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Milton Nascimento says goodbye to the stage, but ‘never to the music’

The colossal Brazilian singer-songwriter’s farewell tour comes to the Birchmere

Brazilian singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento. (Marcos Hermes)

Milton Nascimento says he never planned the beautiful zigzags of his musical career, and if you trace the contours of his teeming songbook, you’ll have no choice but to believe him.

In 1972, he quietly etched his greatness in stone with “Clube da Esquina,” a subtle and sumptuous collaborative album with Lô Borges named after the duo’s musical coterie, the “street corner club.” Two years later, Nascimento was singing breathtaking mockingbird duets with Wayne Shorter’s saxophone. By the time the curtain fell on the 1990s, Nascimento’s bright, clarifying voice had won the admiration of Herbie Hancock; Paul Simon; Earth, Wind and Fire; Duran Duran; Pat Metheny; Peter Gabriel; and James Taylor. And he’d recorded with them all, too.

But after six decades of open-minded exploration and big-hearted improvisation, Nascimento had to map his current chapter in advance. “Everything in my life happens naturally, and with music it’s the same,” Nascimento, 79, says in an email from a farewell tour that has already woven its way through Europe and Brazil. “After 60 years of career, the time has come. But as I’ve been saying, I say goodbye to the stages, never to the music.”

It’s hard to imagine saying goodbye to Nascimento’s music. In his prime, his voice seemed to exist in some anti-gravitational state between floating and soaring, and his ability to suspend exquisite melodies over motley song forms led him toward alliances with pop stars of nearly every stripe. Nascimento still speaks of his co-creators with all the warmth you hear in his music, but he’s quick to extend that gratitude to his most loyal collaborators — his listeners.

“I often say without friendship I would be nothing,” Nascimento says. “The most important things on my journey happened because of the great friends who crossed my path. Another thing I always say is this: Without friendship, I don’t even cross the street.”

Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. Sold out.