Milton Nascimento
Pieta
Downbeat, Dec 2006


While Brazilian singer and composer Milton Nascimento considers this album an homage to his adoptive mother, Lilia, and other important women in his life, it doubles as a vital survey of the various stylistic areas he's explored over his four-decade career. Ordinarily that sounds like a recipe for disaster.  But in revisiting a host of artistic approaches and working again with some of his most important collaborators, Nascimento has recorded his best work in years.

Most of the songs were written or co-written by Nascimento, and they're filled with the kind of sophisticated harmonies that made him a favorite of American jazz players starting in the late '60s. The strings and brass can get cloying on a song like "Voa Bicho," which sounds like the theme music for a bad '70s TV drama.  But more often than not they bring a lush, almost spectral depth to the music.  He also highlights his improvisational skill on a wonderful take of Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island," where Hancock, guitarist Pat Metheny and Nascimento form a dazzling triumvirate that manages bold harmonic and melodic sophistication.

The other part of the equation is Nascimento's melodic gits, and many of the tunes hark back to the Beatles-esque magic of his classic Club De Esequina album.  The late Tom Capone offered stunning co-production, not only preventing the proceedings from getting bloated, but incorporating simpatico electronic textures here and there.  Nascimento looks ahead by bringing in some of Brazil's best young female singers, including Maria Rita, on a series of gorgeous duets.

-Peter Margasak