sun 21/07/2024

Hermeto Pascoal, Ronnie Scott's | reviews, news & interviews

Hermeto Pascoal, Ronnie Scott's

Hermeto Pascoal, Ronnie Scott's

Dazzling septet gig by the Brazilian multi-instrumentalist

Playing the music of the universe: Hermeto Pascoal

Squeaking toy pigs. Tea pots. Bicycle pumps. Yes, the dynamic Brazilian composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal was back in town, making a rare appearance at Ronnie Scott's.

Described by Miles Davis as “the most impressive musician in the world” - he first gained international recognition by playing on Miles's 1971 album Live-Evil - Pascoal's riotous polystylism incorporates jazz, rock and Brazilian music (MPB, bossa nova, chorinho, forro) to create what he calls musica universal or 'universal music'. However you label it, it's one of the most joyous noises in contemporary music.

The last time I saw Hermeto was an incredible big band show at the Barbican in 2004. Hearing his septet in Ronnie's was equally revelatory, and – given the virtuosity of the musicians and the unique layering of the material – somehow equally 'symphonic'. As much a feast for the eyes as for the ears, following an opening solo from the leader on piano which juxtaposed spiky bitonality with lush jazz harmonies, the rest of the band came out on stage with shakers – a swirling mass of pure percussion into which a rhythmic motif was slowly introduced.

The first tune to feature the entire septet, “Quiato”, included the customary kettle solo from Pascoal as well as the most ridiculous call and response I've heard – in place of the stereotypical 'ay-o', Pascoal demanded entire phrases of the trickiest vocalese. The Ronnie's audience did rather well, I thought.

The samba 'Viva O Rio De Janeiro' pulsated with life as individual lines merged into one huge river of sound

In a continuous, hour-plus set we were also treated to the beautiful song “Sereiarei”, taken from Pascoal's 1973 album A Música Livre De Hermeto Paschoal [sic]. It still sounded fresh after 40 years. The samba “Viva O Rio De Janeiro” pulsated with life as individual lines merged into one huge river of sound. Taken from the 1992 album Festa Dos Deuses, “Irmãos Latinos” presented another heaving tapestry of melodic riffs, interlocking rhythms and forceful improv. The music-making was high-powered yet seemed effortless, at once both earthy and elaborate. And underpinning everything, the deepest groove. Little wonder that Pascoal is nicknamed 'O Bruxo' (The Wizard) in his home country.

Having played with the maestro for years, it's perhaps not surprising that Pascoal's septet were incredibly tight and well-drilled: behind the drum kit, the superb Marcio Bahia kept the music airborne with seemingly the lightest of touches; Fabio Pascoal (Hermeto's son) worked his stall of percussion with an unrelenting energy (his amazing tambourine playing was a joy to behold); electric bassist Itiberê Zwarg performed small time-bending miracles; sax/flute player Vinícius Dorin delivered a number of fluid, wide-ranging solos, as did ace pianist André Marques; and vocalist/guitarist Aline Morena's dramatic solo in “Tamancos e Pilões” will live long in the memory.

Whichever formation you see him with – sextet, solo, duo (with Aline Morena), big band or symphony orchestra - make sure you do catch Hermeto Pascoal at least once in your lifetime. It's an unforgettable, life-affirming experience.

Watch Hermeto Pascoal perform at the 1979 Montreux Jazz Festival

The music-making was high-powered yet seemed effortless, at once both earthy and elaborate


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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