Milton Nascimento: An Evening of Evolution

Monday night was a bucket evening for me.  You know how you have these musical icons on your bucket list in terms of people / groups that you want to see perform before leaving this life?  Well, seeing Milton Nascimento perform at the Rialto Center for The Arts Monday night provides me the opportunity to lessen my bucket list by one name (granted, I’ve still got to see ‘The Eagles’, ‘The Rolling Stones’, and ‘Prince’, but I digress).

From the first time I heard Milton’s voice on Wayne Shorter’s 1974 album “Native Dancer”, doing the vocals on ‘Ponta De Areia’, I have been intrigued by his voice (as evidenced by the enclosed You Tube video).  Watching Milton’s international presence evolve over the last 40 years has been fun to watch — especially in the jazz world.  Milton says that appearing on Shorter’s album was a turning point in his career — an integral part of his evolution.  This appearance eventually led to collaborations with jazz pioneers like Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, and Esperanza Spalding just to name a few.

The 73-year-old Nascimento was met with a rousing applaud from the packed Rialto crowd as he “shuffled” onto the stage.  While my Portuguese /Spanish is a tad rusty (a nice way of saying I’m challenged in both languages), my ears are totally bilingual; and what I heard last night was marvelous.  After the first few numbers I felt I was attending a world music concert; then it evolved into a jazz concert; then, post-curtain call it evolved into a party!

As with any vocalist that is getting on in years and  whose voice depends a great deal on reaching falsetto levels (think Eddie Kendricks, Smokey Robinson, El DeBarge), Nascimento’s voice experiences the periodic crack when reaching for the upper registers.  This however didn’t take away from a quality performance; also, this review would be totally of non effect and incomplete if kudos aren’t given to the five-piece band playing behind Nascimento:

-Kiko Continentino, Piano

-Widor Santiago, Sax (tenor & soprano)

-Wilson Lopes, Guitar

-Lincoln Cheib, Drums

-Gastao Villeroy, Bass

To say these players were tight and locked in just seems to be insufficient.  All five of these musicians seem totally capable of doing their own individual things musically, and complimented Milton beautifully.

I would also be remiss if kudos weren’t given to Leslie Gordon and her team at the Rialto — from the  PR group, to the ladies handling the tickets, to the folks doing concessions, to the parking (which by the way is free); everything relative to the venue was top shelf and professional.

Needless to say, audiences in the other seven cities on Nascimento’s eight city mini-tour are in for a treat, and since this is his first U.S. visit in almost ten years, I would strongly recommend folks get their tickets and get them early in order to see this Brazilian icon.

~ KJ

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