Artist Profiles: Milton Nascimento

Milton Nascimento

Milton Nascimento was born in 1942 in Rio de Janeiro. At the age of two, his adoptive parents, both white, brought him to Tres Pontas, a small town in the state of Minas Gerais. His mother, Lilia, a housewife, had once sung in a choir conducted by Villa Lobos, the Brazilian modernist composer. She also used to sing at local festivals, accompanied by Milton. Nacimento’s father, Josino, had a passion for electronics. He was a math teacher and one time ran the local radio station, where the young Milton occasionally served as DJ.

A self-taught musician who liked to hear music and play guitar in the kitchen beside a warm firewood stove, Milton Nascimento learned from the snippets of music he heard on the radio growing up in Tres Pontas. The area is a stronghold of Catholicism in Brazil, and the church-like harmonies that inform so much of the singer’s music began here.

When he was nineteen, Nascimento moved to the state capital, Belo Horizonte, singing whenever and wherever he could, finally gaining wider exposure when the legendary pop singer Elis Regina recorded his “Cancao do Sal” in 1966. With his appearance at Brazil’s Internacional Song Festival the following year, and his rendition of “Travessia (Bridges), ” with lyrics by Fernando Brant, Milton’s musical career was effectively launched.

In 1972, with poet and lyricists Marcio Borges, Fernando Brant and Ronaldo Bastos and other friends including Beto Guedes, Milton Nascimento recorded Clube da Esquina (Street-corner Club). The double-album spawned hit singles, notably “Cravo e Canela” (Clove and Cinnamon), “Cais”(Dock), and “Nada Sera Como Antes” (Nothing will be As It Was), which are still being recorded by Brazil’s pop superstars many years later.

In the mid 1970s, Nascimento hooked up creatively with the iconic American jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter. The recordings they made together, most notably, the stunning 1975 Nascimento classic Native Dancer, brought the Brazilian artist into the American music marketplace and consciousness; fans and critics alike remarked at the time that Nascimento was more comfortable phrasing in the sideways swim of his native Portuguese than in up-and-down English. Shorter later reunited with the singer on Nascimento’s Grammy-nominated 1993 Warner Bros. album Angelus.

Over the years Nascimento has recorded many solo albums. Among the other highlights from his extensive, globally bestselling catalog are A Brazilian Love Affair, a collaboration with George Duke (1980); his Top Ten jazz album Encontros E Despedidas (1986); his Top Ten World Music album Txai (1991); the Grammy nominated 0 Planeta Blue Na Estrada Do Sol (1994); and Nascimento, the 1997 Grammy winner for Best World Music Album. Nascimento also gained new legions of fans around the globe during what many view as one of his true creative peak in the 1980s, a five album series with Ariola Brazil featuring Sentinela (1980) and Anima (1982). Crooner (1999), which paid homage to his own past as an anonymous musician, earned Nascimento his first Latin Grammy Award in 2000, for Best Contemporary Pop Album.

Milton Nascimento’s voice can heard on Paul Simon’s The Rhythm of the Saints and Sara Vaughan’s Brazilian Romance. He appeared on Duran Duran’s “Breath After Breath” (which he co-wrote), and has performed on albums with James Taylor, Peter Gabriel, Jo Anderson, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Quincy Jones, many of whom appeared on his debut Warner album Angelus. His music has been recorded by numerous U.S. based musicians, including the Manhattan Transfer and Stan Getz.

The Brazilian singer has also acted in and contributed music for many Brazilian films, and has also written ballet music for the groups 0 Corpo, Stagium and Parsons Dance Company. In 2002, he launched his own label Nascimento, which is distributed by WEA. The company’s first release was the double album Trihas de Ballet, which included the scores to “Maria Maria” and “Ultimo Trem,” specially composed for Grupo Corpo.

Today, Milton Nascimento is one of the rare vocalists who can draw audiences around the world regardless of language. Milton Nascimento has performed throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, and Latin America.

His 2003 CD, Pieta includes special guest performances by legendary jazzmen Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny as well as acclaimed Brazilian vocalists Maria Rita Mariano, Simone Guimaraes and Marina Machado. At heart, Pieta’s 16 tracks play like an extended love poem to his beloved late adoptive mother, Lilia.

Beyond jazz, and beyond pop, the Nascimento sound integrates numerous diverse cultures. It assimilates 20th century pop and the Jazz giants, with centuries-old sacred and folk expression, from Gregorian chant to African tribal. Milton Nascimento is also profoundly attached to his roots in the interior of Brazil.

Discography

Milton Nascimento (Ritmos, 1967)
Courage (A&M Records, 1969)
Milton Nascimento (Odeon, 1969)
Milton (Odeon, 1970)
Clube da Esquina, with Lô Borges (Odeon, 1972)
Milagre dos Peixes (1973)
Native Dancer, with Wayne Shorter (EMI, 1974)
Minas (EMI, 1975)
Geraes (EMI, 1976)
Milton (A&M Records, 1976)
Clube da Esquina 2, with Lô Borges (EMI, 1978)
Journey to Dawn (A&M Records, 1979)
Sentinela (Ariola, 1980)
Caçador de Mim (Ariola, 1981)
Anima (Ariola, 1982)
Missa dos Quilombos, with Pedro Casaldáliga and Pedro Tierra (Polydor, 1982)
Ao Vivo (Barclay, 1983)
Encontros e Despedidas (Barclay, 1985)
A Barca dos Amantes, with Wayne Shorter (Verve Records, 1986)
Yauaretê (CBS, 1987)
Miltons (CBS, 1989)
Canção da America (1990)
Txai (CBS, 1990)
Angelus (Warner Bros. Records, 1993)
O Planeta Blue na Estrada do Sol (Columbia, 1994)
Amigo (Warner Bros. Records, 1996)
Nascimento (Warner Bros. Records, 1997)
Tambores de Minas (Warner Bros. Records, 1998)
Crooner (Warner Bros. Records, 1999)
Nos Bailes da Vida (2000)
Gil & Milton, with Gilberto Gil (Warner Bros. Records, 2001)
Pietá (Warner Bros. Records, 2003)
O Coronel e o Lobisomem (Universal Music, 2005)
Milagre dos Peixes Ao Vivo (2007)
Novas Bossas (EMI, 2008)
Belmondo & Milton Nascimento (B-Flat Recordings, 2008)
…E a Gente Sonhando (EMI, 2010)
Under Tokyo Skies, with Herbie Hancock (JazzWorld, 2010)
Nada Será Como Antes (Universal, 2011)
Uma Travessia 50 Anos de Carreira (Ao Vivo) (Universal, 2013)
Tamarear, with Dudu Lima Trio (Som Livre, 2015)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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