Hermeto Pascoal – Zabumbê-bum-á (1979)

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Hermeto Pascoal
Zabumbê-bum-á
Original release 1979 Warner Brothers
Reissue 2011 – Coleção Cultura / Warner Brasil

A1         Sâo Jorge     2:36
A2         Rede     6:27
A3         Pimenteira     6:27
A4         Suite Paulistana     5:27
B1         Santo Antonio     4:07
B2         Alexandre, Marcelo E Pablo    5:16
B3         Suite Norte, Sul, Leste, Oeste     3:55
B4         Susto     3:03
B5         Mestre Mará     4:28

    Composed By, Arranged By, Producer – Hermeto Pascoal (tracks: A1 to B1, B3 to B5)
Engineer, Mixed By – Vitor Farias
Producer, Arranged By, Mixed By – Hermeto Pascoal

– Hermeto Pascoal / arrangements, piano, clavinet, acoustic guitar, flutes, keyboards, saxophones, vocals and percussion
– Cacau / flute and saxophones
– Jovino Santos Neto / keyboards, clavinet and percussion
– Antônio Celso / guitars and mandolim
– Itiberê Zwarg / bass
– Nenê / drums, percussion and keyboards (6)
– Pernambuco / percussion
– Zabelê – vocals, percussion and acoustic guitar (6)
– Mauro Senise / flute and saxophone
– Hermeto Parents (Seu Pascoal & Dona Divina) / vocals (1 and 5)

Release information

LP: Warner Bros. Records WB 91 018 (Germany), WEA International Inc .BR 36104 (Argentina)
CD Reissue: 2011 “Coleção Cultural” / Livraria Cultura / Warner

