Academia De Danças
Egberto Gismonti piano, guitars, Indian organ, voice
Mauro Senise saxophones, flute
Zeca Assumpção bass
Nene drums, percussion
Recorded November 1980 at Talent Studio, Oslo, and April 1981 at the Amerika Haus, München
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher
For his third ECM effort, renaissance man Egberto Gismonti offers a classic diptych. The first half is a heaping helping of originals played with his Academia de Danças quartet, the second a live solo set from Munich. One can hardly listen to Gismonti at his best without being there to catch every story as it falls through the cracks. Everyone’s story will be different. Here’s one:
The accentuating winds of “Marcatu” waft past our noses. The scent is moist, hinting at lichen. Our breathing quickens us as we climb into thinner air, compensated by a majestic and quiet beauty in all directions. Gismonti’s piano introduces itself as the traveler who will be our guide. As he works his magico on the keys, bass (Zeca Assumpção) and drums (Nene) assume his lead, leaving Gismonti running with a saxophone (Mauro Senise), and us, following close behind. Every gesture of “10 Anos” is another footstep tracing the outskirts of a place unknown. And without knowing it, we have become one person. We wish to introduce ourself to the new community in the vale, into which we have now crossed. Drums nip at our heels as we find ourselves propelled by the downward slope. We are welcomed with ceremony in “Frevo.” But then, a lone figure cuts through the celebration, bringing with him the possibility of destruction. Instead, he shows us the wisdom of local ways, observing proper form in the presence of new life, the possibilities of love, and the realities of an ever-changing kinship. As the forest yields ancestors’ whispers, that their progeny might better survive, so too are voices encamped here among their people, where fires burn low and judgments even lower. Yet somewhere in the shadows, the saxophone lies in wait, trickster in disguise. Whatever mischief lies in store, however, is dispelled by the crystalline joys of “Lôro.” Here we find rebirth, brought forward to a council of harmony.
A four-part tribute follows, an epic in true Gismontian fashion. This time around, his guitar returns cloaked in the shadows of pianism, carried by an airborne saxophone. Every fluted note is an ensnared animal, gift of the hunt and of the gather. Recounting those undeniable moments of community that embraced us, we hear the voices of our own past in the harmonium, bleeding into guitar and drums. From this tenderness emerges “De Repente,” an engaging 12-string interlude that could give Gustavo Santaolalla a run for his money any day. And run it most certainly does, as if after spending time in the village, we find our heart also ensnared, only now by the life we abandoned on our way to getting here. And so, we take these feet and put them to the ground as quickly as they will, running hand-in-hand with the person we once were. The Ralph Towner-like diction here makes for one of Gismonti’s most captivating solo pieces. In our wake we leave the lamenting “Vale Do Eco.” The newly escaped continues in our place, lost and alone. In “12 De Fevereiro” we become her lullaby as she lays herself among the ferns and slumbers. And there she stays until a new village grows in her place, her dream at last realized in “Carta De Amor” before making her final leap into a rare green flash that halos the setting sun.
This album is a perfect example of what “World Music” really should be: not music of this, or any, world, but music that is a world in itself. Arguably Gismonti’s best date on any label and an essential one for your collection.