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No Cover: Hermeto Pascoal

Monday, October 11, 2010

Multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal, at 74-years young, is a legendary and wildly experimental jazz musician beloved throughout his native Brazil. He recently played Lincoln Center Out Of Doors.

Before You Press Play:

Hometown: Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil

The Facts: Raised in Lagoa da Canoa, Alagoas, in Brazil’s rugged northeast, Hermeto Pascoal had no formal schooling, electricity or radio for the first 14 years of his life. Despite these supposed deprivations, he learned to play music from listening to nature and subsequently began to make homemade instruments such as "pumpkin flutes." In larger Brazilian cities—Recife, Rio and São Paolo—Pascoal began to hone his musical chops on accordion, piano, flute and other instruments. He performed with the groups the Fafá Lemos Band, Quarteto Novo and Mundo Verde Esperança, among others.

In the late '60s, Pascoal met Miles Davis, and impressed the American trumpeter and bandleader so much that he recorded two songs with him, “Nem Um Talvez” (“Not Even a Maybe”) and “Igrejinha” (“Little Church”), which appeared on Davis’s Live/Evil album. He has also worked closely with Ron Carter, Sergio Mendes and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Pascoal's long list of classic recordings include the 1977 “Slaves Mass,” the 1980 Cérebro Magnético (Magnetic Brain) and the 1986 “Brasiz Universo” (Brazil Universe). In 1999, he published Calendario Do Som (Calendar of Sounds), which offers up a song a day; Pascoal composed one song a day for an entire year between 1996 and 1997. His tunes have been covered by such luminaries as Gil Evans and John McLaughlin.

The Sound: Hermeto Pascoal is so determinedly experimental in his approach to jazz that he could make music out of a tea kettle. On a recent beautiful summer evening at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, O Bruxo (the Sorcerer) did just that, by transforming that well-known kitchen staple into a veritable kazoo. Wooden cups, pans, an animal’s horn, the human body (which was used for percussion) and a half a dozen other things received similar alchemic applications. The Hermeto Pascoal e Grupo septet includes his wife Aline Moreno (who scatted wildly throughout), his son Fabio Pascoal, as well as Itibere Zwang, Andre Marques, Vinicius Dorin, and Marcio Bahia. Whimsical, hip-shaking, dissonant or dirge-like, Pascoal and company consistently keep the music dynamic and on edge.

Latest Release:  Bodas de Latão, Tratore (2010)

He Said, She Said: “Brazilian jazz” hardly sums up Mr. Pascoal’s music. His compositions are full of demanding, musicianly convolutions: leaping melodies, meter shifts, mutating chromatic harmonies and dissonances. Aline Morena, his wife, scat-sang along with Vinicius Dorin’s soprano saxophone at such breakneck speed, and in such long and twisty phrases, that even a listener could feel breathless."—Jon Pareles, New York Times, August, 2010

"It is difficult to overstate the excitement I felt upon hearing and seeing this "wild albino" (a term used by Miles Davis) and marveling over his astounding originality. After this wild incursion, Pascoal disappeared into his mystical existence unperturbed by his virtual anonymity and continually inspired to pursue his quest for musical idiosyncrasy."—Nick Catalano, All About Jazz, November, 2004

We didn't get the set list for the show, but did you? Please let us know what songs were played at the Hermeto Pascoal Lincoln Center show by leaving us a comment below. Plus, check out this clip from the performance.

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Comments [1]

Nick Catalano

I have reviewed this titanic talent several times during my career. The first was for a Varig Airlines sponsored weekend series that he appeared at in the late 80's.....I'm not sure what appearance you're referring to but I'm happy to talk about him anytime.
On book tours and in media interviews I have frequently said that he is the most original and compelling composer/musician that I've thus far encountered in my review work

Oct. 09 2010 03:40 PM

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