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It is often said that Hermeto Pascoal’s music is uncharacterizable.  This is essentially true.  Although you will find his records in the “jazz” section of most record stores lucky enough to stock his albums, he doesn’t always fit comfortably there.  A musical polymath, he can seemingly play any instrument, including many of his own invention.  He may have sat in with Miles Davis (during his most polemical period), inspired Cannonball Adderley and fellow-traveler Airto Morreira, but his music is alternately tightly composed and “free”, drifting easily from fusion-esque readings of regional musical traditions from his native Northeast Brasil, to cacophonous bursts of electronics, found sounds, unorthodox instrumentation or heterodox uses of traditional instruments.  This album, Zubumbê-bum-a, followed his very important and better-known Slaves Mass album from 1977.  It’s possible that this record is more “out” than its predecessor, pushing on his avante-gard tendencies while delving deeper into cannibalistic experiments with Nordestino music and including a fair amount of spoken word and poetry.  The opening track is an idiosyncratic homage to São Jorge, whose place in Brazilian cosmology cannot be overstated – syncretized with Ogun in the myriad Afrobrazilian religion traditions, patron saint of the city of Rio, he is the protector of warriors, he who vanquishes our adversaries whether ethereal or corporal, the slayer of dragons, but the track is uplifting and breeze-worthy.     “Não tem preço não..”  there are vocals from Hermeto and Dona Divina, some of them wordless, some of them Hermeto rambling in his unique way in what might be a private oração to São Jorge –  “a carreira da nossa é isso… cavalho ligeira” … his voice is mixed under the music for the most part, giving his actual words kind of a subliminal, secondary importance.  And I’ll admit this – I have an interview with him that he gave to the famous MPB Especial program, and I can’t follow what the hell he’s talking about half the time in his free-associative jive talking.  Adjectives I’ve often heard in relation to Hermeto, both in Brazil and abroad – “crazy”, “mad genius.”  I’ve seen him perform live, only once, and it tended to confirm this reputation.  The man is a transnational treasure to humanity. But probably a bonafide nut.
With this pleasant trot on Saint George’s steed behind us, the album really takes off with the beguiling “Rede”.  Beginning slowly with spoken word evoking a lazy afternoon swinging (or rather being swung) on a hammock,  and an angular chord progression dominated by Fender Rhodes and flute, developing hypnotically into a crescendo of drums and saxophones dancing circles around the same plodding, angular chord structure.   The song moves almost seamlessly into the next, “Pimenteira.”  This is pretty much full-on jazz fusion in the good sense of that phrase/idea, until breaking down about five minutes into the track into a flute and zabumba jam worthy of the Banda de Pifanos de Caruarú, which lasts for less than a minute before leading back into the main theme.  This is as good a place as any to stop and mention an analogy or comparison I’ve seen about Hermeto: I’ve read comparisons of him to Frank Zappa, which initially made me wince.  This is not necessarily a dis to Frank but simply because I don’t like easy comparisons made out of convenience.  But it sort of stuck in my craw ever since, and tracks like this make me lend it some credence.  This piece wouldn’t sound out of place on one of Zappa’s instrumental albums from his “Studio Tan” era, and in general Hermeto’s sense of fun and levity,  albeit with different cultural reference points, in collusion with an infatuation with musique concrete and avant-guardism make this a more productive comparison than I would have anticipated.  “Suite Paulistana” is performed entirely by Hermeto via layered overdubs in the studio, a fact I would not have guessed had I not looked at the album jacket.  It’s a frenetic, free-music approximation of the chaos and incessant movement of Brazil’s industrial nerve-center, Sâo Paulo, that sounds for all the world like a group of musicians improvising collectively.  How on earth Hermeto managed to record this with overdubs is nothing short of breathtaking, leading to the suspicion that the chaos is actually closely controlled and composed.  More Anglophone comparisons here that wouldn’t be totally off base might be Henry Cow, a group who similarly straddled lines of jazz improvisation, progressive rock, and the avant-garde, but famously lacked any sense of humor. “Santo Antônio” begins with what is essentially an interview fragment with a “Divína Eulalia de Oliveira”, credited with “story and improvising” on the jacket, describing a traditional religious procession probably in the interior of Ceará where Hermeto is from, where a group of people go door to door asking for donations or begging alms on behalf of the saint, asking for kitchen staples, farinha, feijão, arroz, ovos, macaxeira — “Oi dona da casa! Esmola pra Santo Antônio … qualquer coisa pra ajudar..”.  The feast of Saint Anthony is commemorated on June 13, making it part of the month-long series of Festas Juninas that exists with a singularity in Northeast Brazil in ways that it simply does not in the rest of the country.    This track has so much of what is magical about Hermeto.  Its demonstrably ethnographic, musically cinematic, and cut from an entirely different cloth from the pedantic and ultimately xenophobic traditionalism of the Movimento Armorial, for example, who by the mid 70s were the self-appointed guardians of all things “cultura popular” in the northeast.  Hermeto’s eclecticism, his mixture of affection and irreverence, must have been anathema to those people.
This little write-up is quickly becoming ungainly and unwieldy so in the interest of wrapping it up, I’ll gloss over the next three tracks by saying they are bit more tame, by which I mean *almost* accessible in a conventional sense of jazz fusion but still always coming back to the album’s regionalism with fragments of baião mixed in to the stew.  Some nice clavinet on Susto, which ends up with bombastic blasts of atonality at the end which are wonderful.  Another of Hermeto’s skills – diving into atonal waters without alienating the “casual” listener is a pretty unique quality.  Not that Hermeto has that many casual listeners.  In a somewhat circular way the album closes with a experimental “Mestre Mará”, which gives a nod to the music form of maracatu nação (or maracatu baque virado, as distinct from the unrelated form of maracatu ‘rural’ or baque solto), using one of its common syncopated rhythms along with agogô. But this is quiet and pensive, whereas maracatu nação is performed with large groups of drummers whose pulse you can feel in your gut from three city blocks away.  Instead, this quiet and mysterious tone poem seems to deliver us up to a mesa branca in the curtained-off room of a mestre, with the voices of the possessed joining in, suddenly wracked by fits of coughing from the defumação of incense and herbs.  It’s not frivolous that Hermeto is sometimes called “o bruxo.”

