Jazz Across the Pond: Milton Nascimento

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For the last 50 years, Milton Nascimento has been the voice of Brazilian music. As an acclaimed songwriter and one of the most identifiable and beloved voices in Brazilian music history, the New York Times writes, “Nascimento is gifted with one of the most extraordinary voices in popular music, a benevolent tenor that floats upward to a heartbreakingly pure falsetto.” Nascimento will visit Berklee on Sunday, November 16, 2014, as part of his 50th anniversary Uma Travessia world tour.

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on October 26, 1942, Nascimento moved to Três Pontas, in the state of Minas Gerais when he was two years old. An avid singer from his youth, Nascimento began singing professionally when he was 13 years old. In the early ‘60s, Nascimento worked at Rádio Três Pontas as a DJ, announcer, and director, before moving to Belo Horizonte to pursue a degree in economics. While in Belo Horizonte, Nascimento met musicians who would become his long-time friends and collaborators, including the Borges brothers, Márcio and Lô , as well as Fernando Brant, with whom he would write many of his most famous songs. Milton decided to pursue music full-time in 1965 when he moved back to Rio de Janeiro, while playing with the band Sambacana. After playing in state-sponsored music festivals in 1966 and ’67, Milton won a festival award for best performer, while his song, “Travessia,” (co-written with Fernando Brant) won second place. Milton recorded his first album, Milton Nascimento, in 1967, before going to the United States in 1968 to record his second album, Courage.

Milton’s recordings throughout the ‘60s helped to shape MPB (Música Popular Brasileira), a movement of post-bossa, urban, popular music in Brazil. Like many MPB artists, Milton’s music contained critical commentary on the military dictatorship and social injustice of the time, which resulted in his being heavily censored in the ‘70s. This censorship led Milton to begin more work in the United States, including the classic 1974 collaboration with Wayne Shorter, Native Dancer.

The success of Native Dancer brought Milton international acclaim, ushering in many more collaborations with artists such as Paul Simon; George Duke; Pat Metheny; Quincy Jones; Ron Carter; Herbie Hancock; Jack DeJohnette; Earth, Wind & Fire; and Duran Duran, who featured Milton on the song “Breath After Breath” on their 1993 album, Duran Duran. Milton won a Grammy for best World Music Album with his 1998 release Nascimento.

Milton’s career in Brazilian music saw several collaborations with fellow MPB pioneers, including Gilberto Gil and Chico Buarque, as well as the continued release of his own solo albums. Milton’s collaboration with Edu Lobo on the Lobo/Buarque tune “Beatriz,” is perhaps one of the most beautiful recordings in Brazilian music history. Milton is seen as an icon of Brazilian music, and is respected and revered by musicians across the world. Milton’s concert at Berklee on November 16 provides a wonderful opportunity for those in the Boston area to witness one of the truly iconic voices of a unique musical culture often not well known to American ears.

 

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          February 10, 2018