Erik Charlston at Cafe Wha

Nick Catalano By

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Erik Charlston and JazzBrasil, a sextet from his CD Essentially Hermeto (Sunnyside) came to Café Wha for a one set offering of their music on Sunday June 28. Charlston has gained wide attention for his knowledge and performances of the music of Hermeto Pascoal. This illustrious composer/ musician/producer from Lagoa da Canoa, Alagoas, whose genius has been woefully neglected by American jazz writers, stands at the very top rung of Brazilian music and, through the years, the few times that he has come to Gotham, I have dutifully attended his performances. His music is original, revolutionary, and accessible and more listeners need to know about him.

Charlston vocalizes and performs on vibes and marimba with a sure-handed approach that consistently rewards audiences. At the Café Wha show he brought along the identical personnel utilized on Essentially Hermeto—a feat not easily accomplished. The musicians—Ted Nash on reeds, Mark Soskin on piano, Jay Anderson on bass, Rogerio Boccato on drums, and Café on percussion—performed admirably playing music by Egberto Gismonti, Luiz Gonzaga, Don Grolnick in addition to seminal Pascoal compositions. Charlston and Nash pennings were also featured in a set that set a high water mark for N.Y. club appearances thus far this spring.

Initial selections—Pascoal's "Voz e Vento" and Nash's "Half Step Choro"-immediately revealed outstanding improvisational designs and articulation from Nash. Soskin, and Charlston. The music contained complex polyrhythmic lines, difficult contrapuntal traverses, and jagged melodic phrases, all delivered precisely with inventive rhythmic sustenance from Anderson, Boccato, and Café.

Charlston played a haunting Pascoal ballad "Os Guizos" containing compelling changes (one of the master's many unique musical gifts). He played the sinuous melodic lines with conspicuous sensitivity uncovering Pascoal's remarkable music with new discernment.

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