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Milton Nascimento

Brazilian singer and songwriting superstar Milton Nascimento enjoys a vast global audience. In addition to a resonant reedy tenor, he possesses an otherworldly falsetto that has led many to describe his music in spiritual terms. His self-titled 1967 debut established his meld of MPB, Brazilian folk forms, Tropicalia, rock, and samba. 1969's Courage showcased him with a cast of international jazz musicians. 1972’s classic Clube Da Esquina, and his co-billed performances on Wayne Shorter's Native Dancer, are considered classics. In 1986 Shorter returned the favor on Nascimento's A Barca Dos Amantes. With Warner Bros., he released the star-studded Angelus in 1990, the charting Amigo in 1995, and the Grammy-winning Nascimento in 1997. In 2000 Gil & Milton with Gilberto Gil received a Grammy nod. 2015's Tamarear charted. In 2022 at 80, Nascimento retired after a farewell Brazilian tour. Born in Rio, Nascimento's parents brought him to Tres Pontas, a small town in the state of Minas Gerais, when he was two. His mother sang in a choir and at local music festivals, often accompanied by Milton. Nascimento's father was an electronics tinkerer, math teacher, and at one point ran a local radio station where a young Milton occasionally worked as a DJ. He began singing as a teenager. When he was 19, Nascimento moved to the capital, Belo Horizonte, and began singing wherever and whenever he could. He finally caught a break when the pop singer Elis Regina recorded his song "Canção do Sal" in 1966. Regina got him a showcase on a popular Brazilian TV program, and after performing at Brazil's International Song Festival the following year, his career was launched. Nascimento issued his eponymous debut on the independent Codil in 1967. EMI licensed it for re-release in 1969 after signing him to a multi-album deal. He traveled to New Jersey and recorded Courage with a host of Brazilian and American jazz musicians, including Airto Moreira and Herbie Hancock, among others, that appeared on CTI stateside. In 1970 the singer issued the chart-topping Milton for the EMI/ Odeon label, followed by the classic Clube da Esquina in 1972, in collaboration with fellow lyricists Márcio Borges, Fernando Brant, Ronaldo Bastos, and lyricist/vocalist/guitarist Lô Borges. A double album, it notched three hit singles including, "Cais (Dock)" and "Cravo é Canela (Clove and Cinnamon)." Interestingly, almost every song on the set has become a Brazilian standard. He followed with Milagre dos Peixes in 1973. Initially a collection of 11 vocal songs, eight were censored by Brazil's military dictatorship. Rather than re-record them with new words, Nascimento removed the vocals from those eight songs before release; the album still charted. He followed it with Milagre dos Peixes (Ao Vivo) the same year. In 1974, the singer was a featured, co-billed collaborator on Wayne Shorter's Native Dancer for Columbia. Though largely unnoticed at the time -- the saxophonist's fans may have been hoping for a record more closely allied with the sound of his band Weather Report -- it is now considered a classic album from the artist. In 1975 and 1976, Nascimento issued two albums closely associated with the musical traditions of his upbringing, properly titled Minas and Geraes for his region. Met with initial confusion by European and U.S. listeners, they reached the Top Ten in Brazil. In 1977 he released Milton, another internationally acclaimed release. He and Borges followed with Clube da Esquina 2 in 1978. Some claim the ambitious sequel to be a stronger release than its predecessor. In 1979, American jazzman George Duke, at the height of his popularity, brought L.A.-based Brazilians Moreira and Flora Purim to Rio to record A Brazilian Love Affair with Nascimento. Released the following year it lit up the jazz charts. After leaving EMI/Odeon, he cut Journey to Dawn for A&M Records, and a series of five albums for Ariola: Sentinela (1980), Cacador de Mim (1981), Missa dos Quilombos (1982), Anima (1982), and Milton Nascimento ao Vivo (1983). Nascimento's output remained steady and qualitatively reliable, though never predictable. His deep need to challenge himself vocally, lyrically, and stylistically applied to other releases including 1985's Encontros e Despedidas for Barclay, and Corazon Americano for PolyGram in 1986. During the latter year, Shorter returned the favor, and served as a co-billed collaborator on the singer's Brazilian hit, A Barca dos Amantes. 1987's Yauaretê also featured the saxophonist as well as Hancock. He released Miltons with Hancock for CBS in 1988, and the Grammy-nominated Txai and Canção da America for the same label. O Planeta Blue Estrada do Sol was released by CBS in 1991 and garnered a Grammy nomination the following year. In 1992, Nascimento topped the Down Beat International Critics' Poll. In the mid-'90s, he signed to Warner Bros. His debut was 1995's widely acclaimed Angelus. Its star-studded roster included Yes' Jon Anderson, James Taylor, Pat Metheny, Shorter, Hancock, Jack DeJohnette, and Ron Carter. He followed it with Amigo in 1996 and Nascimento in 1997; the latter won a Grammy nomination as well. He continued on Warner with 1999's Crooner, it won an award for Best Contemporary Pop Album at the inaugural Latin Grammy Awards. The Grammy-nominated Gil & Milton with Gilberto Gil followed in 2000. 2003's Pieta, his final album for Warner Bros., offered acclaimed duets with singers including Simone Guimarães, Maria Rita, and Marina Machado. It also included a reading of "Cantaloupe Island" with Metheny, and Hancock, its composer. It placed inside the Top Five in Brazil. In 2004, England's Far Out Recordings acquired the rights to Maria Maria and Ultimo Trem, two previously recorded yet unreleased soundtracks for ballets by Nascimento from 1976 and 1980, respectively. Maria Maria dealt with the legacy of slavery in Brazil. Raw, atmospheric, and emotionally charged, it included an all-star cast including Nana Vasconcelos, Joao Donato, Paulinho Jobim, and members of Som Imaginario. Ultimo Trem, written with Fernando Brant, was a ballet depicting the devastating impact of the military's closure of a train line that connected towns and cities in Minas Gerais to the coast. With Caetano Veloso he composed and recorded the score and soundtrack for the 2005 film O Coronel E O Lobisomem: Uma Comédia Fantástica. Nascimento returned to EMI to release 2008's Novas Bossas with the Jobim Trio, composed of the late composer Antonio Carlos Jobim's sons pianist Daniel and guitarist Paulinho Jobim with drummer Paulo Braga. Back in 2006 the singer was distractedly leafing through an American music industry magazine, when by chance he discovered mention of some young musicians from the town of Tres Pontas, located on the outskirts of Minas Geraes. Inspired, Nascimento began attending pubs and bars, witnessing performances by a younger generation of artists, some of whom he recruited for 2010's ...E a Gente Sonhando ("And Some People are Dreaming"). Among them were Wagner Tiso's son Ismael Tiso. That same year he was the featured vocalist on German contemporary jazz group Trio Elf's Elfland. In October, Nascimento and Hancock released the live album Under Tokyo Skies. Recorded over two summers in 1990 and 1991, the set also included appearances from Shorter, Metheny, Stanley Clarke, and Dave Holland. In 2011 Nascimento performed and recorded the score for the autobiographical musical Nada Será Como Antes, and the following year cut the critically acclaimed retrospective collection, Ensaio with Wagner Tiso. In 2015 he released the globally acclaimed Tamarear with the Dudu Lima Trio for Som Livre. Nascimento became personally involved in overseeing various remastering and reissue programs of his catalog material over the next several years. To celebrate his 80th birthday, he embarked on a Brazilian tour called "The Last Music Session," a final road gambit before retiring after nearly 50 albums and six decades of live performance.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo
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