Nana Vasconcelos berimbau, percussion, voice, gongs
Egberto Gismonti guitar
Members of Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart
Mladen Gutesha conductor
Recorded March 1979 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher
For his third solo release, first and only for ECM under his name, the extraordinary percussionist Nana Vasconcelos created an album that grows. It has taken me a few uninterrupted sessions to appreciate the depths of Saudades, which continue to reveal themselves with every listen. Vasconcelos fronts the best with “O Berimbau,” a 19-minute ode to the metallic scrapings of its eponymous instrument. Utilizing human breath and strings, he renders a beatific icon with bare means. Breaks yield mock birdcalls for a highly filmic and contextual sound that locates us in living spirit. “Vozes” is simply those, weaving fricatives through a loom of nostalgia-laden strings. A rather different congregation of voices awaits us in “Ondas,” speaking in konnakol. Tablas and melodic rows, plowed by shakers and cowbell, channel irrigation into “Cego Aderaldo.” This, the only non-Vasconcelos piece on the album (by compatriot and musical partner Egberto Gismonti), opens with the liquid guitar of its composer in a precisely syncopated journey of intense focus. “Dado” reprises the berimbau, unaccompanied, fading into a climate of arid reflection.
Saudades is a self-portrait in sound. Vasconcelos plays as one communicates, with the immediacy of speech and the lingering effects of bodily gestures. This minimal approach yields a broadening territory of fallow lands. His is not simply a musical language but language, period.