Egberto Gismonti’s new recording is Saudações. The title of the album, Gismonti explains, means ‘greetings, salutations, saludos, saluti’. The greetings follow a longer absence, at least on record. This double album marks his first appearance on ECM in 14 years. Although he has been active as a touring musician in the interim and continued to produce recordings by other artists for his Brazilian Carmo label ( Saudações is a co-production of ECM and Carmo), the multi-instrumentalist and composer has devoted increasingly more time to writing new music for larger ensembles.
His last ECM recording Meeting Point (recorded in 1995) was made with the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra in Vilnius. This time Gismonti opts for interpreters and locations nearer to home: disc one, with the seven-part suite “Sertões Veredas” was recorded in Havana with the Camerata Romeu, and disc two, a program of guitar duets and solos, was recorded in Rio de Janeiro with Egberto and his son Alexandre.
The “Sertões Veredas” suite, as Lilian Dias remarks in the liner notes, “takes a musical journey through Brazil, revealing, in a diffuse way, the different faces of its people, culture and history. It’s a journey through time and space, in a permanent exchange between music, literature and cinema, where nothing is left untouched and everything goes through a deep transformation. However, the translation of this scenery of dreams in the language of music, leads us through a maze of memories and allusions, voices and colors, sounds and images”.
In Gismonti’s writing here, influence from the European tradition, from Vivaldi to Stravinsky, takes its place alongside influences from folk forms, Xingu Indian ritual, film music, choro, Villa Lobos and more. Elements are contrasted, juxtaposed, interwoven and the demarcation lines between so-called serious and popular genres blurred. “All European cultures, and other cultures, are part of ours,” Gismonti told one journalist when Meeting Point was released, and the new suite’s subtitle, “Tribute to Miscegenation” makes it plain that Gismonti is once again celebrating the cultural and ethnic mix that is unique to Latin America and to Brazil in particular.
Cuba’s Camerata Romeu, an intriguing young chamber orchestra staffed entirely by female musicians under the direction of conductor Zenaida Romeu is devoted exclusively to the performance of South American music. In the film Cuba Mia, a documentary about the orchestra, the conductor talks about her mission, focusing on the specific qualities – rhythmic, philosophical, poetic – that make South American composers a force apart in the music world. Romeu’s interpretation of Gismonti’s music is characteristically committed, “accompanying our long paths with joy all the way from Havana .”
The suite was recorded in Havana’s Teatro Amadeo Roldán in August 2006. In April and May of the following year, in Rio de Janeiro Gismonti recorded a further program “Duetos de Violões” with his talented son Alexandre .This selection includes new arrangements of a number of Gismonti favourites including “Lundú”, “ZigZag” and “Dança dos Escravos”. There are seven duets. Additionally, Alexandre plays solo on “Palhaço” and his own “Choro Antônio”, and Egberto solos on the title track, “ Saudações”.
Born in Carmo, Brazil, in 1947, Gismonti studied classical piano from the age of five, but is self-taught on guitar, which he took up at age of 21, soon developing his innovative, two-handed techniques of simultaneous lines and counter-melodies on the instrument. In 1970 he travelled to Paris to study with two important teachers, famed pedagogue Nadia Boulanger and twelve-tone composer Jean Barraqué, Webern’s most dedicated disciple. These experiences served also to strengthen Gismonti’s respect for the music of his homeland, which seemed to him an unlimited resource. “World music”, as it would later be termed, was on his doorstep – so many musical traditions overlapped and dovetailed in Brazil.
Recognition for Gismonti outside Brazil arrived with the release of his ECM debut Dança Das Cabeças in 1977, which won the "Großer Deutscher Schallplattenpreis", the annual award of the German Records Critics, and the Album of the Year Award from US magazine Stereo Review. He was also one third of the extremely popular Magico trio with Charlie Haden and Jan Garbarek whose two albums Magico and Folk Songs are regarded today as key recordings of ECM’s first decade. Other Gismonti recordings on ECM include Sol Do Meio Dia, Sanfona, Solo, Duas Vozes, Danca Dos Escravos, Infancia , Musica de Sobrevivencia, Zig Zag and the orchestral Meeting Point, perhaps the closest reference for the music of “Sertões Veredas”. In the last two decades Gismonti has also issued recordings on his Carmo label.
Beyond his work as a recording artist Gismonti has written a vast amount of music for dozens of ballets, movies, documentaries and art exhibitions, and composed pieces for ensembles of all sizes.
Conductor Zenaida Romeu comes from one of Cuba’s most distinguished musical families. Both her grandfather and her great uncle were well-known conductor-composers. In 1993 Zenaida founded the Camerata Romeu as a female orchestra dedicated to “recreating national and Latin values”. The orchestra has since travelled the world. A documentary about the Camerata Romeu, Cuba Mia won numerous awards.
Alexandre Gismonti, born 1981, studied guitar and musical theory at the Centro Musical Antonio Adolfo in Rio de Janeiro from the age of 12. Thoroughly committed to the musical work of his father, he has performed with Egberto at major festivals in South America and Europe.
Buy Egberto Gismonti’s recordings:
- In North America: Saudações. Other titles available: Dança Das Cabeças, Sol Do Meio Dia, Sanfona, Solo, Duas Vozes, Danca Dos Escravos, Infancia , Musica de Sobrevivencia, Zig Zag, Meeting Point, Alma, Academia de Dancas, No Caipira, Circense, Trem Caipira, Kuarup, Meninas, Amazonia
- In Europe: Saudacoes. Other titles available: Solo, Zig Zag, Selected Recordings, Duas Vozes, Sanfona, Arvore, Alma, Amazonia, Danca dos Escravos