Nana Vasconcelos ‘4 Elementos’ (Far Out) 4/5

Nana VasconcelosBrazilian multi-instrumental percussionist Nana Vasconcelos does not easily fit into any conventional bag and that is one of the reasons why his music is so revered. He has a hugely impressive CD which includes performing with the likes of Don Cherry (most notably the Codona recordings for ECM), Pat Metheny and Milton Nascimento. Far Out are to be commended for putting out a release with Vasconcelos as leader and, surprisingly perhaps, this is in fact his first ever UK release as the front musician. It captures him in typically eclectic form and it should be stated from the outset that is not easy listening music and requires several listens before gradually the music seeps into the listener’s subconscious. That said, there is much to commend here with a lovely tribute to fellow maestro percussionist Airto Moreira on ‘Coco Lunar’ on which Vasconcelos plays the distinctive berimbau which is an integral part of the capoeira art form. Another typical Brazilian instrument, the stringed cavaquinho plus trombone combine on ‘Astronafrica’ to good effect and this is the nearest piece on the album that resembles traditional samba, albeit an extremely rootsy version. Vasconcelos’ ability to conjure up sounds of nature all around us is illustrated on the intoxicating ‘Passos’ during which the sound of water is re-created with the musician performing for the first time on keyboards. A reworking of Luiz Gonzaga’s epic ‘Légua Tirana’ features the sound of the fiddle with percussion and vocals to the fore. Interestingly, the album is sponsored by the government of Pernambuco which gives you some indication of the esteem in which traditional Brazilian music is held. Tim Stenhouse