Egberto Gismonti Selected Recordings Review

Compilation. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Brazilian guitarist/pianist Gismonit selects the best from his back catalogue; from...

Martin Longley 2002

Born in Carmo, a small town near Rio de Janeiro, Gismonti was a late starter on guitar, first picking it up at twenty-one, after having already played piano for sixteen years. He soon became known for his distinctively customised guitars, incrementally taking their string-count up to eight, ten or even fourteen. He's always been receptive to both European and African influences, and the way that they pervade Brazilian music.

This compilation heralds the second wave of ECM's :rarum series, with tracks chosen by the individual artists, not only from their solo output, but often adding collaborative work as sidemen to other artists on the same label. The musicians also provide sleeve notes and privileged access to their personal photo archives. Gismonti has chosen cuts recorded between 1977 and 1995.

The opening "Ensaio de Escola de Samba" is like a compacted symphony. Gismonti and Nando Carneiro's guitars repeat in a Steve Reich lattice, cascading traceries ebbing and flowing. Eventually, they break out into fleet strumming, alternating with Jacques Morelenbaum's sour cello slides. On "Kalimba", Gismonti plays that selfsame African thumb piano, as well as trilling on wooden flute, with Nana Vasconcelos lightly striking his single-stringed berimbau.

"Cavaquinho" shows off Gismonti's solo guitar side, using a broad palette of stinging lead lines allied to resonant chordal flourishes. Egberto is deliberately revealing the many sonic facets of his ECM work. "Bianca" is an extremely catchy tune, with Vasconcelos' splashing raindrop claps, whilst the duo works wordless vocals into the field.

"Danca No.1" revolves around jagged stops and trebly strikes, its extreme dynamism flying from banjo to harp sounds. The appearance of a full drumkit on "10 Anos" is quite shocking, as is the alto saxophone of Mauro Senise, but the most brutal contrast comes with "Frevo", as the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra weighs in behind Gismonti's breathtaking solo piano. The closing "Selva Amazonica" is a twenty minute guitar odyssey that ends up with Egberto scraping and ringing small bells, his mournful voice calling into the distance. This set's greatest strength is its sheer variety of settings for Gismonti's guitar magic...

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