Gil & Milton

The two BPM giants make an album to exercise collaboration and honor their musical predecessors

Carlos Calado
"A soul filter". That’s how Gilberto Gil sums up the more intimate meaning of his awaited musical meeting with Milton Nascimento. The new collaboration has resulted in the album Gil & Milton (Warner), hitting the stores this week. "I cried a lot, got very emotional while making the album; since our first meetings in Bahia, when we started writing the songs. It cleanses the soul. If I had to describe it in one word, it would to be emotion", says the singer and songwriter from Bahia.

Even though the partnership had been planned five years before, during a flight back from Salvador, the two musicians only resolved to actually go for it in October 1999. "We spent a year interacting, experiencing each other", says Gil, evaluating the inner results of the recently developed friendship. "Milton led me toward more silent moods, which is so much like him. I had to soften my flamboyant ways, so as to balance things", he continues, picking the image of a condor to illustrate Milton’s musical disposition.

"Milton’s personality makes one think that he comes from the deepest abyss in the ocean, but his voice can be projected sky-high, up on the mountains. So in that aspect, he is a condor. He’s always seeing things from afar, from the above", compares Gil. "And I am so earthly, as is my music, so I reckon Milton has lifted me, a little, to a place I couldn’t reach by myself – which appears on the way I am singing in this album, more softly."

When the two finally sat down a year ago to select the repertoire for the disc, Milton’s first suggestion was Bom Dia – an obscure song that Gil had written with Nana Caymmi in 1967, by the time when he and Dorival Caymmi’s daughter were living together in São Paulo. "I had only heard that song once, during a music festival, and I never forgot it", Milton recalls. In his turn, Gil also selected a 60s song by Milton, which had impressed him from the very first audition: Canção do Sal. "I insisted that Elis record that song. I have always been in love with it", says the guy from Bahia.

The partners inform that they didn’t have to discuss their choices when it came to paying homage to two masters, one from Minas, the other from Bahia. From Dorival Caymmi, Milton picked Dora. Gil replied with Ary Barroso’s Maria. A third master was added later: Luiz Gonzaga, from whom they picked Baião da Garoa. Milton promptly accepted the inclusion of another basic reference for their generation. "He said we could choose any one from the Beatles", says Gil, who ended up suggesting a reggae version of George Harrison’s Something.

"Caetano had warned me about not putting too much pressure on Milton", says Gil, smiling as he admits to not having followed his old friend’s advice. When they met in Salvador, last summer, to write the new songs for the album, Gil swiftly talked Milton into writing some lyrics, as he had done in the beginning of his career. That’s how Sebastian came up, and by Milton’s request, gained "one of those rocky beats" so typical of Gil.

Another unreleased composition with Milton’s lyrics and Gil’s music is Duas Sanfonas. Against all odds, Brazilian teen country duo Sandy & Junior make a guest appearance on the track: "I chose them because they are so young. I like the way they sing with such singleness", Gil claims. "We don’t have to be concerned about what other people might think of it. The story was the same when I made Clube da Esquina nº 2. Everything in this new album is just like us", goes Milton. Gil doesn’t have high hopes of listening to Duas Sanfonas on the radio just because it features (very famous duo) Sandy & Junior. "The track was not produced in a competitive fashion. I like the fact that it turned out more lo-fi, production-wise."

The tour to promote Gil & Milton starts in November, in Rio, and continues around the main Brazilian capitals, but it shall be interrupted during the Rock in Rio festival (January), when they’re going to perform solo concerts.