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Brazil’s Maúcha Adnet: The Jobim Alumna Sings the Global Stage

Maúcha Adnet There are many musicians who cite late maestro Antonio Carlos Jobim as an influence and inspiration, but there are few who can claim to have performed with him.  Even fewer can boast having worked alongside him for as much as ten continuous years. 

Such is the case of vocalist Maúcha Adnet. Starting in 1984 until 1994, she was a full-time member of Jobim’s Banda Nova, the ensemble that accompanied him during his constant tours and also on his albums, including  The Unknown (released posthumously in 2003) and his final recording, Antonio Brasileiro (1994).

Ms. Adnet comes from a musical family. Her two brothers Mario and Chico Adnet are renowned arrangers, producers and songwriters in their own right, and her sister Muiza is also a respected vocalist with many solo and group releases under her belt. 

In addition to her work with Jobim, Ms. Adnet has recorded three solo albums and has also participated in sessions with the likes of late guitarist Charlie Byrd, Paulo Jobim, pianist Jovino Santos Neto and many others – including her husband, Trio da Paz drummer and co-leader Duduka da Fonseca.

Ms. Adnet spoke with us over a phone interview, when she talked with her early days with Céu da Boca vocal group, her years with Jobim and the path that led to her international career, which has taken her to stages  around the globe.

Your years with Jobim’s Banda Nova are quite well documented, so tell me about your origins – your family is quite rich with musicians and singers…

I started out when I was 15 with a group called “Céu da Boca.” Do you remember that?

I believe I do – I think it was somewhere in the late 70s or 80s, yes?

It was in the late 70s – I think 78. It was a group that started out through people who knew each other – the kind you would find in Rio in those days. I was asked to join the group because another singer with a lower voice had left, and they thought I could replace her, so they said, ‘Do you think you want to sing with us?’ and I said, ‘Sure.’ That was a great school for me. 

We made several records and also recorded with a whole bunch of people. We did TV and festivals. Working with that group trained my ear a lot to learn how to listen to each other’s voices. There are many solo singers out there who have never done vocal work with a group and are unable to combine their voice with that of another person. 

I mean, sometimes it works and many times it doesn’t. And if you have this experience you learn how to listen better. With that group, there was also the fact that everybody was very young, so the atmosphere was very friendly.

I worked with them for about 5 ½ years. I left almost at the end when they were about to break up – it was something very natural that happened. It was a very productive experience for me. We did a TV show once, and we were going to do Jobim’s “Samba do Avião.” We had to get the sheet music for that – you know, back then there was nothing like e-mail or fax, so we through various contacts we got to meet Jobim – it was the first time I had ever met him.  After that, we ran into each other several times, and I was invited to join his band.

I was about to ask that very question about your joining Banda Nova – but do go on

The timing was perfect – Céu da Boca was breaking up and I got to join Jobim’s band – so it was ten years until he left us.

So you were with them until the very end…

The only reason the band ceased to exist was because he died – a lot of people are not aware of that.

I recall hearing the band on his last disc, Antonio Brasileiro.

Yes – Duduka (Da Fonseca) is in it as well

Oh – I thought Paulo Braga was the drummer on that one.

Duduka  played on two tracks. Paulo Braga was the drummer in the album, and Duduka played percussion.

Speaking of your husband… how did you two meet?

No, I met him here in New York. Early in 1985 Banda Nova played at Carnegie Hall during the festivities for the 25 years of the bossa movement, and we came back several times. During one of those visits, I decided to stay a little longer to get to know the city, because every time we came we’d spend a couple of days and then leave. 

I was rooming with a couple of friends, and before I knew it I’d been here for over four months.  I met Duduka when he invited me to sing with his band. At that time there was also a recording session with (late guitarist) Charlie Byrd – things started to happen professionally.

Around that time, Jobim was also staying here with his family – he had bought an apartment in Manhattan, and they lived here for three years and a half. I worked with him during that time as well, and we would do tours in both Brazil and Europe. When I’d return, Duduka would receive me with flowers – by then (around February 1988) we were already living together.

So basically we met through work, but things developed only after a while.

So you stayed in Jobim’s band while you developed your own career…

Yes, I would sing here and there, invitations would happen – sometimes I’d go to Brazil to work there. It took a while until I recorded my first solo CD – that happened in 1997.

So you did take your time, right?

I have recorded three solo CDs – I am finishing work on my third one actually. In terms of solo work, I don’t really do much – I give it quite a few breaks that might be a bit long, but that is the way it goes with me. The next one will be a piano and vocal record made with Helio Alves. We have finished the recording process, and right now we are figuring out how and when to release it.

You do work with your family members quite frequently, right?

My brother Mario has included me in many of his projects – I have a great connection with him and also with my other brother, Chico – who has by the way finished his first recording. After he left Céu da Boca, he worked with commercial jingles for many years, He became a father at a very young age, and he realized that he had to earn a proper living. He is a very versatile guy – he plays multiple instruments – and so it happened that only recently – at 50 – he decided to release his solo record on his own label.

Moving on to your current career – when you sing Jobim’s music with Mr. Da Fonseca’s band, I have the impression that you are following  his original arrangements …

That is intentional – we choose what we are going to do, and depending on the situation – I recently sang  with (pianist) Jovino Santos Neto at the Caramoor Festival, and for that show the arrangements were customized for that event.  With Jobim’s music, the arrangements are very  incorporated to the way he wrote the music itself. Maybe I feel like that because I spent so much time in his band and also with Paulo Jobim and my brother Mario, and we all have maintained the original formats of the tunes with a few subtle  innovations or solos added to them that they sound as if we are playing exact covers. 

It really feels natural to me to sing those songs as they were created – some changes are cool, but it is important to keep them as they were conceived.

So your new disc – how is the concept?

The idea of this record came from working with Helio (Alves) throughout the years – whenever we perform together – either with his band or Duduka’s – there is always a moment when it’s just piano and voice, so we found a way to build a certain chemistry together. So we decided to make a nice selection of tunes with a nice dynamic. So we picked suitable tunes – some ballads, a few sambas – for instance Jobim’s  “Gabriela,” “Caetano Veloso’s “Coração Vagabundo.”

Ernest Barteldes is a freelance writer based on Staten Island, New York. He can be reached at ebarteldes@yahoo.com. This article appeared at the Brasilians.

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