Hermeto Pascoal & Grupo Vice Versa ‘Viajando Com O Som: The Lost ’76 Vice-Versa Studio Session’ LP/CD/DIG (Far Out Recordings) 4/5

Cult figure and general all-round musical iconoclast, multi-instrumentalist and leader Hermeto Pascoal sounds and looks like no other and so it proves on this long discarded session that was recorded in just two days in São Paulo with a locally based rhythm section, remaining in the vaults until a London Brazilian specialist label saw fit to issue it for the very first time. Four varied numbers, one of which lasts over twenty-six minutes, and the music of the forest where albino Hermeto loves to reside and escape the sunshine are conveyed beautifully. The epic ‘Casinha Pequenina’ undergoes myriad moods and tempi. It starts as a brass ensemble piece that is melodic and taken at a moderate tempo. From three minutes onwards, the number then morphs into a percussive uptempo groove with moody keyboards from the leader. Quite simply, this is Brazilian Latin-fusion of the highest calibre with shuffling drum patterns, solo saxophones that grow increasingly wild, and just the faintest hint of the influence of Charles Mingus. In stark contrast, ‘Natal (tema das flautas)’ has a Romantic western classical feel with both flute and brass evoking the music of Debussy and Ravel. An assortment of flutes create a forest-like atmosphere and the beautifully restrained performances and wordless vocals make this one of the most enjoyable pieces. Compare this with the manic brilliance of the genially titled, ‘Mavumvavumpefoco’, which has a cacophony of chicken noises in the intro with the voices of children in the background. Organised chaos might be an apt description, but organised within Hermeto’s admittedly weird and wonderful parameters nonetheless with big band, keyboards and wordless vocals operating over a largely staccato rhythm. The opening composition, ‘Dança do Pajé’, has something of a 1970’s jam session feel to it and the use of drums and percussion seemingly conjures up the Amazon jungle, and five and a half minutes in, bass finally enters with the tempo reaching a crescendo on drums and keyboards. Nothing is ever predictable about the music of Hermeto Pascoal and that is precisely why he is so loved. Among members of this incarnation of the group, guitarist Toninho Horta features on guitar, with Zeca Assunpção on bass and Raul Mascarenhas on various saxophones.

Tim Stenhouse