Review: Milton Nascimento's 'Courage'

by Brazil Club - Let The Music Take You There on 12/06/2017 - 02:37 pm

Time Machine

Rio de Janeiro, October 22, 1967. We’re in the studio audience at TV Globo, Brazil’s top network, just in time to catch the balloting results for the 2nd International Festival of Song competition. Gutemberg Guarabira wins, going on to become a footnote in the history of MPB while a young songwriter by the name of Milton Nascimento claims second place, along with the prize for ‘best performance’ with his song ‘Travessia’ (Bridges).

He survives some pretty stiff competiton from a songwriting field that includes Chico Buarque, Sergio Mendes and Dori Caymmi. He also survives the judges – all but one were prepared to cut him after the first round.

A year earlier, another of his songs, ‘Canção do Sal’ (Salt Song) was recorded by the great Elis Regina. A little more than a year from today Milton Nascimento will find himself in a US recording studio, singing in Engish for a session that will vitrulaly mirror his debut album in Brazil.

Now, as he stands on stage in front of us, basking in the glow of his accomplishments, he has no idea that the offer for that very first recording is just around the corner.

Milton Nascimento is three days away from his 25th birthday.


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Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, September 14th, 1967. Producer Creed Taylor is wrapping up the final recording day for Tamba 4’s ‘We And the Sea’ album. After nine long days in the studio (they’d taken the weekend off) even pianist Luis Eça seems satisfied - a good sign.

It’s been a busy year. Creed’s Bossa Nova success with Verve Records, Stan Getz, Charlie Byrd and João Gilberto had run its course and with the help of Herb Albert and A&M Records, he has recently launched his own label imprint – CTI.  Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘Wave’ is one of the new company’s first releases.

CTI is well stocked with great talent, including Quincy Jones, Wes Montgomery, Paul Desmond, Herbie Mann, George Benson and Brazilian keyboardist Walter Wanderley. Several years from now, he’ll expand the roster to include Astrud Gilberto, Freddie Hubbard, Grover Washington, Jr and Stanley Turrentine.

Five years from now another Brazilian, Deodato will score a top ten radio hit for Creed Taylor’s new label with ‘Alzo Sprach Zarathustra, Theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey’. But today, Deodato is CTI’s house arranger, and in just five short weeks he will fly to Rio de Janeiro to sit on the jury panel for one of Brazil’s most popular song festivals.  His reputation in Brazil is already such that his single vote for an unknown singer will override the panel’s desire to cut him after the first round.

Deodato has no way of knowing that afterwards, he’ll place a long distance call to Creed Taylor, urging him to fly down to Rio in order to sign a new discovery - Milton Nascimento, which he will.

Deodato is also 25 years old. In a little over a year, Creed Taylor will direct him to create the arrangements that will frame the US debut of the Brazilian singer he’s just been sent to scout.

Courage is that album – a stunningly beautiful collection of the young singer’s best early songs, carefully mirrored to reflect his Brazilian recording debut only a few short weeks before. With it comes another mold-breaking oddity: It’s the first time in modern Brazilian music that a rising star has planned a bear simultaneous debit in Brazil and America – a fact not lost on the Brazilian press.

But even for Brazil, Milton Nascimento’s creative roots are as strikingly unique as his vocal range – from its resonant depth to the chime-like clarity of his falsetto. Courage, recorded literally at the cusp of a new career embodies these qualities by blending Taylor sense of ‘jazz that sells’ with Deodato’s musical craftwork, then folding it into Nascimento’s unique talent.

One of the most impressive vignettes in the panorama of modern Brazilian music can be found not near the beaches of Rio, or within scent of the African spice of Bahia but instead, inland, in the hill country shadows of Minas Gerais, the landlocked state which is known for its diamonds, gold and gems.

This is where Milton Nascimento would grow up to uniquely redefine Brazilian music, due in no small part to the blending of the strong traditions of the region and its folkloric, colonial past with the sentimental, introspective melancholy of its music.

You can here it in the opening strains of  ‘Vera Cruz’ and in the compelling introduction on his ‘Gira Girou’. Each of these songs carry powerful emotions that amplify that curious notion of Brazilian saudade – a sense of happy/sad longing that lies at the core of their spirit. To best understand it, listen carefully to Milton’s voice in English on ‘Bridges’ or the pride he exudes on ‘Cancao Do Sol’.

This debut album won not a single Grammy – the awards and recognition of Nascimento’s talent would come in due course. But the songs on this recording gave us an early benchmark which Milton - on his best days - would work hard to surpass.

And that’s saying a lot considering Milton Nascimento’s body of work and international acclaim.

'Courage' - Milton Nascimento

Personnel: Milton Nascimento (vocals, acoustic guitar); Anamaria Valle (vocals); Alfred Brown (viola); Charles McCracken (cello); Hubert Laws, Jerome Richardson (flute); George Marge (clarinet); Marvin Stamm, Burt Collins (flugelhorn); Ray Alonge (French horn); Wayne Andre, Bill Watrous (trombone); Herbie Hancock (piano); Eumir Deodato (organ); Jose Marino (bass instrument); Joao Palma (drums); Airto Moreira (percussion).

Produced by Creed Taylor, arranged by Deodato. Recorded at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey (12/1968 - 02/1969). Liner Note Author: Ralph Gleason.  All tracks have been digitally mastered using 24-bit technology.

01. Bridges (Travessia)

02. Vera Cruz
03. Tres Pontas
04. Outubro (October)
05. Courage
06. Rio Vermelho
07. Gira Girou (Round 'N' Round)
08. Morro Velho
09. Catavento
10. Cancao Do Sol (Salt Song)