This is the second October in a row that Blue Note jazz club has had the great fortune of booking Milton Nascimento for a week-long engagement in New York City. A friend of mine who grew up in Sao Paulo tells me that Milton plays in front of huge crowds in Brazil (and around the world) so the opportunity to see him in this setting is rare blessing. Having had the pleasure of seeing him at the Blue Note last year, I certainly knew I was in for a treat. Milton is one of those unique performers that radiate brilliance. Take one look at him and his charisma is unmistakable. The Brazilian rhythms he plays on his guitar are enchanting and when he starts to sing it soon becomes clear there is no one on earth that can do what he does.
Joining Milton were Gastao Villeroy on bass, Wilson Lopes on guitars, Kiko Continentino on piano and keyboard and Lincoln Cheib on drums. The piano plays a vital role in helping to set the mood of the music. And mood is very important in Milton’s work. Consequently, Kiko Continentino did an amazing job complementing Milton. He often followed his vocals by playing just the right melody or precipitated changes in the direction or feeling of a song by his subtle approach. Kiko is a talented soloist. Lincoln Cheib is an amazing drummer, a rhythm powerhouse. Villeroy’s bass playing and Lopes’ guitar work gave this group a complete sound. One of Milton’s nephews, who resides in New York, joined the group on piano for one composition.
Thirty years before recording the album Pieta as a tribute to his mother, Milton wrote a song for her that appeared on the Clube da Esquina record. The piece is Lilia and is a great vehicle for improvisation. The groove the band laid down during this song was joyful and extremely tight. Other notable selections included Ponta de Areia, A Felicidade, and Coracao de Estudante, one of my personal favorites.
The song that featured Milton at his best though, in my opinion, was A Lua Girou. He had the crowd repeat one of the verses over and over and the crowd actually had a number of very good singers in it. While we were singing the verse, Milton began to shout and sing in a very forceful, powerful manner, creating an apocalyptic feel that showcased not only his vocal range but, more importantly, his electricity. What a moving performance!