Egberto Gismonti piano
(1) Steinway recorded at Sala Cecília Meireles by Jorge Teixeira, 1987
(2-8) Steinway recorded at Dreshsler Studio by Otto Dreshsler, 1987
(9-13) Bösendorfer recorded live at SESc Theatre São Paulo by Alberto Ranelluci, 1993
Synthesizers: Nando Carneiro and Egberto Gismonti
Recorded at Synth Studio by Edu Mello e Souza
Edited at Porão Studio by Egberto Gismonti
Production assistant: Dulce Bressane
Release date: October 1, 1996
Alma is Egberto Gismonti at his purest. Using the piano as his primary canvas (there are, in the background, ever-so-subtle hints of synthesizer played by him and Nando Carneiro throughout), he distills his most beloved compositions in a program of tender introspection. The album’s title means “Soul,” and is indeed what this odyssey through the Brazilian composer’s labyrinthine terrain represents.
Beginning with the forest-dense ecosystem of “Baião Malandro” (Trickster Baiao) and ending with the virtuosic costume changes of “7 Anéis” (7 Rings), this curation of performances serves as a primer for the Gismontian experience. Twisting and turning like a skilled dancer, he treats his fingers as legs with feet and runs across the keyboard as living soil. In addition to such classics as “Karatê” (the present interpretation of which takes on an even more self-disciplined quality than it did when first recorded on Circense) and “Frevo” (a vigorous example of his penchant for rhythm and color), he defines suppler developments in “Cigana” (Gypsy Woman), “Fala da Peixão” (Passion Talk), and the powerful “Realejo” (Hurdy-Gurdy).
One of his many gifts, that of illustration, is on full display in the evocatively titled “Palhaço” (Clown), which taps a memory so persistent it bleeds into the present; “Loro” (Parrot), which embodies its subject in a dance of unconditional joy; and “Sanfona” (Accordion), which sounds indeed like a bellowed instrument.
To my ears, the effervescence of “Maracatú” stands out in the collection. Balancing shadow and sparkle, and integrating synthesizers to seamless effect, it wanes into a field recording of the forest: an ode to the natural world. As is “Ruth.” First heard from his mother’s lips on Amazonia, it now opens its heart like a book yet to be inscribed. Like everything surrounding it, the melody is more than a skeleton, but part of the circulatory system of a cosmic body through which the listener can wander without the slightest fear of arterial blockage.