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paragraph from the back album cover:

“A música pelo músico, sem experiências nem vanguardas, apenas música sentida nota por nota, formando arranjos nos quais os instrumento, num só tempo, convivem e são individualmente explorados, escute.”

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VA – Spiritual Jazz: Esoteric, Modal, and Deep Jazz from the Underground 1968-1977 (2009)

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Various – Spiritual Jazz: Esoteric, Modal, and Deep Jazz from the Underground 1968-1977
Jazzman/Now-Again (NA5042)

01. James Tatum / Introduction 4:32
02. Lloyd Miller / Gol-E Gandom 4:09
03. Morris Wilson-Beau Bailey Quintet / Paul’s Ark 3:18
04. P.E. Hewitt / Bada Que Bash 4:09
05. Mor Thiam / Ayo Ayo Nene 5:44
06. The Lightmen Plus One / All Priases To Allah (Parts 1-2) 4:28
07. Ndikho Xaba / Nomusa 8:46
08. Salah Ragab / Neveen 7:51
09. Positive Force / The Afrikan In Winter 4:15
10. Frank Derrick Total Experience / No Jive 5:09
11. Hastings Street Jazz Experience / Ja Mil 3:33.14
12. Ronnie Boykins / The Will Come, Is Now 12:29
13. Leon Gardner / Be There 3:30
14. Ohio Penitentiary 511 Jazz Ensemble / Psych City 3:03

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This post is for Sir Chadwick the Golden, who mentioned it about nine months ago. Like always, Flabbergast is as timely as an unwanted pregnancy and so this post has taken about nine months or so to finally arrive. At this point he has probably gone out and found himself a copy, but if not then I hope he enjoys this quality rip of a top-notch collection from Jazzman Records, a label that has yet to disappoint me with any of their releases. Chadwick had mentioned that the album was curiously, and pleasantly (for his ears) free of spiritual-jazz yodeling. Indeed, there is no Leon Thomas anywhere on this album, and aside from some appearances from Lester Bowie and an entry from Salah Ragab, the majority of the artists on this album will likely be unfamiliar to all but the most astute and studious of rare groove stalwarts. And that is no big surprise: the bulk of the material here is culled from rare 45’s and LP’s pressed privately and-or in very small quantities. I’ve felt my own consciousness expanded by this compilation and have definitely been turned on to a bunch of wonderful artists through its existence. The whole album is so consistently good that I have to fall back on one of my own clichés and say that it’s too hard to pick out highlights. But if you put a bop-gun to my head and made me start talking, I’d say the album really begins to make a believer out of me by the time it takes flight with B.D. Hewitt’s Jazz Ensemble and their track “Bada Que Bash” with scatlike vocalizations that remind me of the best of Andrew Hill or Donald Byrd’s work in that vein. The following track is the bona-fide monster of the collection – “Ayo Ayo Nene” by Senegalese percussionist Mor Theme and featuring a pre-Art Ensemble appearance by Lester Bowie, it’s a funky as hell global trot of transnational infusions and Afrocentric celebration from his album “Drums of Fire.” Ndikho Xaba and The Natives deliver some post-Coltrane-via-South-Africa modality with a heavy soul arrangement. Salah Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band blow our minds with a piece of Latin-soul-jazz-Arabian-funk from the impossibly rare 1972 album “Prism Music Unit.” Ragab’s band is better known via an association with Sun Ra’s Arkestra that would come a decade later, and unfortunately he recorded very little of his own, all of it precious. The wonderful liner notes fill in the story of the Cairo Jazz Band’s creation.

