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Hermeto Pascoal & Grupo: Pra você, Ilza

Hermeto Pascoal & Grupo: Pra você, Ilza
During her final year on the planet, Hermeto Pascoal filled a notebook with chorinhos and other musical offerings to Ilza da Silva Pascoal, his wife of 46 years (1954-2000). Twenty-four years after her death, the great Brazilian sorcerer of universal music presents us with 13 precious songs from his Ilza notebook in the form of a recording, the enchanting and poignant Pra Você, Ilza. In the album notes, he writes of her in the present tense: "Our love, our spirit, our soul remains together. Everything keeps unfolding."

"Seus lindos olhos" (Your lovely eyes) and "Pra você, Ilza" (For you, Ilza) address her directly. Most of the pieces are named for specific places and memories associated with them: "Recordações de Recife" (Souvenirs of Recife), "Sol de Recife" (Recife sun), "Do Rio para Recife" (From Rio to Recife), "Porto da Madeira" (Port of Madeira), "No topo do morro de Aracajú" (On top of Aracajú hill), "Na feira do Jabour" (At the Jabour fair), "Voltando para casa" (Returning home). A few titles point to private moments, like "Inspirando fundo" (Breathing deeply), "Sentir é muito bom" (Feeling is very good), "Passeando pelo jardim" (Strolling in the garden), "Conversação" (Conversation).

As with its previous incarnations, Pascoal's Grupo is a family affair with the shared histories and quasi-telepathic modes of communication that come with that territory. Bassist Itiberê Zwarg , who is at the center of Pascoal's distinctively off-center music, has been with him since 1977. At the drums is his son Ajurinã Zwarg, playing with a comfort and vigor that comes with being born into the idiom. Percussionist Fabio Pascoal —Hermeto and Ilza's son—matches the grace and skill of his musical cousin as he sways and plays the many instruments on the percussion table. The seriously inventive André Marques has been with the band since the mid-1990s, assuming the piano chair vacated by Jovino Santos Neto, who relocated to Seattle, Washington in 1993. Jota P Barbosa (aka Jota P.), the marvelous piccolo and reeds player, has performed with the group all over the globe. Everybody sings and holds their own admirably on percussion, flutes and sundry found or fabricated musical objects.

"No topo do morro de Aracajú" gives a glimpse into the joyful spirit and general virtuosity of the situation. The track begins with the sound of a creaking door, opening into the past one might suppose. The group leaps out in full-throttle scat mode, making fluent use of Pascoal's unique musical language with its idiosyncratic syllables and syntax. One does not have to know the idiom to hear that the musicians are clearly in communication. Conventional instruments join the voices in a call-and-response, further animating the circumstances. The fervid scene continues until a final creak signals that the door is closing, after the listener has traveled through space-time with the band for just under three minutes. (See Youtube, bottom of this page).

In similarly offbeat fashion, "Voltando para Casa" starts with child-sized aerophones tooting out a little baião, sounding like musical insects. Bugs morph magically into musicians when the piccolo and other 'real' instruments enter together, larger than life. Pascoal offers an aerophone-voice solo reminiscent of his "som da aura" compositions, which set spoken-word utterances. He turns the process on its head here, improvising a speechlike melody full of indeterminate pitches, but without text. Jota P.'s mellow sound on piccolo lends a sweet insouciance to the ethos, one that he also conveys on soprano saxophone in the billowy melodies of "Inspirando fundo," another beautiful track.

The recording was made at Rocinante studio in Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro, a little over an hour from Jabour, where Pascoal and Ilza (and members of the Grupo) lived for many years, where Ilza prepared legendary feijoada feasts for friends and family on Sundays, who watched the band perform selections they had learned that week. Pascoal came into the studio with the basic melody-and-chord charts from the notebook, dictating his arrangements individually onsite; there were no written scores.

"When I arrived at the studio, everything opened up to let me play my music," Pascoal writes. "I saw heaven on earth doing this work. It is work that is a gift to all of you, from all of us here. That was our gift. For anyone who wants it and for the eternal boss [patroa], Dona Ilza." Pra Você, Ilza is full of heart, a labor of love with many-layered performances given in tender tribute to a fruitful life and a long marriage.

Track Listing

Passeando pelo jardim; Conversação; Porto da Madeira; Do Rio para Recife; Seus lindos olhos; Inspirando fundo; Voltando para casa; Pra você, Ilza; Recordações de Recife; Sentir é muito bom; Na feira do Jabour; Sol de Recife; No topo do morro de Aracajú.


Additional Instrumentation

Hermeto Pascoal: accordion, melodica, keyboards, flutes, percussion, voice; Jota P.: flutes, percussion, voice; André Marques: keyboards, percussion, voice; Ajurinã Zwarg: percussion, voice; Fábio Pascoal: voice; Itiberê Zwarg, voice.

Album information

Title: Pra você, Ilza | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Rocinante Records

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