The timeless nostalgia of Brazilian legend Milton Nascimento

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Floating Points, Four Tet, Valesuchi and more explore the legacy of the guitarist and composer.

Milton Nascimento is one of the most idiosyncratic voices in Brazilian music. While contemporaries like Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa and Tom Zé were forming the Tropicália movement in Salvador de Bahia, Nascimento was building his own musical collective, Clube da Esquina, in the inland region of Minas Gerais.

A ‘street corner club’ born from his friendship with Lô Borges, the collective would lend its name to what remains Nascimento’s defining work – an expansive, orchestrated album that featured era-defining tracks like ‘Tudo O Que Você Podia Ser’ and one of Brazil’s most recognisable record sleeves.

In the following six years before the release of Clube da Esquina 2, Nascimento broke onto the international stage with Native Dancer, and recorded alongside saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Since then, he has gone on to release close to forty albums and collaborated with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Paul Simon and George Duke.

Lauded for their compositional complexity, ground-breaking production techniques, powerful sense of purpose and elusive melancholy, the Clube Da Esquina albums have influenced musicians in Brazil and beyond.

To mark Nascimaento’s return to the live stage for a special performance at the Barbican in London, we asked nine musicians, DJs and producers to reflect on the personal and universal appeal of his music.


Floating Points

Floating Points is a British producer, multi-instrumentalist and DJ. He co-founded Eglo Records, his own Pluto imprint and reissue label Melodies International.

When did you first hear the music of Milton Nascimento and what do you love about it now?

It was the Clube Da Esquina LP, I think via Patrick Forge. I then felt like I heard it everywhere, so never picked up a copy. On my first trip to Brazil, I was in a record shop and saw a copy and thought, “well… I should probably get this now!” It was the mono pressing, which I understand is one of the rarest Brazillian pressings of any record.

I probably still listen to this LP every month. The tracks are short, but pack in a million ideas without being too fussy. The arrangements are tight, and the recording is brilliant.

In what ways has his music influenced you?

As with a lot of Brazilian records, I love the confidence with which records of this era were mixed. On a technical level, there are some pretty radical techniques, especially with stereo use. Musically, melodically, harmonically, the instrumentation… It’s just so wholesome and so succinct, it reminds me sometimes to get to the point, although I sometimes wish this LP was twice the length.

What’s your favourite track / record?

It’s hard to say. I used to play ‘Trem De Doido’ and ‘Cravo e Canela’ at Plastic People a lot – the mono pressing I have has a lot more bass than the stereo pressing, so it sounded crazy in there.


Four Tet

Four Tet is a British producer, DJ and founder of Text Records. He has released nine albums as Four Tet and several more under his real name, Kieran Hebden and alias KH.

When did you first hear the music of Milton Nascimento and what do you love about it now?

I first heard Milton Nascimento when I was a young child, probably around 6 or 7 years old. My parents had been given his album Sentinela by some friends, and they loved it and played it all the time. My dad continued to get Nascimento’s new albums and played his music while I was growing up so I heard it quite often. During my first trip to Brazil in the early 2000s I learnt about the records that came before Sentinela, and then got deep into his whole catalogue.

In what ways has his music influenced you?

There is probably no obvious direct influence, but I find all artists who have a long and evolving back catalogue very inspiring. I love artists like Nascimento who have been on a deep musical journey, and it’s well documented in the music.

What’s your favourite track / record?

Sentinela will always be my favourite because I grew up with it, and it’s quite personal to me. Clube Da Esquina is an all time masterpiece though, and everyone needs to hear that record. It should be taught in schools.


Valesuchi

Valesuchi is a Chilean DJ and producer currently living in Rio De Janeiro. She is affliated to Matias Aguayo’s Cómeme label and recently released a split EP with ótimoKaráter on Domina.

When did you first hear the music of Milton Nascimento and what do you love about it now?

I guess it was when I was a teenager. I love its depth, and how his music can be super strong and subtle at the same time. It has both super arranged and unexpected moments, while other songs seem to be made in an apparently simple way. The effect on your spirit is direct, regardless of the production, kind of like J Dilla’s music. I also love understanding the lyrics and the images he describes now that I can speak Portuguese.