Another incomparable treasure on this album is from the Detroit collective The Positive Force featuring Ade Olutunji, led by Kamall Kenyatta. The impetus for the group ame largely through Ade’s participation in the 1977 FESTAC festival in Lagos (the same event, incidentally, which brough Gilberto Gil more directly in touch with Mother Africa and Caetano Veloso more in touch with his own narcissism but which would yield his last decent album he ever made, Bicho). As the aforementioned lovely booklet with this CD mentions, The Positive Force was conceived more as a collaborative art project combining music and poetry, and the sole album they recorded (in Highland Park, Michigan!) was only sold at their performances. Even more highlights from Detroit’s oft-overlooked and under-celebrated jazz scene during the 1970s is the cut here by the Hastings Street Jazz Experience with a tune called “Ja Mil”. The band is simply too huge to list all the musicians in this post but features vocals by Kim Weston (on loan from Motown and an old high school friend of bandleader Ed Nelson), as well as Phil Ranelin on trombone (Tribe Records) and Walter Strickland (Sun Ra’s Arkestra) on sax. More Sun Ra connections arrive via bassist Ronald Boykins, whose one and only LP as a bandleader (for the ESP label) gets represented here with the brooding “The Will Come, Is Now”. The next track, Leon Gardner’s “Be There”, is a head trip of the first order. Undoubtedly the weirdest thing on here, it features and uncredited band with undeniable jazz chops led and arranged by Horace Tapscott, and virtuoso verbosity via Mr. Gardner who seems to be cautioning us to watch out and make sure that we be there. The album closes with the Ohio Penitentiary 511 Ensemble, which while having what is easily one of the most interesting background stories, offers up one of the least interesting musical pieces, “Psych City.” But it’s a good and laid back two-chord vamp to jam out the tail end of the record, with the additional fun of a farfisa piping away quietly in the right channel.

Given the rarity and scarcity of this precious source material, sound quality is not particularly stunning on some of this collection. This is not actually a *complaint* from me this time – and not just an observation, I mention it because I have a suggestion: this album deserves a listen with a good pair of headphones. For those of us with sound systems that cost less than a new automobile, a good pair of headphones can help bring out some of the details that get lost in the harmonic distortions of a lot of speaker systems. Of course I could just be saying that because I am listening on a comfortable pair of Senheisser’s as I write this, and previously I had only cranked up this record on the stereo at home. I feel like I missed a lot of the music that way, so if you dig this album give some `phones a try.

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Tom Zé – Estudando o Samba / Correio na Estação Brás (1975, 1978)

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TOM ZÉ

ESTUDANDO O SAMBA
1976 Continental (1.07.405.303)

1 Mã (Tom Zé)
2 A felicidade (Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes)
3 Toc (Tom Zé)
4 Tô (Élton Medeiros, Tom Zé)
5 Vai [Menina amanhã de manhã] (Perna, Tom Zé)
6 Ui! [Você inventa] (Odair, Tom Zé)
7 Doi (Tom Zé)
8 Mãe [Mãe solteira] (Élton Medeiros, Tom Zé)
9 Hein? (Tom Zé, Vicente Barreto)
10 Só [Solidão] (Tom Zé)
11 Se (Tom Zé)
12 Índice (José Briamonte, Heraldo do Monte, Tom Zé)

Arrangements by José Briamonte
Produced by Heraldo do Monte

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CORREIO DA ESTAÇÃO DO BRÁS
Tom Zé (1978)
1978
Continental
1.01.404.177

1 Menina Jesus (Tom Zé)
2 Morena (Tom Zé e Domínio Público)
3 Correio da Estação do Brás (Tom Zé)
4 Carta (Tom Zé)
5 Pecado original (Tom Zé)
6 Lavagem da igreja de Irará (Tom Zé)
7 Pecado, rifa e revista (Tom Zé)
8 A volta de Xanduzinha [Maria Mariô ](Tom Zé)
9 Amor de estrada (Washington Olivetto, Tom Zé)
10 Lá vem cuíca (Tom Zé, Vicente Barreto)
11 Na parada de sucesso (Tom Zé, Vicente Barreto)

Arrangements by Otavio Basso

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Reissued 2000 on Warner/Continental – Série Dois Momentos – Vol.15 (857384832-2)
Remixed by Roberto Marquest & Charles Gavin
Mastereed by Ricardo Garcia & Charles Gavin
Supervised by Tom Zé

