Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images
Within the global jazz community, Milton Nascimento’s career has served as reminder of the potential creativity and innovation that can occur within disasporic spaces. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1942, Nascimento’s mother was a maid and died when he was eighteen months old. He was adopted by her employers—a math teacher and electronic technician father, and music teacher and choir singer mother—and moved to the city of Três Pontas. As a youth, Nascimento performed at music festivals with his mother and occasionally worked as a DJ at a radio station run by his father. At nineteen he moved to the city of Belo Horizonte and began singing and playing guitar wherever he could. He met fellow musician Lo Borges and the pair helped to shape the Clube da Esquina (corner club) movement, which mixed jazz, rock, classical, and Brazilian styles and rose to popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s post-bossa nova era. His big break occurred in 1966 when Elis Regina, a pop singer, recorded one of his songs, “Canção do Sal.” She got him a televised performance and the following year he was featured at Brazil’s International Song Festival. He had a series of hit songs and in 1972 released, with help from his Clube da Esquina collaborators, the Clube da Esquina album through EMI. Radical, the album attracted interest from many international musicians, including Wayne Shorter, who hired Nascimento to play on his 1974 Native Dancer album. This propelled Nascimento to international acclaim and he continued to collaborate with artists in various genres including Paul Simon, Quincy Jones, and Duran Duran.