In what ways has his music influenced you?

I think the Brazilian musical universe is way more complex than we foreigners seem to understand, so it takes some real attention to dig into its meanings and subtle contexts to measure why it feels so unique. I’m not sure I can say he has influenced me more than others of his generation, but I’m inspired by how sacred his relationship to music seems to be.

What’s your favourite track / record and why?

I can’t say I know all of his records, but my favourite is Sentinela from 1980.


D.Vyzor

D.Vyzor is a Brazilian DJ living in London. He presents a night at Brilliant Corners, and regularly plays at venues like Jazz Café.

When did you first hear the music of Milton Nascimento and what do you love about it now?

I heard Milton Nascimento’s music for the first time at my parents house, at the end of the ’80s. My dad and my uncle always used to buy records, things like Elis Regina, Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque and many more. I always tried to meet people who had records at home, so that I could visit and spend the day listening. If they had any Milton Nascimento albums, then you could be sure that were good, positive people. What I love about his music now is that it still gives me the same feeling. I can listen Clube da Esquina hundreds of times, but it will never be in the same twice.

For those who don’t know ‘Clube da Esquina’ (Corner Club) was not a real club, it was just a corner of the street where Milton’s partner (Lô Borges) used to live. Milton and Lô Borges used to live in the same building and played together in this corner of the street for hours and hours just for fun during the ’60s.

In what ways has his music influenced you?

His music is like a soft bridge that can take you in another direction, not just in terms of Brazilian music, but jazz as well. Actually, the way he plays guitar and sings (he’s a great arranger too) was next level for so many musicians and singers, not only in Brazil – just ask Wayne Shorter.

What’s your favourite track / record?

My favourite track is ‘Travessia’ and my favourite record is his first, Milton Nascimento, in 1967. ‘Travessia’ is a sad song, but incredibly powerful. It can take you to a beautiful place full of metaphors. I love that so much.


Renata Do Valle

Renata Do Valle is a Brazilian DJ living in New York. Her label Hello Sailor is about to release a new compilation of Brazilian street soul.

When did you first hear the music of Milton Nascimento and what do you love about it now?

I probably first heard Nascimento’s music when I was in the womb! I listened to his albums growing up, through my parents records, radio and TV shows. His voice is so powerful and grandiose, that I was always in awe and speechless. It has that majestic power to make people stop, contemplate and reflect on the messages being passed through the lyrics and melodies. It resonates and ignites positive change like no other artist.

What’s your favourite track / record?

I really like Wayne Shorter’s Native Dancer (1975) featuring Milton Nascimento. It is a beautiful recording, which also features other jazz legends Herbie Hancock and Airto Moreira.


Joe Davis

Joe Davis is the founder of Far Out Recordings, an independent label that has released numerous new LPs and reissues from Brazil, including a pair of previously unreleased Milton Nascimento albums.

When did you first hear the music of Milton Nascimento and what do you love about it now?

When I was a kid, back in the soul boy days! I still love it now just as much as I did back then, it simply never gets old. Hearing his music these days gives me a very nostalgic feeling. You could listen to Shalamar alongside Milton on certain radio shows and pirate stations. However, his early LPs on A&M hold a distant memory of my childhood, and leave a melancholic feeling in my heart.

In what ways has his music influenced you?

He’s one of the greats, a cultural icon and a major influence upon the label, as a composer, singer and arranger. In 2004, Far Out were honoured to put out two previously unreleased LPs, that were originally recorded in 1976 and 1980 respectively. His songs have been covered and re-interpreted many times on the Far Out catalogue too.

What’s your favourite track / record?

It has to be ‘Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser’ and Clube Da Esquina. The album is a faultless, era-defining masterpiece. Credit to Lô Borges too and his writing partners. I discovered a whole new world of his music after my trips to Brazil in the ’80s and was blown away.


Alice Whittington

Alice Whittington is the London-based label manager for Soundway Records. She DJs as Norsicaa and has a regular show on Soho Radio.

