Antonio Adolfo

A musical history.

By Cristiana Moretzsohn

This talented carioca composer, with more than 400 songs recorded throughout his brilliant career, has just released his latest CD “Chora, Baião”. It’s a mixture of jazz with Brazilian rhythms like samba, choro and baião, and a delight to aficionados of Brazilian music.. With compositions by Chico Buarque, Guinga and his own, the disc has already gone up eleven points in the Jazz Week Parade World Music Parade since its launch, and is on its way into fourth place.

Wave spoke exclusively with Antonio Adolfo, who has lived in Florida since 2007, where he teaches in his experimental school of Brazilian music, the Antonio Adolfo School of Music. It’s an interview that brings us back to the golden age of Bossa Nova and makes us want to discover and listen to the musical innovations that the great musician and teacher has created.

 You just released a new CD, Chora, Baião, which brings together three of the most popular musical genres in Brazil, samba, choro and baião. How did this mix work?
AA: It was excellent, as any good Brazilian mix. Our music is the richest in the world and it could not be otherwise. In addition to the styles mentioned, I tried to make a bridge with Jazz, which is a style where you improvise. And I think these styles, as well as the composers honoured, should be more prominent among those who practice Jazz and those who are enthusiasts of Brazilian music in general.

 The album focuses on songs by the geniuses Chico Buarque and Guinga, two of your contemporaries in Rio. Tell us a little of this choice of repertoire.
AA: As I said, I chose two great composers of Brazilian music, who deserve to have more exposure among the musicians and audiences that cultivate and value Brazilian music, where improvisation plays a very important role. It was difficult to choose the repertoire, because Guinga as well as Chico have a very large and varied repertoire. I started from the balance between their beautiful songs that could have musical arrangements that would fit well in my idea of making a bridge between their work and Jazz. I always like to emphasize the melody, even in the improvisations. And really, to melodically improvise on sophisticated melodies and harmonies is a challenge.

 What do you mean, “improvise”?
AA: Anyone who is a musician knows that to improvise on the harmonies of these genius Brazilian composers is like stepping onto “dangerous” territory because there are musical “traps”, digressing from the clichés that Brazilian music is accustomed to, like Bossa Nova, which was influenced by Jazz.

 And your compositions, do they bring musical innovation?
AA: My compositions included on the disc helped me cross that bridge. One of them, Chorosa Blues, was composed after I had already chosen the repertoire and elaborated arrangements for the disc. It’s totally inspired by the songs I recorded from the two composers. Chicote, which had been written and recorded on a home-made LP, was fitted with a new arrangement for the disc and has an affinity with certain Guinga songs.

 And the song Chora, Baião?
AA: Chora, Baião, which is also the title of the disc, was written two years ago and was on the “waiting list” to be on the disc. I think that it lends itself well to the disc with its phrasing and harmony which blends elements of Choro, and especially of Baião.

 Does your daughter, the vocalist Carol Saboya, participate in the CD?
AA: Yes, she participates in singing the beautiful Você, Você, the only partnership of these two (music by Guinga and lyrics by Chico) and she also sings A Ostra e o Vento, Chico’s beautiful song. I think her participation gave a special touch to the disc. In addition to the interpretation, it breaks the predominantly instrumental climate of the disc in a delicate way. I always like to mix instrumental music with vocal music.

Your brilliant career started at the legendary Beco das Garrafas. Tell us a little about the golden age of Bossa Nova.
AA: It was a time of extreme wealth in Brazilian music. We can say that it was, for many, a school. And I can include myself among those. I started in Beco das Garrafas, in Copacabana, in the 60’s, and this was a privilege. I had come from a season with Carlos Lyra in the musical Pobre Menina Rica (Lyra’s partnership with Vinícius) and I “faced” Leni Andrade and Raul de Souza in the Beco. For me (and for many) it was a privilege. It was a real feast. Many “hardcore” musicians were there, either gathered or playing. Great musicians passed by, great artists and shows were born. In short, it was a golden age.

 Your mother was a violinist and at a very young age you started your music career. What is it like to see it perpetuated in your daughters?
AA: I never gave it much thought, but it is wonderful. For me, music is one of the most important things in life and I see it coming out of my hand, passing from me to my daughters (Carol and Luisa). Luisa, although not performing, has recorded with me and teaches singing in the school we have in Rio (Centro Musical Antonio Adolfo) and Carol already has some experience as a professional singer. To me, she is a great performer.

 Twenty-six years ago you created the renowned Centro Musical Antonio Adolfo, in Leblon, Rio de Janeiro and it has hundreds of students of different ages. What is the importance of music in the life of a child and of a teenager?
AA: It’s been proven, increasingly, that music brings benefits, either for those who want to have it as a profession, or for those who use it as a form of education. Music helped me a lot. It even helped me to face problems. I’m sure it benefits many people.

 Any future projects?
AA: I have an experimental school of Brazilian music in Florida, USA. I plan to tour next year (Brazil and abroad) and to record more … and give a lot of classes, and have the music beside me, more and more.

 Is your new CD already in the international market?
AA: Yes, it is in several countries. In the United States and Canada, it’s in the World Music parade on the Jazz Week site, the most respected site about what is played on radio stations. The disc is available for purchase through my international distributor: It can be easily found on the main sites for sale and download on the Internet (Amazon, iTunes, EMusic, Rhapsody, Napster, etc… In Brazil, it’s being distributed by

A message for the Brazilians who live in Canada.
AA: I’ll send some messages: A lot of music to endure the cold! (just kidding). Hope to see you soon. Enjoy this wonderful country!!! …. In fact, I love Quebec City. I’ve also been to Montreal.