Charlie Haden double-bass
Egberto Gismonti guitar, piano
Recorded July 6, 1989, Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, Salle Marie-Gérin-Lajoie, Université du Québec
Recorded by La Chaîne culturelle de Radio-Canada
Recording and mixing engineers: Alain Chénier and Michel Larivière
Editing and mastering: Denis Leclerc
Recording and mixing producer: Daniel Vachon
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher
Twelve years after it was recorded at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, this landmark performance by legendary American bassist Charlie Haden and Brazilian guitarist-pianist Egberto Gismonti at last saw the light of day in 2001. The concert marks the sixth of eight organized by the festival in celebration of Haden’s ongoing legacy. Haden had plenty of experience playing with Gismonti as part of their Magico trio with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek, yet the distillations offered here are entirely of another plane.
From the Magico songbook the duo plays “Palhaço” (a trio staple by Gismonti), as well as the Haden-penned “Silence.” Both feature Gismonti’s astonishing pianism, balancing florid biospheres with ponderous asides, Haden all the while drafting the terms of endearment by which every page turns. Haden the composer also reveals the set’s deepest piece: “First Song.” Featuring Gismonti on acoustic guitar, its intuition soars for all its quietude. A pleasant street scene, a childhood memory, a favorite scent in the air…exchanging glances in a melodic triangle. Such trade-offs mark the session for its selfless ingenuity. So, too, the jangly undercurrents of opener “Salvador” and “Em Familia,” both of which reference Gismonti’s work with Academia de Danças and, as such, reflect a bold unity of purpose. The latter’s invigoration grabs scruffs and throws us skyward, even as it gives us wings to fly. And fly we do into quiet pockets of cloud, each the eye of a storm where the leaves barely tremble to the tune of Gismonti’s masterful harmonics. Also notably from the Academia repertoire are “Maracatú,” a study in contrasts, and “Frevo,” in which pointillism at the piano inspires dramatic, resonant depths from Gismonti’s partner. “Don Quixote” (previously featured on Duas Vozes with percussionist Nana Vasconcelos) closes with an elegy-turned-anthem, a shifting ocean of temperate love.
Although there is much to admire in Gismonti’s prodigious guitar playing, it’s at the piano where his musicality truly shines. How wonderful to get so much of it here. And no bassist crafts melodies quite like Haden. He keeps the earth in mind, even when there is nothing but sky ahead of us, scaling the ladder from light to dark and back to light while Gismonti filigrees his playing like a frame around a picture. In Montreal is a must-have for fans of these unique talents, who together forge a distinctly “global” sound: not world music, but music for the world.