by Don Heckman
Milton Nascimento celebrated his 66th birthday a few days before he performed at Walt Disney Concert Hall Wednesday night. And there was still a trace of celebratory spirit in his appearance with the Jobim Trio.
The program, one of a string of bookings across the country, supported his recently released CD, “Novas Bossas,” recorded with the Jobim trio. Actually, the Trio was a quartet for this event, consisting of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s son Paulo playing guitar, his grandson Daniel playing piano, with bassist Rodrigo Villa and drummer Paulo Braga. But the clear focus of the evening centered around the same goal suggested by the CD title — a new approach to bossa nova.
Understandably, given Antonio Carlos Jobim’s preeminence as the composer of the majority of the Great Brazilan Bossa Nova Book, most of the program traced to his catalog, with the addition of a few Nascimento tunes, A Dorival Caymmi song and an appealing new number by Daniel Jobim. It’s hard to go wrong with chestnuts as familiar, and as tasty, as “Agua de Marco,” “The Girl From Ipanema,” “Inutil Paisagem” and “Samba Do Avaio.” But it was also not what one might call a particularly intriguing new view of bossa nova.
At its best, Nascimento’s emotion-drenched voice, with its rich bottom and soaring falsetto high notes, has always been one of the glories of Brazilian music. But, for this performance at least, it occasionally seemed to have lost its way, drifting into byways of uncertain pitch, and too rarely displaying the warm, charismatic qualities that are central to his performance style. Also receding too far into the background — his capacity to transform a song into his own musical image. Maybe the birthday celebration lasted a little too long.
The backing of the Jobim trio (quartet) was first rate. But one could argue that its tendency to remain in a classic bossa nova groove tended to further diminish the “Nova Bossa” aspects of the evening. Even so, Daniel Jobim’s piano work and his occasional vocalizing suggested that the Jobim lineage is strong. And Braga’s playing — as always — was a model of beautifully articulate drumming.
Photo by Leonardo Siqueria