Nascimento is Milton Nascimento's most deeply Brazilian-sounding album in a long time, and also the most downcast, but none the worse in its emotional impact. He adopts the battering, heavy percussion rhythms of the folia boxes (popularized by Olodum) on several tracks, which frame the main portion of the album and give it enormous vitality. There isn't a bumper crop of new songs here (only half of the 12 tracks), but what there is represents the most interesting material he has recorded in some time, including the beautiful "Rouxinol" with its haunting accordion, flute and a gently hypnotic rhythm, and the arresting "Louva-A-Deus," pitting Nascimento's voice against the huge drums. Particularly affecting is Léo Masliah's "Guardanapos de Papel," sung in Portuguese at first and reprised in Spanish at the album's close, which has an almost despairing Nascimento singing about prophetic yet impoverished poets with tasteful piano/keyboard textures. He offers a touching vocalese on his friend Wayne Shorter's "Ana Maria" from their collaboration Native Dancer as a memorial to Shorter's late wife (lost on the TWA plane that crashed into the Atlantic in 1996), with soprano saxophonist Nivaldo Ornelas offering a different take on Shorter's lead. Just about everyone seems to take on "Ol' Man River" sooner or later, but Nascimento does it as a vocalese with large choir -- and it works. So far, this CD represents his best work of the '90s and even a good part of the '80s, a genuine renaissance for the Brazilian icon.
by Richard S. Ginell