This is the second volume that Continental dedicated to Tom Zé (Vol.14 is on its way!). According to legend, Estudanto o Samba was the album that introduced David Byrne to the music of Tom Zé, and it was understandably like nothing he had ever heard. It’s not just that Tom desconstructs the traditions of samba composition and playing — he actually does, in fact, put it together in a cohesive way in the universe according to Tom Zé. The album was undertaken in the spirit of a project of research. Based mostly in acoustic instrumentation, but occasionally incorporating found sounds from detuned radios or televisions or even the clacking of a typewriter. His unorthodoxy manages to be reverent at the same time, and if you need any proof you can look at the compositions he co-wrote with “respectable sambista” Elton Medeiros on this record, or the respectful liner notes written by Medeiros on the inner sleeve. As he relates, Tom Zé emerged from the University of Bahia’s conservatory of music, and in spite of critical praise upon critical praise, still hadn’t received the type of recognition he deserved (never ‘winning’ at any of the many festivals of song, for example). And although Medeiros doesn’t mention it here, the sales for his brilliant Todos Os Olhos, widely considered a masterpiece, were disappointing. “For this, without losing any time, he decided to create this album, where he looked to reunite the variety of rural and urban types and forms of samba, giving each song the presentation he found most adequate,” writes Medeiros. Elton also says that Zé had told him that if THIS album doesn’t “circulate”, this will probably end the “research side” of his career. And in a way his prediction was true. Although he never stopped experimenting, he never really attempted another project quite like this until the more recent ‘Estudando o Pagode’, with this album as an explicit reference.

Zé’s interpretation of the Jobim/Vinicius classic “A felicidade” is also one of my favorites out there.

Unlike his contemporaries in Tropicália, Tom only put out records every few years. I like to say that this is what makes his body of work devoid of the embarrassing discographical titles found in the catalog of a Caetano Veloso or Gilberto Gil. He has never released a bad album, and even his luke-warm ones are well worth your time.

CORREIO DA ESTAÇÃO DO BRÁS is not “luke-warm” by any stretch, but it has been somewhat ignored by those of us reappraising the career of this maverick genius (either because we missed it the first time, like most of the public, or — as in my case — we weren’t even born yet when he was tossing some of these early gemstones into the either). Although the album is of very high quality and consistently, it is overshadowed by the powerful bursts of creativity that went into his previous two albums, and so in a way it is understandable that it’s been overlooked. If you are looking to “turn someone on” to Tom Zé, this won’t be the album you will reach for first. But it’s filled with compelling music. It opens with the heavy social critique of ‘Menino Jesus’ that portrays a Northeastern migrant leaving his rural life for the big-city life in the south with its dreams and obsessions of consumerism, of battery-powered radios, of TVs, and wristwatches… The lyrics, composition, arrangements are all first rate on this record. The production is a bit slicker and professional than his other work from the 70s but nowhere near approaching the sterility that was beginning to afflict so much MPB of the time. More highlights are his reinterpretation of a traditional tune, “Morena,” “Pecado original” probably the most experimental cut on here, “Pecado, revista, e rife”, and “A Volta de Xanduzinha”, and “Lá vem cuica.” There is even something approaching a ‘brega’ on “Amor de estrada.” We are treated with a surprisingly tuneful Tom Zé throughout this album, on what might be loosely-called a concept record about a neighborhood in São Paulo comprised of primarily Northeastern immigrants, which in the liner notes he says on market days takes on the semblance of any small town in the northeast interior. It’s a record I would almost describe as “sweet”, and it would be another six years before Zé would make another album.

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Henry Cow – Western Culture (1979)

This is a very important record by one of my favorite bands, Henry cow from England. A bit different from what usually is posted on this blog, I originally had wanted to share this yesterday to protest American Labor Day, a holiday established to offset May Day and undermine the Labor Movement. All of Henry Cow’s recorded output is worthwhile, but this is by far their most outstanding creative achievement. I would write a review but I found a more than adequate one from when this album was finally reissued, by Peter Marsh at the BBC, posted below the album info.

