Brazilian big-band music is relatively rare, at least in comparison with its Afro-Cuban and—obviously—swing kin. With Encontros – Orquestra Atlantica, pianist and composer Antonio Adolfo realizes his dream of recording his music with just such a large ensemble, after more than 25 albums as a leader, including last year’s well-received Hybrido: From Rio to Wayne Shorter. Leading his Orquestra Atlantica, a group of Rio-based musicians that he assembled in 2012, Adolfo turns in an often dazzling set of nine originals and a reworking of “Milestones.”
Miles’ tune, its up-and-down melody given extra buoyancy, gains from an unexpected color, a quick-moving solo by accordion player Marcos Nimrichter, also heard on the strolling “Delicada Jazz Waltz.” It’s one of the two most familiar tracks on the disc. The other one is the closer, a reworking of “Sa Marina,” co-written in the late ’60s with Tiberio Gaspar and recorded by more than 200 artists, including a vocal version titled “Pretty World.” Here, in a seven-minute run through the song, Adolfo takes the affecting melody, with the horns coming in on the bridge. Later, baritone saxophonist Levi Chaves and trombonist Aldivas Ayres turn in dueling solos on a trading-fours section.
The album offers other treasures, too, including “Partido Samba-Funk,” something of a mash-up of 12-bar blues with samba and Brazilian funk; the warm balladry of “Atlantica,” one of several tracks featuring Adolfo’s adroit soloing; the samba-driven “Luizao”; “Saudade,” with its varying shades of melancholy and exuberance underscored by Jessé Sadoc’s flugelhorn improvisation; and “Africa Bahia Brasil,” with the grooves suggested by the title, and a notable sax turn by Danilo Sinna on alto. They all make for memorable cross-cultural encontros.