Thursday, September 3, 2009


9-3-09 Brazil

I have never been to Brazil. I’ve been listening to the music of Hermeto Pascoal for over 30 years – I finally got to see him perform in Los Angeles a few years ago, and it was the best concert I’ve seen in at least the last 20 years. My friend Bob G. lived in Brazil for a while, and he sent me some Pascoal CD’s that were impossible to obtain in the US – a tip of the hat to Young Bob.

Not familiar with Pascoal? Google him, and see what other have to say. In short: This is a man that can make music out of ANYTHING. A water bottle, a pig, flute…doesn’t matter to Pascoal – he hears music in everything. As John Cage said, “Everything we do is music” – and for Hermeto, it is true.

In the 70’s, when I was so interested in progressive rock from England and Europe, I couldn’t see my way in Brazilian music. Yes, the rhythm was always there, but…the singer / songwriters of Brazil (Joao Gilberto et al) were simply not my type of banana leaf. The 60’s jazz LP’s of Stan Getz with Antonio Carlos Jobim were, of course, in my home. But as a young man, that was music for my older brother or my father.

In the 80’s, I discovered Gilberto Gil, via a promo LP sent to my office from Japan. I absolutely love his albums “Extra” and “Raca Humana” – they remind me a little bit of Lucio Battisti, the Italian singer who found himself so interested in Brazilian ‘song’. Gil must’ve found Bob Marley / reggae interesting, as I hear some of that rhythm in his otherwise very Brazilian style. Portuguese is such a neat language!

I’ve been discussing Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell with a Japanese friend for some years now – but I do not really have the whole picture about Powell’s music and influence upon other Brazilian artists. I know that he went to Japan and played there in the 60’s (I think) and that he is deeply revered in Japan.

After finding Pascoal, I also started to investigate composer Egberto Gismonti. I got an LP that I just loved, “Coracoes Futuristas” (EMI Brazil) – but never really went any further. I also got some of his ECM albums, but…

When I was working at the record importer in the 80’s, I remember ordering records from Brazil to be exported to Japan. The “crates” arrived in our office, literally nailed closed. We were concerned that the records hadn’t traveled well – with blown spines etc. I remember unpacking a box to find banana leaves on the bottom of the crate!

I am not sure if I’ll ever get to Brazil. I always sort of thought I would stay away from South America, largely because of the low penetration of English language (and I do not speak any Spanish or Portuguese). But there are so darned many birds down there!

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