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HENRY COW
“Western Culture”
Released in 1979
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Track Listings

1. Industry (6:58)
2. The Decay of Cities (6:56)
3. On The Raft (4:01)
4. Falling Away (7:39)
5. Gretel’s Tale (3:58)
6. Look Back (1:20)
7. 1/2 the Sky (5:14)

Total Time: 36:06

8. “Untitled” (silence only) – 1:29
9. “Viva Pa Ubu” (Hodgkinson) – 4:28
10. “Look Back (alt)” (Cooper) – 1:21
11. “Slice” (Cooper) – 0:36

“Viva Pa Ubu” includes the singing of Dagmar Krause, making the extended album no longer an instrumental.

“Viva Pa Ubu” and “Slice” had been previously released on the Recommended Records Sampler (1982).

Line-up/Musicians

– Tim Hodgkinson / organs, Alto sax, clarinet, Hawaiian guitar (1,2), piano (3)
– Lindsay Cooper / bassoon, oboe, Soprano sax, Sopranino recorders
– Fred Frith / electric & acoustic guitars, bass, Soprano sax (3)
– Chris Cutler / drums, electric drums, noise, piano (4), trumpet (3)

Guests:
– Anne-Marie Roelofs / trombone, violin
– Irene Schweizer / piano (5)
– Georgie Born / bass (7)

Sound and art work

* Henry Cow – Producers
* Etienne Conod – Producer
* Chris Cutler – Cover art

Review
…exhausting, sometimes jaw droppingly gorgeous and occasionally very scary…

by Peter Marsh
20 November 2002

While most 70s progressive rockers had their noses stuck deep in the works of Herman Hesse or Tolkien and spent their time copping licks from Ravel or Mussorgsky, the members of Henry Cow were reading Marx, Mao and Walter Benjamin and preferred Varese, Cage or Sun Ra for inspiration. One of the first signings to Virgin records in 1973, the Cow were responsible for some of the most dazzlingly complex rock ever recorded, merging British psychedelia, free improvisation and modern classical with a healthy dose of revolutionary polemic. The band gained a reputation for immense seriousness depite their occasional sly Dadaist humour, though to be fair there pobably weren’t many fart jokes in the Henry Cow tour bus.

Western Culture was recorded in 1978 some time after their difficult split with Virgin, and was made in the knowledge that the group was to fold afterwards (a previous attempt at recording had failed a few months earlier). Though these were obviously tricky times for all concerned, you wouldn’t know it from the music on this CD, which is some of their finest and dispatched with awesome precision and economy.

Compositional duties are split between saxophonist/keyboardist Tim Hodgkinson and bassoonist Lindsay Cooper (possibly the only ever fulltime bassoonist in a rock band). Their dense, cerebral compositions are restless, angular affairs with nervy, timeshifting rhythmic dexterity from drummer Chris Cutler (who has to be one of the finest, most inventive drummers this country has ever produced) and guitarist Fred Frith (doubling on bass). Frith is superb, switching from fuzzed out, oblique rockisms to querulous Derek Bailey acoustic scrabble (“The Decay of Cities”) and occupying a few thousand points inbetween. There are no pointless displays of prog virtuosity though; despite the sometimes bewildering complexity of the music, not a note is wasted throughout.

Guest pianist Irene Schweizer provides a spot of free jazz fire on Coopers doleful “Gretel’s Tale”, while Anne Marie Roeloffs’s trombone and violin add extra textural grit. The most affecting track is “Half the Sky”, where lush chords underpin Friths Frippish glides and Hodgkinsons chattering alto sax, eventually breaking out into an almost klezmer-esque melody over Cutler’s tumbling percussives. Three extra tracks round off this long unavailable re-issue including “Viva Pa Ubu” (featuring former vocalist Dagmar Krause, here uncredited) and the all too short cut and thrust of “Slice”. Exhausting, sometimes jaw droppingly gorgeous and occasionally very scary, Western Culture is a fitting testament to possibly the most progressive of all English rock bands. Bless ’em.