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Live Reviews

Art of Jazz Celebration 2008: A Tale of The Sorcerer and The Storyteller

By Published: June 19, 2008
How could anyone top that? The best thing was not even to try! Or better still would be to step back and hand proceedings over to Hermeto Pascoal. The Sorcerer, as he is called, is regarded by many musicians as one of the few geniuses in the art of music. Pascoal is known for his skill in making music from even the most seemingly mundane objects—those, that is, not even associated with making music—such as kettles and plastic toys. Born in Arapiraca, in the countryside of Alagoas in Northeast Brazil, he moved several times—first to Recife, capital of Pernambuco, then to Rio De Janeiro and finally to Sao Paolo—where he joined forces with Airto Moreira—to set in motion music that has come to be some of the most original and unforgettable ever to have been made anywhere. In the 1970s he was invited to tour the United States with Airto, where the two made the album, Live/Evil with Miles Davis.

In the group, Quarteto Novo, cultures collided—the baiao from Northeastern Brazil and contemporary jazz from North America. Pascoal not only wrote and played music for Novo, but he also built many of the instruments that he played. In the late 1970s he formed his own bands and worked ceaselessly all over the world. Other members of Pascoal's entourage have included bassist, Itibere Zwarg, percussionists Nene, Pernambuco and Zabele and pianist Jovino Santos Neto. His latest group is a duo—Chimarrao com Rapadura, in which he plays off wife and multi-instrumentalist, Aline Morena. For the 2008 Celebration concert, Pascoal was joined by old cohort, Jovino Santos Neto, who conducted the Art of Jazz Orchestra, including such stars of Toronto, David Virelles on piano and Reg Schwager on guitar.

Hermeto Pascoal and his friends exploded on the stage of the Fermenting Cellar, literally, with a free-leading intro into "O Som do Sol" on which Reg Schwager excelled. The Hermeto Pascoal Big Band dived straight into "Brazil Universo," an extravagant opus from divergent musical perspectives that mirrored Brazil's wildly various cultures meld into one rhapsodic "tropicalista" paradise! At the heart of the first set was "Obrigado Mestre" and also "Viva Gil Evans," which worked the tonal values of each of the instruments like only Evans did with his various bands! It was not hard to see how Gil Evans, with his worldly view, was able to impress Pascoal enough to elicit a tribute from him. The Human Diaspora rather than the confines of any one culture inspires both musicians, and so their artistic palette has come to be—literally—the world! By now it appeared that nothing could top the set, and the well-deserved intermission was eminently appropriate—if only to just breathe and take it all in, before the second set and Pascoal's Big Band expedition took the audience deeper into its journey of discovery!

"Piramide" presented its dense, geometric web of sound, and "Valsa Nova" was—with the soloing members of the Big Band—quite a revelation in composition and musicianship. And "Bebe" was tender, spectacular and a heedful of sound. No matter how you felt about each song, there was no denying that Hermeto Pascoal turned the Celebration on its head. It seemed that you could not approach music—and indeed all sound—in the same way as before! Our lives had changed in two hours, after giving ourselves over to the charms of O Bruxo, the beloved Sorcerer!

Day Three was—as Pliny once suggested to a student he was instructing in the art of statecraft, "Let us choke them with gold..."—a truly magnificent assault on the senses! It ended with the Hermeto Pascoal Big Band and the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Awards to one of two International recipients. But in between there was much to hear and take in. The magnificent Jane Fair Quartet, with Jane Fair on soprano saxophone and music that inhabited the outer extremities of the art in the grand manner of Ornette Coleman and the whole harmolodic movement in jazz. Kellylee Evans and her quartet (on the Pure Spirits Stage)... Ms Evans would rival the charms of Erykah Badu! And the irrepressible music of Aline Morales and her band, that made Brazil resound in heart and head! And to think that many were heard to say after Salsa 'n Six and Luis Mario Ochoa closed out the night before, "Wonder what could top that...?" and, "There couldn't be better...!" Now this...!

Photo Credit

R. Alan Dunlop

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