Egberto Gismonti ‘Dança das Cabeças’ 180g vinyl re-issue (ECM) 5/5

Part of the ongoing re-issue series of classic vinyl on the ECM label, this album typifies all that is best about ECM and is a superb example of world roots and improvised music coming together, interacting in melodious harmony. This is about as far away from conventional Brazilian popular music (think bossa nova) as one could conceive, and yet the two Brazilian musicians somehow nonetheless manage to conjur up the vastness and sweltering heat of the Brazilian landscape with a crystal clear vividness. From the very outset of the opening piece, ‘Quarto mundo #1’, the listener is greeted by the evocative percussive sounds of nature and is immediately transported into the Amazonian rain forest. A veritable battery of percussion is deployed by Naná Vasconcelos including the haunting sound of the berimbau to create a truly evocative ambience with Gismonti alternating between flute and then on an eight string guitar. Elsewhere on the all but one original numbers, the ace writer pairing of Milton Nascimento and Roland Bastos contribute the excellent, ‘Fé cega faca Amolada’. Greatly aiding the pair in communicating is the wonderful sound recording of engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug and the music still sounds as if it were made yesterday. It never ceases to entice you in even after repeated listens.

What is important for the reader to recognise is that the two sides, amounting to virtually fifty minutes of glorious sound, are two de facto suites where the music develops organically and shifts in mood from one segued piece to another. Truly impressive is the extent to which vibrancy of the music compels the listener to focus intently on the esoteric and ever shifting music, and one is left with the sensation of having witnessed a live recording that has been beamed into one’s own home. The dexterity of Egberto GIsmonti, who was just hitting musical maturity aged thirty at the time, is just one of the magical ingredients to savour here.

For those in search of a likeminded musical experience, then the Gismonti ECM recording from the same year, ‘Sol do meio dia’, comes highly recommended and comprises a crack band of Jan Garbarek, Ralph Towner, Colin Walcott and Naná Vasconcelos once again on percussion duties. Likewise, a reunion several years late between Gismonti and Vasconcelos from 1984, ‘Dias Voces’, is well worth investigating. 

Tim Stenhouse