Tom Jobim used to say that Milton Nascimento was the only singer capable of reaching the original pitches of his compositions. Story has it that it was in the town of Diamantina, Minas Gerais, that João Gilberto rehearsed to exhaustion the acoustic guitar beat that would be key to bossa nova’s birth in Rio de Janeiro. Nothing could be more appropriate, therefore, than Milton Nascimento joining the Jobim Trio to celebrate the genre’s 50th anniversary with their Blue Note Records release, Novas Bossas (September 30, 2008).
The seeds for Novas Bossas were planted in 2007, by virtue of the celebrations for the 80th anniversary of Tom Jobim’s birth. MILTON NASCIMENTO AND THE JOBIM TRIO performed together at Rio de Janeiro’s Botanical Garden, in a concert rendering homage to the supreme maestro. The event was a reunion of long-acquainted artists. Milton was Tom Jobim’s friend, and Jobim once wrote a text calling him his “true panther” and his “true song-bird.” As for Paulo Jobim, he took part in Nascimento’s Clube da Esquina 2 tour, carrying along with him his son Daniel. “When I turned three years old, Milton dedicated a concert to me,” recalls Daniel.
The relationship between Milton and a genuine son of Minas Gerais, Paulo Braga, third member of the Jobim Trio, goes back to the early days in their careers. “We began playing together back in the ’60s, as part of the Berimbau Trio, along with Wagner Tiso. We needed a bassist and Milton, who was a skilled acoustic guitar player, in three months was playing bass better than his teacher,” recalls Paulo Braga.
Novas Bossas is one more chapter of this story, which already adds up to more than four decades. It was born without any rush, in a friendly atmosphere. “Our relationship is so fantastic that it seems as if we have always played together,” states Milton. “At first, we thought of doing the pre-production at Milton’s home studio, and recording later at some other place, but we felt such freedom and pleasure in his house that we never got to leave it,” laughs Daniel. The album also brings collaboration from bassist Rodrigo Villa, as well as Chico Neves’ co-production.
The first song recorded was “Samba do Avião,” which appeared in the soundtrack of Paraíso Tropical, a soap opera. Daniel Jobim explains that the track list emerged “spontaneously, in afternoons of music and reminiscences.” Explains Paulo Braga, “Each day we would remember a story. The impression I have is that I was never apart from Milton, because of the complicity we have up to these days.”
“Milton wanted to record several pieces from my father,” says Paulo Jobim. Daniel suggested the inclusion of “Tudo que Você Podia Ser.” “I have always been in love with this song and I thought it had a lot to do with the album’s atmosphere. Milton loved the suggestion, because the only time he recorded it was for Clube da Esquina and he never sang it again, not even at concerts.” The couple of recordings that came from Milton’s repertoire were ideas from Paulo Jobim. “While I was playing at the studio, I felt an urge to remember ‘Cais’ and also suggested ‘Tarde,’ which has a beautiful harmony and reminds me a lot of the time Milton came to Rio.”
“I thought it was great to have the opportunity to play my songs in a different way,” adds Milton. Paulo also wanted a song from Caymmi in the album. “Milton agreed with that right away, since he had been showing interest in recording “O Vento” for a long time.”
Paulo Jobim was responsible as well for the inclusion of Daniel Jobim’s composition, “Dias Azuis.” “I was playing it on my MP4 player and Milton asked to listen to it. He immediately decided to record it.” Daniel wasn’t in the studio the day the song was chosen. “If I had been there I would not have let my father show it. Luckily, I wasn’t,” jokes Daniel.
Milton also felt like recording a samba – Daniel Jobim thought of “Velho Riacho.” Milton wanted a song in F – Daniel brought in “Esperança Perdida.” Milton remembered Vinicius de Moraes’ melodies and decided to record them – the chosen one was “Medo de Amar,” a song with lyrics and music from Moraes, aka “The Poet.” And that is how the album evolved, in an absolutely intuitive way.
The arrangements were also born spontaneously. “We went on playing and playing, each time in a different way, without any concern. At times, we ended a song and in the next day we felt like going back to it. It was a natural process, to the extent that now that we’re going out on tour, we have to remember everything, because we didn’t even get to write down the music scores,” explains Paulo Braga.
“It was refreshing to revisit this repertoire – which I have known for [so] long – next to Milton,” states Paulo Jobim. For Daniel Jobim, “one side inspires the other. And when Milton sings, music is reborn.” Paulo Braga feels that he is playing in a different, new way. “It was a great pleasure, I felt rejuvenated. Milton himself confided to me some days ago that it is as if he has started to sing now, like in his old crooner days.”
Bossa nova’s greatest classic, “Chega De Saudade,” wasn’t left out of the repertoire. It emerges again, however, accompanied by a Minas Gerais train sound, which was Daniel Jobim’s suggestion. The old “Maria Fumaça” train is taking the Minas-Rio path again.
Using Tom Jobim’s words on his bossa nova anthem, “Desafinado,” “… this is ‘Novas Bossas.’ This is all very natural.”