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

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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The Storyteller and the Sorcerer dropping by to the same venue, on the same day? What are the chances?
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

Hermeto Pascoal and Sheila Jordan, center-stage at the Art of Jazz Celebration
It was billed as "The Global Village": A place where jazz legends, lions and lovers come together to explore rhythmic intricacies and tonal colors from all over the map... where jazz is everywhere and freedom of expression, creativity and no fixed beat are the only rules on the street... And indeed it was, promising— with the dawn of each new day—to become even more so! Far less bourgeois, far more bohemian... in an atmosphere where time had almost stood still... and waited for Sheila Jordan and Steven Kuhn to duo unforgettably, as Randy Weston and Billy Harper had done just a day earlier, and Hermeto Pascoal would once again rejoin his old friend, Jovino Santos Neto, conducting the Art of Jazz Orchestra, playing Pascoal's wildly original music. The Storyteller and the Sorcerer dropping by to the same venue, on the same day? What are the chances?
But it simply had to be done. Any one who is in love with the vocal arts had to fall prey to the charms of Sheila Jordan, who—with Abbey Lincoln—must be the last of the great griots, the great storytellers of our music... So, she just had to be here with us, said Bonnie Lester, President of Art of Jazz, who together with Jane Bunnett and Larry Cramer (Artistic Directors of the 2008 Celebration) were responsible for inviting the stars of the Celebration. And who better to grace the stage to put the art of storytelling in song that Sheila Jordan! (Abbey Lincoln will be in Canada in July, though at the Festival in Montreal)!

Nominating the National Honoree for the Lifetime Achievement Award was easy: John Norris had no competition. But the International Honoree for the 2008 Celebration was a completely different story. The Panel of Judges could not decide between Egberto Gismonti and Hermeto Pascoal... So they decided to honor both! Small wonder why... Both Gismonti and Pascoal have genius beyond category. Both multi- instrumentalists and have been using their skill and passion to bring to audiences around the world some of the most spectacular music that knew no boundaries between classical and folk, popular and serious. Pascoal worked with Airto Moreira, Elis Regina, Edu Lobo, Cesar Camargo Mariano and Jovino Santos Neto... then Miles Davis. He used toys and teapots with accordions, guitars and saxophones to make music. Gismonti spent almost two decades in Paris studying orchestration and analysis with the legendary Nadia Boulanger and Jean Barraque, who was a disciple of Arnold Schonberg and Anton Webern. A pianist with sublime technique, he also taught himself to play guitar—to express his music—then revolutionized that instrument by turning it from a six to a ten-stringed instrument, on which he plays chords, and single notes and percussion—all at once—and with both hands! And for those who like trivia, he did this long before Jordan, Hunter, and Van Halen. Perhaps only Jimi Hendrix did more, technically, for the instrument than Gismonti continues to do!

June 07 was to be The Night that the Sorcerer, O Bruxo, was going to light up the Toronto sky with a selection of his music that had once left even Miles Davis so at a loss for words that, having invited Pascoal to join his band for Live/Evil, he could manage to say simply that Hermeto Pascoal was "one of the most impressive musicians in the world!" Hardly the words one would use to describe someone whose music is impossible to categorize and who has made it almost a religious ritual to fly in the face of convention, seemingly for the "heck of it!" But beneath it all is the soul of an artist for whom breaking barriers is de rigueur, and "making it new" a gospel!


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