More Spinechilling Greatness From Brazil

posted by Tom Moon on May 26, 2009 at 4:34 pm
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The Brazil jag continues.

And what a jag it's been. Going on Month Six now. Every time I think the well is exhausted, along comes another record of breathtaking grace and singular musicality, describing another impossible-to-reach world. Case in point is a current obsession: The one and only document by Quarteto Novo, which was released in 1967.

It’s been called a Brazilian jazz record, which defines the music too narrowly and is probably a disservice. While there are some spry improvised episodes (see guitarist Heraldo Do Monte’s romp through “Gica Mal com Deus”), Quarteto Novo is equally notable for its melodies – sweeping, grandly arching themes that seem instantly familiar, as though derived from folk songs. The music follows winding pathways; there are complex ensemble passages and abrupt tempo changes. Yet rarely does Quarteto Novo feel “brainy” – those themes usually bubble close to the surface, pulling listeners along. And they’re propelled by an agile, unfailingly steady rhythm section that’s usually thinking in several meters at once. Significantly, much of the pulse is accomplished on an assortment of hand percussion instruments; those interested in learning a minimal approach to timekeeping will find a boatload of inspiration in Airto Moreira’s crisp patterns.

Moreira went on to a major career (he was part of the Brazil-influenced iteration of Return To Forever), as did Quarteto Novo’s pianist and flautist, Hermeto Pascoal. This record is one of Pascoal’s first creative projects, and some of its colors and textures – as well as those elegant melodies – can be heard on his more elaborately orchestrated subsequent endeavors. That makes Quarteto Novo another artifact illuminating a teeny sliver of history that deserves to be remembered. It’s that, sure, but it’s also just plain delightful music.

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#1 from sfd - 05/28/2009 7:52

I think David Byrne listens to them?

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