When did you first hear the music of Milton Nascimento and what do you love about it now?

I remembering watching Terry Gilliam’s dystopian sci-fi movie Brazil in the early 2000s and feeling quite emotional when I heard Ary Barroso’s ‘Aquarela do Brasil’. This lead me down a rabbit hole to a CD-only compilation of the same name of Nascimento’s music, which had also come out around then. It didn’t have his greatest work on there, but it brings back a comforting nostalgia of the time.

In what ways has his music influenced you?

In the earliest days of discovering jazz when I was a teenager, I heard Nascimento on Wayne Shorter’s Native Dancer. It opened my eyes to how different styles can come together in such beautiful synchronicity and create something different to what I had previously heard. It keeps me hopeful that music will continue to evolve and create sounds that we can barely imagine in the present.

What’s your favourite track / record?

The album Milagre dos Peixes is just a wonderful long player to listen to on a Sunday afternoon. You go on a journey through all kinds of moods: peacefulness, freneticism, sadness, child-like wonder, celebration…


Stuart Baker

Stuart Baker is the founder of Soul Jazz Records and responsible for several compilations and reissues from Brazilian artists over the last twenty five years.

When did you first hear the music of Milton Nascimento and what do you love about it now?

About 20 years ago. Milton Nascimento was one of the main Brazilian artists that followed in the wake of the success of bossa Nova in the 1960s. The American producer Creed Taylor launched his new CTI label in 1969, after successfully working with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Joao Gilberto in the mid-1960s. Taylor brought the cream of Brazilian artists to New York to work alongside American jazz musicians like Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Hubert Laws. Nascimento was one of the first Brazilian artists to record in New York during this time, alongside Eumir Deodato, Luiz Eca’s Tamba Trio, Walter Wanderley and others.

In what ways has his music influenced you?

I like all Brazilian music, but Nascimento is particularly deep, and yet still centred around hypnotically catchy melodies.

What’s your favourite track / record?

I distinctly remember Gilles Peterson playing ‘Para Lennon e McCartney’ four times in a row at Dingwalls. He had just bought the record from Joe Davis, who had returned from Brazil with a new stash of records. Joe was standing next to me at the time – it was quite funny. By the end of the fourth time, everyone on the dancefloor was in love with the track.


Robert Stillman

Robert Stillman is a saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist based in London. He recently released new album Reality via Orindal Records.

When did you first hear the music of Milton Nascimento and what do you love about it now?

I heard Clube Da Esquina during my first winter in New York City in 2001. I was hanging around with a guy from high school who was younger, but was kind of my guru in those early days because he’d been in New York for a while and was making his way as a record dealer. He put on Clube for me very late one night, and I went into some kind of stupor – I guess I was overwhelmed with the music. I slept the whole night sitting in that chair, and it wasn’t a comfortable chair either!

One thing I love about this music is that it takes me back to that part of my life when everything was expanding at a very rapid pace. That’s the nature of this music too – it feels like it is constantly evolving without any clear limits. In other words, it gives the sense that it can go anywhere at any point, and it usually does.

In what ways has his music influenced you?

The complexity of this music is astonishing – I’ve listened to it many, many times, and I’m still discovering new things, particularly with regards to sound production. Each sound seems very closely considered, both in terms of texture and placement.

More than anything, I really love how, for all its sophistication, this music is absolutely unbound. There’s just no fear anywhere there, it is totally fearless music.

What’s your favourite track / record?

I think it’s the last song, ‘Ao Que Vai Nascer’, for similar reasons I mentioned before: the music is in constant evolution. I think the lyrics to this one are by Fernando Brandt, and from the translations I’ve read, it’s quite abstract, but I read it as being about facing the unknown, facing death, “What’s Going to Happen?” So its the conclusion of a long record, a real journey, but it’s totally open-ended: right at the last minute, there’s a new groove with more instruments, and then it fades out before you find out how it ends: that’s life!

Milton Nascimento’s Clube Da Esquina European tour starts in London 17th June finishing in Paris on 6th July.

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