ‘Milagre dos Peixes’, on Native Dancer translated here as ‘Miracle of the Fishes’, this version didn’t grab me the same way as Nascimento’s original version. The Shorter-Nascimento album influenced a number of well-known musicians, including bass player Esperanza Spalding and Earth, Wind, and Fire leader Maurice White.
Another well-known music figure who admires Nascimento is long-time producer Quincy Jones. On July 27th of last year, Nascimento surprised his fans when he published, via his social networks, a photo of a video call he had with Jones. In the image, posted on Instagram, the artists appear smiling, making the heart symbol with their hands.”I received last Monday night a more than special call, unexpected, to tell you the truth: from my friend Quincy Jones!”, he wrote in the caption. Milton also remembered the time when he met the American producer, who was being honored at the Montreux Jazz Festival: “How many beautiful memories I have with this guy, a brother I’ve had since 1967! I hope things get better soon and we can meet again,” he concluded in reference to the pandemic.
Milton’s music recently earned another noteworthy honor. Nascimento’s classic 1972 album Clube da Esquina was recently voted the best Brazilian record of all time. The election of the album to the number one spot was held by the podcast Discoteca Básica, and announced as “the largest and most comprehensive election ever made in the country regarding LPs and CDs”. According to the site, to elect the 10 best Brazilian records of all time, 162 experts from different areas within music were gathered, such as “journalists, youtubers, podcasters, musicians, producers etc.”, and each one presented his personal list with the 50 best records in Brazil.
Names like journalists Nelson Motta, Jotabê Medeiros, Mauro Ferreira and Sergio Martins joined a list of well-known producers and musicians and others to agree on the Top 10 albums of Brazilian music history – and placed Clube da Esquina at the top. Coming in second place was Acabou Chorare, released by the group Novos Baianos in 1972, and Chega de Saudade, João Gilberto’s historic album released in 1959, came in third, to complete Brazilian popular music’s top three.
When you listen to the clube album from beginning to end, you will clearly understand why this has long been considered a milestone in Brazilian Popular Music. From the first track, “Tudo Que Você Podia Ser” to the last, “Ao Que Vai Nascer”, the Clube de Esquina album takes a listener on a musical journey that incorporates elements of Rock and Roll, Progressive Rock, Bossa Nova and Jazz styles, perfectly mixed with Brazilian folk music and even snippets of Classical Music.
Nascimento is currently on his farewell tour this year. The launch of the tour was accompanied by the news about the classic album that shed light on the importance of the singer and composer’s work. The album, released in 1972, brought together a luminous generation of musicians from the state of Minas Gerais.
Milton led the record and the “clube” meaning ‘club’, alongside musician Lô Borges, along with names like Ronaldo Bastos, Beto Guedes and Fernando Brandt. For the tour, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the career of one of the greatest voices in world music of all times, in May, dates were confirmed for the cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte, in addition to the US and Europe.
I had the pleasure of seeing Nascimento perform live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, several years ago, I would say some time between 2005 and 2008. I couldn’t help but note that Nascimento’s health had begun to decline as his movement on stage was noticeably slower. Today, at age 79, he will be 80 in October, Nascimento has cut his off signature braids of which he was seen wearing for much of his career. Already on the US leg of his tour, cities where fans can see Nascimento until October 16th include Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Alexandria, Virginia, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Berkeley, California.
It’s a shame that tour won’t reach me here in Michigan because, being his last hoo-rah, it’s sure to be a memorable affair.