For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all tasks, and the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. Rainer Maria Rilke
MILAGRE ("Miracle") is the debut ZOHO release by one of the most exceptionally soulful Brazilian jazz singers of our time, Maucha Adnet, and her duo partner, one of the foremost lyrical and swinging virtuosos of contemporary jazz piano, Helio Alves, and it is truly a labor of love and wonder, on many levels, and in many ways.
This heartfelt and continually miraculous recording represents the culmination of two great artists working together in a variety of musical contexts over the course of two productive decades, for the first time ever in the musically demanding "vocals and piano" duo format.
On MILAGRE, Maucha and Helio explore the inner and outer boundaries of 14 classic anthems of love, loss, longing, and life's celebration by Brazilian master musical story tellers such as Dori Caymmi, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Hermeto Pascoal, Edu Lobo, Moacir Santos, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and others.
Milagre most literally translates from Portuguese into English as "miracle," and this dynamic duo constantly reminds us here of one of the most miraculous possibilities of human life and song.
For the final decade of the legendary composer Antonio Carlos Jobim's illustrious life, from 1984 to 1994, Maucha Adnet performed and recorded with Maestro Jobim and his group Banda Nova. For the past twenty years, Maucha has been singing and playing all over the world with her own ensembles, as well as being a special guest soloist with Trio Da Paz, Claudio Roditi, Duduka Da Fonseca, Helio Alves, Oscar Castro-Neves, Slide Hampton, Herbie Mann, and Randy Brecker.
The exciting Brazilian pianist and composer Helio Alves began performing with singer Maucha Adnet shortly after he moved to New York City following his musical studies in Boston in 1993. Helio is one of the most in-demand sidemen in all of jazz, having worked extensively with Joe Henderson, Paquito D'Rivera, Gato Barbieri, Joyce, Airto Moreira, Rosa Passos, and many others.
Dori Caymmi and Nelson Motta's O Cantador was one of the first two songs that Maucha and Helio performed as a duo, and Maucha's relationship with Dori Caymmi dates back to her earliest days with Jobim, when Dori was playing guitar with the Maestro in 1984 at the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro. This profoundly moving melody speaks about the unstoppable power of a soul's song to transcend our pain and human limitations.
Maucha explains, "I have a special love for a lot of Gilberto Gil's songs. Ever since I first heard Joao Gilberto's recording of Eu Vim da Bahia, which means 'I came from Bahia, to sing, to tell, a lot of the beautiful things that Bahia has. It has my ground, my sky, my sea. I came from Bahia, but I'll be back there, one day I'll be back there again."
Maucha has such a passionate affinity with Gilberto Gil's music that she is going to be recording a project in 2013 exclusively devoted to Gilberto Gil compositions, with members of her extraordinary Brazilian family including her composer/guitarist brother Mario Adnet, pianist Chico Adnet, and singer Muiza Adnet.
This marks Maucha's first recording of Antonio Carlos Jobim's iconic Waters of March with its psychedelic lyrics in English, which was the idea of her husband, the outstanding drummer and bandleader, Duduka Da Fonseca. Maucha remembers that "it was very challenging to make the words feel like totally my own words, and at first I didn't like the way I was sounding. Then little by little it developed with practice and letting it flow and our daughter Alana helping me by just telling me to do it naturally as I would speak. And I finally started feeling the same joy I feel when singing in Portuguese. And I was very inspired by the way Jobim used to sing it himself."
Jobim wrote Gabriela for the hit 1983 Brazilian film "Gabriela, Cravo e Canela," based upon Jorge Amado's romantic novel, and starring Marcello Mastroianni and Sonia Braga. Maucha points out that "I used to sing this beautiful song with Jobim and the band. This arrangement is by Antonio Carlos and his son Paulo Jobim, and I just thought it would sound great for Helio and I to do it as a duo."
Jobim's Retrato em Branco e Preto (which is also known as "Zingaro" and "Portrait in Black and White") is an eternally timeless and moving ballad of fatal enchantment and disenchantment/despair transcended by the beauty and power of poetry and feeling. As Maucha shares with us, "I must have learned this melody when I was 14. It has always intrigued me and fascinated me. Amazingly well written lyrics by Chico Buarque. Truly amazing song. Sad and beautiful. I remember singing that melody, learning it on the way back home from school in the bus with my brother Chico (also a great composer himself) and talking about it. I was 15 then. And it was the very first song that Helio and I played as a duo. It was pretty much the song that made me think we could do more songs like that, as a duo. The way we played it is also based on a Jobim arrangement of it. We just made it a little more loose, which is a fun part of the duo format."
Coração Vagabundo was another song that Jobim truly cherished. It debuted on the classic 1967 Gal Costa recording "Domingo" with composer/singer Caetano Veloso.
Newton Mendonça's plaintive lyrics to Jobim's Caminhos Cruzados express hopefulness and resolve wrested out of a very sad story about "when a heart tired of suffering finds another heart also tired of suffering, it makes one believe that love can arrive all of a sudden. How naive I was to try to think that we can explain love. Let this new love come, even if we later will have to cry. Come, we both will try, as only a new love can make the longing end."
Helio chose Hermeto's lovely baiao Vale do Ribeira, for which Duduka Da Fonseca conceived a very effective instrumental rubato introduction.
Maucha tells us that "I grew up listening to the wonderful compositions of my brother Mario Adnet, and originally recorded Desafinada for one of Mario's CDs, 'Pedra Bonita.' I have also always loved the songs by one of our original grandmasters, Dorival Caymmi, who was a genius for his simultaneous simplicity and profound depth, as is so well shown by his musical fable Milagre, the story of three fisherman who set sail on Ash Wednesday. I was so blessed to be able to perform this magical piece with Dorival and Jobim a few times."
Guitarist and composer Toninho Horta and his unique brand of lyricism displayed so effectively in Amor Infinito/Bons Amigos are truly adored by both Helio and Maucha who both consider Toninho to be one of Brazil's finest living songwriters.
Maucha's brother Mario Adnet suggested the hypnotic 1917 folk melody Tico Tico No Fuba for this CD, and they based the arrangement on the one Mario did for an instrumental recording he made with Helio on piano 15 years ago in New York.
Edu Lobo's mournful Canto Triste features poetically longing lyrics by the legendary lyricist Vinicius de Moraes which still proclaim that a departed love was always the "Spring in the seasons of his soul".
Producer Mario Adnet brought in the buoyant groove of Moacir Santos's April Child from the masterwork "Ouro Negro" with archetypical lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, who also wrote "Mona Lisa" and "Never Let Me Go."
The music of MILAGRE is finally all about making the miraculous a much more everyday part of everything that is dancing to the songs in our hearts, about transcending our pain with the shared, healing power and poetry of our soul's song. Todd Barkan