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Today in Music – Dec 5, 1947 – Happy Birthday, Egberto Gismonti !!

Egberto GismontiSomewhere over the last several weeks I came across the name of Egberto Gismonti and even listened to his 1980 release Circense. From AllMusic guide….

This excellent release by Egberto Gismonti was conceived under the concept of a circus, an institution that has the ambivalent quality of being at the same time universal and regional; the “circense” tradition exists in almost all parts of the globe, but it is enriched by the smaller companies that keep struggling to survive in poorer setups, adding regional elements to the whole. It fits like a glove for the music of Gismonti, which also aims to enrich Brazilian musical tradition with elements of worldwide classical and popular acquisitions. More at MOG

So I was familiar with the name when I saw it on the list of birthdays at All About Jazz and even though I had listened to his, well for me anyway “different” guitar music, I still did not know much about this Brazilian musician. So it was off to Wikipedia:

Egberto Amin Gismonti (born December 5, 1947 in Carmo, Rio de JaneiroBrazil)[1] is a Brazilian composer, guitaristand pianist


Gismonti began his formal music studies at the age of six on piano. After studying classical music for 15 years, he went toParis to study orchestration and analysis with Nadia Boulanger and the composer Jean Barraqué, a disciple of Schoenbergand Webern. After his return to Brazil, Gismonti began to explore other musical genres. He was attracted by Ravel’s approach to orchestration and chord voicings, as well as by “choro”, a Brazilian instrumental popular music featuring various types of guitars. In order to play this music he learned to play guitar, beginning on the 6-string classical instrument and switching to a ten-stringed guitar in 1973. He spent two years experimenting with different tunings and searching for new sounds. This exploration of timbre is further reflected in his use of kalimbas, shō, voice, bells, etc. By the early ’70s, he had laid the groundwork for his current style which incorporated elements drawn from musicians as wide-ranging as Leo Brower and Jimi Hendrix.  Continue Reading


and AllMusic tells us a little more about the man…..

Egberto Gismonti is world-renowned as a multi-instrumentalist and composer. He was profoundly influenced by Brazilian master Heitor Villa-Lobos, his works reflecting the musical diversity of Brazil. From the Amazon Indians’ batuque to the Carioca samba and choro, through the Northeastern frevo, baião, and forró, Gismonti captures the true essence of the Brazilian soul in a way that is primitive, yet sophisticated, and reflects it through his personal vision, elaborated by years of classic training and literacy in a wealth of musical languages in which jazz plays a significant role. Full Biography


As I looked down his discography at AllMusic one of the several four star recordings was his 2009 release….


Saudações (translated from Portuguese as “greetings” or “salutations”) is the first album composer, guitarist, and pianist Egberto Gismonti has issued for ECM in 12 years, since the symphonic Meeting Point. This is a double-disc affair, equally balanced between Gismonti’s growing body of work as a large scale composer, and the second disc to be a series of guitar duets and solos with his son Alexandre. Read More

and more about Saudacoes from NPR’s All Things Considered  -( you can listen to the piece here)

Gismonti’s latest, Saudacoes, is a two-disc collection. The orchestral compositions are fine on Disc 1, but the disc of guitar music is so stunning, I couldn’t stop listening to it. His son, Alexandre, accompanies him on many of the songs, but there is no mistaking Gismonti’s ferocious attack and roiling rhythms.


Gismonti mixes the lush voicings of classical composers —Ravel is a favorite — with the lively cadences of the Brazilian string music called choro. Choro began as a folksy instrumental genre going back to the 19th century. It grew to incorporate jazz harmonies, and you can hear its echoes in a song like the aptly titled “Two Guitars,” recorded with Alexandre.


There are three fine solo performances here: one from Egberto and two from Alexandre. But the seven tracks where father and son converse with breathless intimacy are the real payoff. The music is serious and highly technical, but it’s also playful, and there’s an entrancing sweetness in the interactions. More 


I gave Disc 2 of Saudacoes a listen this morning on my way to the Vet with one of our cats and I know that I will be listening to more of the work of this great musician.

Here’s a 1996 performance from Egberto Gismonti & Naná Vasconcelos – “Dança das Cabeças” at  the Kaiser Bock Winter Festival