Feb 22 2013

Nilson Matta: Black Orpheus


More Than Revisiting Classics



Black Orpheus

Having appeared in over twenty critically acclaimed albums (some were even Grammy winners), Nilson Matta has made a name for himself as a heavily sought after bassist. He has performed with giants including João Gilberto, Hermeto Pascoal, Nana CaymmiJohnny AlfHélio Delmiro,Kenny Barron, Joe Henderson, Paquito D’Rivera, Herbie Mann, Hendrik MeurkensOscar Castro-Neves, Yo Yo Ma, Sadao Watanabe and many other stellar musicians. For readers of MúsicaBrasileira.org, Nilson is probably very well known as a co-leader of Trio da Paz and Brazilian Trio. His individual projects include Encontros (in 2000, featuring Hendrik Meurkens), Walking With My Bass (in 2006, with superstars João Bosco,Ivan Lins and Rosa Passos), Brazilian Voyage. (in 2010) and Mojave (in 2011, with Roni Ben-Hur).

Black Orpheus is more than just revisiting the classic soundtrack of the 1959 Brazilian-Italian-French production directed by Marcel Camus. The movie, as it is widely known, was based on Vinícius de Moraes’ play Orfeu da Conceição, which was an adaptation of the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice set to a favela in Rio de Janeiro. For the movie, the soundtrack was written by Antônio Carlos Jobim, Vinícius de Moraes and Luiz Bonfá.

One feature that sets this album apart is that Nilson Matta expertly added some of his original compositions to the classic movie repertoire. Furthermore, the brief instrumental interludes performed in Black Orpheusare a superb addition to the music providing a beautiful connection as if in a movie.The movie went on to world fame and won the 1959 Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or, the 1960 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the 1960 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film and the 1961 BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Needless to say that songs such as “A Felicidade,” “Samba de Orfeu” and “Manhã de Carnaval” have become world classics.

Nilson Matta

On top of all of that, I must mention the incredible star line-up that Nilson assembled for this recording. Nilson states that he had been conceptualizing this project in his head for over 20 years. It was not only important to have guest star power for such a project. Nilson said: “In thinking about recording this music, I had to first consider the Brazilian rhythms that are so important to the movie’s Carnaval setting.” With that foundation, it is no wonder that all the music we hear is performed elegantly and captivatingly. The Brazilian percussionists who perform here are Alex Kautz, Fernando Saci, Jorjão Silva, Erivelton Silva and Reinaldo Silva. Brazilian guitarist Guilherme Monteiro also joins the group. The foreign musicians who also lend their talents to the album are Kenny Barron, Randy Brecker, Gretchen Parlato, Klaus Mueller, Anat Cohen. Because Black Orpheus was recorded both in New York City and Rio de Janeiro, Nilson was able to secure vocals by none other than Leny Andrade in two tracks of the album: “A Felicidade” and “Se Todos Fossem Iguais a Você.” The latter has quickly become my favorite rendition of that song. The other vocalist featured in the album is Gretchen Parlato. Her unique vocal approach to “Eu e o Meu Amor/Lamento no Morro” and “Valsa de Eurídice” are reminiscent of Rosa Passos‘ style, articulation, phrasing and voice timbre. Check out the video clip at the end of this article.

About Nilson Matta’s personal approach to music, there is not much one can say without using plenty of superlative words: accomplished, consummate, polished, unrivaled. What truly sets Nilson among the top bassists in the world is his joy for the music he performs. He is not a musician who will add bass solos just to show off. The music, instead, takes center stage and is his top priority. Nevertheless, rest assured that Nilson’s skills and bass lines are clearly heard throughout the entire album. You will most definitely fall in love with Black Orpheus all over again!

Here is a short sound clip of “Eu e o Meu Amor,” featuring Gretchen Parlato:

Please visit Nilson Matta to read more about Black Orpheus and other amazing music he performs.



Nilson Matta
Black Orpheus 
Motéma Music MTM-103 (2013)
Time: 58’25”


  1. Overture (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
  2. Repinique Interlude
  3. Samba de Orfeu (Luiz Bonfá)
  4. A Felicidade (Antonio Carlos Jobim – Vinícius de Moraes)
  5. Cuíca Interlude
  6. O Nosso Amor (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
  7. Manhã de Carnaval (Luiz Bonfá)
  8. Batucada, Pt. 1
  9. Eu e o Meu Amor/Lamento No Morro (Antonio Carlos Jobim – Vinícius de Moraes)
  10. Frevo de Orfeu (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
  11. Valsa de Eurídice (Vinícius de Moraes)
  12. Ascend, My Love (Nilson Matta)
  13. Um Nome de Mulher (Antonio Carlos Jobim – Vinícius de Moraes)
  14. Batucada, Pt. 2
  15. Se Todos Fossem Iguais a Você (Antonio Carlos Jobim – Vinícius de Moraes)
  16. Violão Interlude
  17. Hugs and Kisses (Nilson Matta)