Brazilian Match – Luiz Millan (JSR) – 2023

In 1962, the visionary producer Creed Taylor introduced the world to the beauty of Brazilian music with the release of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd’s landmark album Jazz Samba. The record, buoyed by the now-standard “Desafinado,” became an international hit and presented such notable composers as Antonio Carlos Jobim and Baden Powell.

Taylor went on to record the major-label debuts of Jobim, Luiz Bonfá, João Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto, Milton Nascimento, Walter Wanderley, Airto Moreira and Eumir Deodato, whose Taylor-produced debut yielded the worldwide hit “2001.” He also helmed one of jazz’s all-time best-selling albums, the four-time Grammy Award-winning Getz/Gilberto (1964).

Brazilian producer Arnaldo DeSouteiro has likewise done his part to bring the best of Brazil to the rest of the world. DeSouteiro – also a jazz journalist, historian and CTI expert – has worked extensively with Jobim, Bonfá, Deodato and Gilberto as well as Dom Um Romão, João Donato and Claudio Roditi. Additionally, he’s introduced us to such Brazilian lights as Ithamara Koorax, Yana Purim, Rodrigo Lima, Jorge Pescara and Paula Faour, among many others.

Now, the producer presents Brazil’s most remarkable contemporary singer-songwriter, Luiz Millan. ”Luiz is such a great composer,” enthuses DeSouteiro. “He comes out of the tradition of Jobim, Bonfá, Edu Lobo and Chico Buarque, yet follows those Brazilian masters with a more modern spice and a personality all his own.”

While Millan came to music later in life than most, Brazilian Match should prove to be his breakout moment. Here, DeSouteiro has paired this most expressive artist with a bevy of international heavy-hitters to showcase a unique master of melody and lyrical form.

Born in São Paulo in 1955, Luiz Millan studied classical piano as a child and popular acoustic guitar as a teenager. He graduated in 1982 from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of São Paulo, specializing in Psychiatry and in Psychoanalysis from the Brazilian Society of Psychoanalysis.

Millan has composed film scores, written songs for other Brazilian singers, recorded four albums of his own and is the subject of the 2020 documentary feature Achados e Pardidos. Brazilian Match is his fifth CD release.

Luiz’s partners here are all allies and longtime associates. They include keyboardist and arranger Michel Freidenson, guitarists Jorge Pinheiro and Camilo Carrara, reed player Teco Cardoso, bassist Sylvinho Mazzucca, drummers Edu Ribeiro, Igor Willcox and Mauricio Zottarelli, accordion player Toninho Ferragutti, and singer Giana Viscardi.

“As producer,” DeSouteiro says, “my intention here was to add more colors and a jazz touch, creating an album that would give Millan’s tremendous body of work an international exposure.” The producer himself selected the repertoire and worked closely with Freidenson – whom DeSouteiro rightly describes as “brilliant” – suggesting the instrumentation, the tempos and the soloists.

The producer then set about calling his “superfriends.” “That’s something I learned from Creed Taylor,” he says, citing the late producer’s penchant for all-star line-ups: “’If you are able to work with the best musicians on the planet, why not?”

The starry cast DeSouteiro invited to Millan’s party shines throughout.

Of special note are the Grammy-winning artists David Sanborn, Randy Brecker and Mark Egan, plus Eddie Daniels, Mike Mainieri, Ada Rovatti, Danny Gottlieb, Josh Marcum and ace guitarists John Tropea (an arranger’s favorite, recording iconic albums with Claus Ogerman, Lalo Schifrin and Deodato, notably on the aforementioned “2001”) on “Pacuíba” and first-call studio ace Barry Finnerty (Miles Davis, The Crusaders and many others) who, as DeSouteiro points out, “kills” on “Lua Cheia.”

The guest vocalists are equally celestial, with such international talents as the New York Voices, Ellen Johnson, Alice Soyer, Lisa Ono – Japan’s most famous singer – and  the French treasure Clémentine.

“Working with two geniuses like Arnaldo DeSouteiro and Michel Freidenson was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Luiz Millan told me. “In addition to my usual partners, whom I love, we’ve been super-charged by these outstanding musicians from across the musical spectrum. The result is astonishing. I am so grateful to everyone.”

Sixty years after Jazz Samba, the far-sighted Arnaldo DeSouteiro delivers what may well be a new landmark for a new generation. Like its predecessor, Brazilian Match brings divergent worlds together and transcends boundaries to deliver a welcome sound for troubling times.

Douglas Payne
October 2022

Jazz historian and archivist Douglas Payne has written for All About Jazz, All Music Guide and dougpayne.com. He has contributed liner notes to albums by Lalo Schifrin, Freddie Hubbard, Oscar Peterson, Claus Ogerman, Cal Tjader, Gary McFarland, Gabor Szabo and others.