From Left: Paolo Braga, Milton Nascimento, Daniel Jobim and Paolo Jobim
It was the prodigiously talented but temperamental singer Elis Regina who first brought fellow Brazilian Milton Nascimento — he of the famous velvety falsetto and impressive range — into national prominence by recording his “Canção do Sal” and later appearing with him on television in 1966. His group Clube da Esquina flourished with a string of hits through the '70s. It was in 1974, however, that he really made a name for himself internationally. He recorded Native Dancer, considered a jazz and proto-world music standout, with saxophonist Wayne Shorter. It led to the singer/guitarist being highly sought-after for other collaborations with the likes of Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, George Duke, Quincy Jones, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock and others.
All along, though, he continued working with well-known Brazilian contemporaries, including Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso. Still, there was one particular collaboration Nascimento was never able to put together: cutting an album with Antonio Carlos (“Tom”) Jobim, one of the architects of bossa nova. Nascimento was a friend of the icon and knew his music well. “Since the very first time I heard his songs,” Nascimento says, “Tom Jobim's music became a part of my life and we played together many times,” but never recorded before Jobim's death of a heart attack in 1994.
Now, Nascimento has teamed up with the Jobim Trio — Jobim's guitarist son Paolo, pianist grandson Daniel and drummer Paulo Braga, plus bassist Rodrigo Villa — for a celebration of the Jobim legacy called Novas Bossas. Nascimento's connections with these musicians go way back, too: Daniel Jobim says he remembers the singer dedicating a big concert in São Paulo to him when he was just 3. And Nascimento was in the Berimbau Trio with Braga in the '60s.
For years, too, the Jobims and Nascimento vacationed together at a secluded beach in Rio de Janeiro, where conversations about recording together would naturally arise. In January 2007, a concert at the city's Botanical Gardens celebrating what would have been Tom Jobim's 80th birthday became the impetus to finally make an album. “Playing together with them for the first time was really emotional,” Nascimento says. “This was a wish we had for such a long time that finally came about on the CD.”
The magical feeling of that successful memorial concert carried over to Novas Bossas, which was recorded at Nascimento's home in Rio beginning in the spring and fall of 2007. The singer/guitarist has a large basement area perfect for rehearsing, performing and tracking. “Me and the musicians from my generation miss this kind of gathering that used to happen so often — coming to each other's homes to meet and play,” he says. “So when we got together to plan the CD, we decided to record in my house.”
As one might expect, what was recorded were essentially live performances, with co-producer/engineer Chico Neves in charge of tracking. A former staff engineer for EMI and Warner Bros.' Brazil operations, Neves has produced or engineered recordings for many contemporary Brazilian artists — including the Jobim Trio — yet Novas Bossas marked the first time he and Nascimento worked together.
For this project in Nascimento's home, Neves used a Pro Tools Mixplus system; Dynaudio BM15A monitors; Jensen TwinServo, Summit TPA 200B, Daking 52270 and Avalon VT 737 mic preamps; and Empirical Labs Distressor and Summit TPA 100A compressors. Mics included a Neumann U47 (piano/vocals), Sennheiser 504 (toms), Beyer Opus 65 (kick), Neumann KU100 Dummy Head (overall drums) and an AKG 414 (guitar).
“They were all so happy and I would even record while they were working out arrangements,” Neves recalls. “Then they would say, ‘Let's record it,’ and I would say, ‘It's already recorded!’” With everyone recording in one room, leakage was an issue, especially with the vocals, so most of Nascimento's leads were re-recorded separately. Nascimento also layered vocals on several songs — he jokingly calls the extra voicings his “cousins.”
Mixing was UK engineer Ben Findlay, former chief engineer at Real World Studios, who had come to Brazil to work on a track with Nascimento for another project when Neves suggested that he mix one with the Jobim Trio, as well. The mix for Novas Bossas began two weeks before Christmas 2007 at Neves' Rio studio “We basically mixed inside the box,” Findlay says. “Because of the nature of the instrumentation, I just used a very simple EQ and compression setup, which was the Bomb Factory LA-2A, Fairchild Emulator and the Pultec [plug-ins]. I kind of thought by setting myself some limitations that were related to the time that the music was originally recorded, we might be able to capture some of the mood of those earlier records, as well.”