October 31, 2008 / 7:21 PM / 10 years ago

Brazil icon takes bossa nova on 50th birthday tour

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Grammy-winning Brazilian singer Milton Nascimento didn’t make his musical mark with bossa nova, but for the genre’s 50th birthday, he decided to take it for an international tour.

Brazilian singer Milton Nascimento performs during the opening of the Rock in Rio music Festival, in Rio de Janeiro in this January 12, 2001 file photo. Nascimento didn't make his musical mark with bossa nova, but for the genre's 50th birthday, he decided to take it for an international tour. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/Files

Nascimento was only 16 years-old when composer Antonio Carlos Jobim began scoring the breezy Brazilian music that would travel the globe with hits like “The Girl from Ipanema” and “Desafinado.”

But as Nascimento’s music career took off in the 1960s in Rio de Janeiro, he found himself frequently in the company of Jobim, known as “Tom” to his friends.

Jobim, who died in 1994, would have turned 80 last year.

“I was almost always in Tom’s house and every day there was a new song playing,” Nascimento told Reuters in Los Angeles, where he and the Jobim Trio, which includes Jobim family members, played in the city’s premier music venue, the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

“Tom always told us: ‘When I go on the big trip, don’t let my music disappear,’” Nascimento added.

So to honor him, Nascimento teamed up with the trio formed by Tom’s son Paulo Jobim, grandson Daniel Jobim and Tom’s drummer Paulo Braga first for a concert and then for the album “Novas Bossas.”

To record the new songs, the friends reunited last year in Nascimento’s Rio de Janeiro home studio and tried to evoke the laid-back bohemian way of the city’s musicians that has succumbed to the fast-paced modern life.

“Before, musicians used to go to each other’s homes and play and experiment, but lately hardly anyone does this because no one has any time,” said Nascimento.


The result is a collection of songs that transports the listener to the wavy stone sidewalks and bars of Ipanema Beach where Jobim and his friends found inspiration.

While Nascimento would sing samba and bossa nova early in his career, he found fame with his soulful songs rooted in the rhythms of Brazil’s interior. Later he collaborated with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Paul Simon.

But Jobim long said Nascimento was the only singer capable of hitting the high notes in his 400 or so compositions.

Indeed, as Nascimento took the stage this week in Los Angeles, he carried those well-known songs up to a height seldom heard with the falsetto that has become his trademark.

Nascimento gets the most kicks out of “Chega de Saudade,” the first bossa nova song penned by Jobim and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes in 1958. The title translates to “No More Blues” and is an upbeat tale of two people in love who belong together.

Daniel Jobim threw a twist into his grandfather’s classic — the rhythm of a locomotive train — and Nascimento fell in love with the new take.

“People in Brazil say: “That song was recorded and played so many times and you have given it a completely different arrangement,’” Nascimento said.

He likes it so much, he sang it twice in the Los Angeles show including an encore after a standing ovation.

The U.S. leg of their tour ends this weekend before heading to Europe. They will play at the London Jazz Festival November 20.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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