Gismontipascoal: A Musica de Egberto e Hermeto, by two of the most precociously talented musicians from and in Brasil does not so much document the music of two of the greatest musicians from and in Brasil. It is a rhapsodic fantasy about two of the greatest musicians from and in Brasil by possibly the only two musicians from and in Brasil who could perform such a wondrously inventive homage to Egberto Gismonti and Hermeto Pascoal—the latter aptly referred to as “O Bruxo” and the former the great iconoclast.
There is something else however that informs the music on this record: it is very epitome of the brilliance of heart and mind. So completely absorbed are the pianist, André Mehmari and the mandolinist Hamilton de Holanda that they are completely consumed by the genius of their ancestors—in this case: Mr. Gismonti and Mr. Pascoal—they are subsumed by the great music that they have left as prints in the proverbial sands of space and time and are merely stirred in that invisible vortex that is the music; they become the music and are completely transformed by its complexity, beauty and timelessness.
André Mehmari is a pianist of unbridled genius. His extraordinary talent might lead him to be compared to some of the greatest pianists of all time. Mr. Mehmari turns the instrument into one that rivals the human voice. This is not to say that he transforms the tone and texture of the keys—although he might alter the damping on the strings using his hands—but Mr. Mehmari is capable of creating arias with his harmonic excursions. As he uses the sweeping width of the keyboard, these pianistic arias might range from bass to treble. And because Mr. Mehmari is equally evocative with his left hand as he is with his right, his bass-lines have built-in melodic content that is suggested almost spectrally, while under the influence of the drama and surge of his rhythmic flights of fancy. These are elliptical and swerve in great arcs, slicing through the air; leaping from plane to plane… they are soaring sleights of hand that are propelled in linear and circular fashion; might be created from a focal point in the melody; race back and forth or turn upon the melody like dark inversions and swallow it whole, creating a brand new harmonic course for this new, inverted melody…
Hamilton de Holanda plays mandolin. He is thus in a minority of instrumentalists that appears to have gained ascendance with the great Jacob do Bandolim and his disciple, Déo Rian. The Brasilian tradition rests on the sartorial shoulders of Jacob do Bandolim. Today it has been expanded and completely transformed by Mr. De Holanda, who, with his 10-stringed instrument has succeeded in advancing the technique of playing that instrument. Traditionally the mandolin, with its taut strings and small resonance body or box creates a sharp, radiant sound that echoes and dies in order to make room for the next note. Thus lines are more radiant than those of a guitar, but die a lot sooner than those played on the guitar, which dally for a while before they fade; unlike the sharp drop of notes from the mandolin. However, with Hamilton de Holanda’s sublime technique, he can make notes linger somewhat longer, when he wishes. There is also a beautiful resonance that emerges from his instrument—as if it were a gilt-edged horn. Thus, even though piano and mandolin are stringed instruments, and both may be played in a percussive manner at times, Hamilton de Holanda is able to play “the horn” to André Mehmari’s piano.
The fare served up on this sumptuous epicurean delight of a record includes both expected as well as unexpected music. But then every study and piece by the two musicians and composers being honored here is an unexpected surprise. Mr. Pascoal’s most recognisable composition, “Bebê” is on the record and is played in an inimitable manner. But there are also lesser known, yet gloriously magnificent compositions: “São Jorge,” the beguiling “Intocável” and others. Each is played with glittering originality. There is sense that the spirit of Hermeto Pascoal is behind the swaggering improvisations on piano and mandolin. Similarly, “Frevo,” “Sete Anéis” and “Lôro” are great standards from the pen of Egberto Gismonti, but so is the elementally sad “Memória e Fado” and the ethereally beautiful “Fala de paixão”. Mr. Mehmari and Mr. De Holanda have composed two wonderful sequences for the date and both stand out as musical wonders that compare favourably with Hermeto Pascoal’s and Egberto Gismonti’s compositions on the record: “Gismontipascoal” and “Gismontipascoal-Festa” have glorious sonic architecture and are swathed in marvelous harmonies and beautiful polyrhythms.
There is a note on the back of the record jacket that says “Modern is Tradition”. This is one of the most beautiful aspects of the Adventure Music label and is borne out not only by the music on this record, but on all music imprinted on the fine label from New York, dedicated to the promotion of Brasilian music in the rest of North America, something Brasilian labels do not seem to care about, despite the fact that the music is globally admired. For that reason the Adventure Music label deserves greater recognition than it gets today.
Track Listing: Gismontipascoal; São Jorge; Intocável; Frevo; Sete Anéis; Palhaço; Bebê; Memória e Fado; Fala de paixão; Chorinho pra eles; Menino Hermeto; Santo Antonio; Lôro; O farol que nos guia; Gismontipascoal-Festa; Musica das nuvens e do chão.
Personnel: Hamilton de Holanda: 10-string mandolin; André Mehmari: piano; Egberto Gismonti: guitar (9); Hermeto Pascoal: Fender Rhodes, percussion (16).
Hamilton de Holanda on the web: hamiltondeholanda.com/en
Label: Adventure Music | Release date: May 2013
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama