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BY JAZZIZ (Winter 2024)


While he now teachers at the University of Minnesota, Adolfo Mendonça mantains vivid memoris of his "Brazilian Childhood" - which not coincidentally is the title of his most recent, self-released recording. On individual tracks, the keyboardist, composer and educator provides musical impressionais of the Ponta da Praia, a neighborhood in the city of Santos, and the Alto da Serra, a hill outside the city of Serra Negra, where people go to watch the sunset. He also honors the legendary Jobim canon with read of "Dindi" and "Desafinado", but reachers further afield, as well, by interpreting the Nirvana single "In Bloom". The album's title track has the breezy of bossa nova, but is electrified by fusion elements that color and texture the mix. Mendonça's sparkling electric keyboards are prominent, and bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer James Dreier lend rhythmic musicle. The sound of children laughing and playing further underlines the nostalgic feel, while vocalists Arthur Garrido and Tammy Scheffer add layers of joy and wistfulnees for days gone by. The keyboardist's sprightly playing evokes Chick Corea at his most lyrical, and Jose Valentino Ruiz's super flute solo highlights the track.




Adolfo Mendonca

Brazilian Childhood


            Adolfo Mendonca is an adventurous jazz keyboardist and composer from Brazil who is based in the United States. While he has been performing for more than 20 years, and has been featured at jazz clubs and festivals in several countries (the US, Brazil, France and Mexico), Brazilian Childhood is his first recording as a leader. It features the keyboardist in a core trio with bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman with guest appearances by trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarist Luiz Oliveira, and singer Ona Kirei.  

            The set begins with four originals by the keyboardist. The opening selection, “Brazilian Childhood,” uses a slightly different lineup than the rest of the program with Arturo Garrido Jr. and Tammy Scheffer on vocals, drummer James Dreier instead of Feinman, and Jose Valentine Ruiz taking an outstanding and high-powered flute solo. The electronic soundscape is quite atmospheric and Mendonca has a creative spot on synth in addition to leading the dense ensembles with the singers.

            “Ponta Da Praia” is a feature for Brecker over lightly funky rhythms. His trumpet solo, which ranges from mellow to blazing, is outstanding. The trio stretches out on “Alto Da Serra” with the pianist displaying an original and personal style. The first of two versions of “Iowa Winter Sky” features Ona Kirei’s wordless vocalizing with the trio on the picturesque ballad.

            Next up are fresh takes on a pair of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s most famous songs. “Dindi, one of Jobim’s most romantic themes, is performed at first as a duet by Ona Kirei (who has a beautiful voice) and bassist Arenas before the full group comes in and the performance grooves joyfully. “Desafinado” swings hard but keeps the melody close by even during an inventive bass solo by Arenas.

            The attractive piece “Plush” (a hit for Stone Temple Pilots) and Kurt Cobain’s “In Bloom” find Adolfo Mendonca and his group turning a pair of rock songs into jazz. “Plush” puts the spotlight on the leader’s lyrical piano while the intense “In Bloom” (which has Luiz Oliveira contributing some rockish guitar) displays Mendonca’s comfort and expertise on electric keyboards. The enjoyable program concludes with the second version of “Iowa Winter Sky,” this time taken as a thoughtful instrumental.

            Throughout the set, Mendonca consistently takes rewarding solos that are melodic, groove, and are full of creativity. He has his own musical personality and, even during the most passionate moments, his playing is accessible. Brazilian Childhood serves as a perfect introduction to the musical talents of Adolfo Mendonca, a keyboardist and composer who is well worth discovering.


Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian

BY JAZZ WEEKLY - GEORGE HARRIS - October 30, 2023 

Pianist and composer Adolfo Mendonca puts together and album that proves that although Brazilian jazz may have begun with Antonio Jobim, it did not end there. He brings together elements of the bossa nova giant with many ideas and works of his own, teamed with a core of Alejandro Arenas/b, Mark Feinman/dr and mix and match guest list of Randy Brecker/tp, Ona Kirei-Athur Garido-Tammy Scheffer/voc, James Dreier/dr and  Luiz Oliveira/g

On the more traditional side, Ona Kirei glides with Arenas on a lilting duet intro to “Dindi” before the band glides in and Mendonca assuages the melody with his ivories. Mendonca is clean and clear over Feinman’s brushes and around Arenas’ featured solo on “Desifinado” while a read of Kurt Cobain’s “In Bloom” has some upbeat rockish guitar supplied by Oliveria teamed with the leader on keyboards.

The band brings a gospel feel to the pulsating “Plush”, whereas on Mendonca’s own material Brecker is soft and fluffy on the dreamy “Ponta da Praia” and Tammy Scheffer blends with Arthur Garrido on a well grooved and soulful “Brazilian Childhood”. Two takes of “Iowa Winter Sky” feature Ona Kirei’s dreamy voice in a romantic and ethereal atmosphere, whereas an alternate version lets Mendonca and Arenas carry the mood. Mendonca’s touch on the keyboards gives hints of soul/jazz icon Joe Sample, and his acoustic tone is as warm and soft as a veteran catcher’s mitt. In the tradition without sounding traditional.

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