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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Jose Roberto e Seu Conjunto – Organ Sound, Um Novo Estilo (1970)

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  José Roberto e Seu Conjunto
Organ Sound, Um Nôvo Estilo
Released 1970 Polydor
Japanese reissue 2008

01 – Aventura
02 – Smile a Little Smile for Me.
03 – Airport Love Theme
04 – Toboga
05 – Jingle, Jangle
06 – Viagem
07 – Samanta
08 – No Time
09 – Diamante cor de Rosa
10 – The Rapper
11 – Mon Ami
12 – Always Something There to Remind Me

This is pre-Azymuth José Roberto Bertrami.  He was working as a studio musician at the time and was probably on a hundred records you have in your collection, many without being credited.  Before this he was in the band A Turma da Pilantragem.

This is nice organ combo pop-jazz with an occasional bossa flair and spasms of funkiness.  Aside from the tracks “Aventura” and “Mon Ami”, which are his own, everything else here is comprised of other composer’s work.   Kind of easy-listening and loung-y but with just enough instrumental prowess and creative arrangements to keep it interesting.  His playing may not be nearly as inventive as what he would produce with Azymuth only a few years later, but Bertrami still coaxes enough otherworldly sounds out of his keyboards to prove why he was an in-demand session player.  In particular he has a penchant for using a horn patch on his analog synth that doubles the part played by actual brass instruments, which adds a loopy and campy touch.

The majority of the repertoire is taken straight from the Hit Parade of 1969-70 and represent a pretty interesting cross section of psychedelic rock, pop, and even an ‘easy listening’ soundtrack hit.  I’ve taken the trouble to notate the cover songs’ origins:

Smile a Little Smile for Me – The Flying Machine
Airport Love Theme – Vincent Bell, from the soundtrack to the film “Airport”, 1970
Jingle, Jangle – The Archies
No Time -The Guess Who
Diamante cor de Rosa – Roberto Carlos
The Rapper – The Jaggerz
Always Something There to Remind Me  (Bacharach/David tune recorded by Dionne Warwick, Sandie Shaw, and R.B.Greaves at Muscle Shoals.  Hard to say which version Bertrami had in mind but Greaves’ version was the most recent.)

Amusingly enough, the most exciting of these cover tunes is “Jingle Jangle” from the virtual cartoon band The Archies, which is replete with fuzz guitar.

The tune “Mon Ami” was featured as a theme to the Globo telenovela “Assim na terra como no céu” in 1970 in a version produced by Paulinho Tapajós.  As I’ve stated before on this blog, the study of telenovela soundtrack music — and it is a subject that deserves series study – is not one I’ve undertaken.  Not yet, anyway.  But I have a hunch that a lot of these Top 40 international hits were associated with contemporary telenovelas that would have made them instantly recognizable to a Brazilian audience even if their originals unknown.  Did ‘The Archies’ air on Brazilian TV?  I have no idea.  For that matter the Roberto Carlos hit was also part of a feature film vehicle for him with the same title.  The two songs credited to ‘Celinho’ are a mystery to me.  There was a Celinho from the state of Ceará who played the accordion and recorded a bunch of tunes in the era of 78s, but I’m fairly certain these aren’t his songs.  Anyone who knows, drop me a line.

This Japanese reissue has typically lovely, round sound.  It’s too bad I can’t read the notes in Japanese though.  It would be nice to know if the musicians are credited.  I suspect Victor Manga is on the drums but I have no confirmation, but he did play in the Turma de Pilantragem.

{edit} As per a comment left below by a reader, I’m updating the post with the following info on the lineup: Jonas Damasceno (Joninhas), Ivan Conti (Mamão), Luiz Carlos Siqueira –
all from “The Youngsters” band – plus the late Gegê on drums and Sergio
Barroso on bass.

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Pixinguinha – Som Pixinguinha (1971)

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Pixinguinha
“Som Pixinguinha”

1971 Odeon
2003 Remaster / Odeon 100 Anos
1 Um a zero
(Benedito Lacerda, Pixinguinha)
2 Desprezado
(Pixinguinha)
3 O gato e o canário
(Benedito Lacerda, Pixinguinha)
4 Samba fúnebre
(Vinicius de Moraes, Pixinguinha)
5 Gargalhada
(Pixinguinha)
6 Urubatan
(Benedito Lacerda, Pixinguinha)
7 Pula sapo
(Pixinguinha)
8 Carinhoso
(Pixinguinha, João de Barro)
9 De mal pra pior
(Hermínio Bello de Carvalho, Pixinguinha)
10 Odeon
(Ernesto Nazareth)
11 Samba do urubu
(Pixinguinha)

Finally, for the first time in this blog, a contribution from one of the most important figures in twentieth-century music (particularly in a place called Brazil) – Alfredo da Rocha Viana Jr., better known as Pixinguinha.

While Pixinguinha’s name and many of his compositions may be ubiquitous in the history of Brazilian music, the same can’t be said for recordings that actually feature him. A great deal of his seminal recorded output was on 78 rpm and can be found on a smattering of CD collections, some of them rather rare. He made quite a few LP records in the 1950s, which are also damn hard to come by. This album, made after a period of semi-retirement and only two years before his death, is therefore a nice treat. It’s gorgeous stuff, with some odd production choices. The inclusion of organ and electric bass and bongos to make the album sound more contemporary to 1971 struck me as odd at first but that may be because I am used to hearing “purist” choro as its played these days, which is a throwback to its early 20th-century origins. There is a new composition that Pixinguinha wrote with Vinicius and all I can say about it is… too much Vinicius. “Choro funebre” probably should have died in the outtake bin and had something else take its place on this album, except that it features Paulo Mauro on sax, which earns its keep. And then there is the truly bizarre “Samba de Urubu”, which features fuzzed-out guitar and a funky thumb-piano break. As weird as that might seem for a choro record, I have to hand it to the mixing engineers — they manage to make it work, in part because the overdriven fuzzy guitars sit nestled in the mix alongside everything else rather than taking over the song, and they make judicious use of the idea rather than over-doing it. I’m not sure if there a sub-genre of ‘experimental’ or psychedelic choro but if so this tune must be a “standard” in it. A definite high point is an eight-minute version of “Carinhoso.” Along with ‘Garota de Ipanema’ (Girl From Ipanema), this has to be one of the most recorded songs of any Brazilian composer since Orlando Silva first recorded it in 1937 — so much so that (quite like Garota de Ipanema) I usually cringe when I hear the first few instantly-recognizable notes being played…. So seeing that it was stretched out to EIGHT MINUTES for this record initially made me groan with dread. But the song belongs in the hands of its maker, and the arrangement is fresh, adventurous, and impeccably recorded.

The original and extensive liner notes by Hermínio Bello de Carvalho are thankfully reproduced in their entirety in the booklet, and give a track by track description. Unfortunately for the non-Portuguese speaking (and even for lusophiles), the musician credits are couched within these notes rather than listed separately, making kind of hard to list everyone who played on this record. Please pardon me that I am not taking the hour or so it would probably take me to piece it together and type it out… Mastering is a bit loud or ‘hot’ but not overly compressed and much better than a lot of the other reissues in this series (Odeon 100 Anos).

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