Delia Fischer: Antonio (CARMO/11)

Antonio Cover

Delia Fischer

Delia Fischer piano, vocal
Ricardo Amado violin
Carlos Moreno violin
Débora Cheyne viola
Luciano Vaz violoncello
Cássio Cunha drums
Augusto Mattoso acoustic bass
Luiz Sobral drums
Nivaldo Ornelas soprano and tenor saxophones
Henrique Band baritone saxophone
Luciana Araujo vocal
Baticun’s Group percussion, choir
Marcelo Mariano bass
Carlos Bala Gomes drums
Nico Assumpção acoustic bass
Romero Lubambo guitar
Recorded at EG, Drum, and Fórum de Ciência e Cultura
Recording engineer: Fernando Guihon, Carlos Signoreli, Peninha, and Alexandre Hang
Mixing at Studio AR
Mixing engineer: Marcelo Sabóia
Musical direction by Delia Fischer
Produced by Carmo Produções Artísticas Ltda
Executive producer: Gustavo B. Santos
Release date: June 21, 1999

Voted as the top-ranked Brazilian artist of 2019 by DownBeat magazine, pianist Delia Fischer made her recording debut with Antonio two decades earlier. Welcoming a top-notch band as well as a string quartet along for the ride, she removes the rearview mirror without a scratch and keeps us attuned to what lies ahead. Fischer’s skills at the keyboard are not unlike those of Egberto Gismonti, under whose encouragement this album came to be. She moves with a kindred sense of purpose, draws from an equally broad color palette, and pays respect to heritage in her choices of rhythm and texture. But there’s also so much unique about her method that makes this a wonder to embrace with the ears as an experience of ongoing transformation. And experience really is the watchword here, as Fischer describes one fully fledged world after another.

The string quartet fades us into “Abertura” by honing a metallic edge as piano and drums complete the picture with their complementary auras. Fischer’s voice joins them as an instrument in and of itself, foregoing words in favor of feeling as a seed of the greenery pictured on the album’s cover. Much of what follows falls into three categories. First are tunes that, like this opener, evoke specific weather conditions. Voices, as heard in “Ixejá” or via a field recording of children in “Tarde em Laranjeiras,” play occasional yet vital roles in reminding us of the human tapestry of which Fischer’s music represents a selfless thread. The latter track is noteworthy for the soprano saxophone of Nivaldo Ornelas, to whom it is dedicated, and who changes to tenor in “Post Meridien” in tandem with bassist Nico Assumpção. These brief spotlights on solo instruments allow different voices to be heard in a collective peace. Other instances to listen out for include the overdubbed cellos of Luciano Vaz in “Choro de Pai” and the guitar of Romero Lubambo, baritone saxophone of Henrique Band, and drums of Carlos Bala Gomes in “Dona Lia,” a grittier upward climb that never loses pace.

A second form, running slightly askew with relation to these wider expanses,  is the piano trio. “Øslo” finds Fischer sharing the room with bassist Augusto Mattoso and drummer Luiz Sobral. The nostalgia they create is touchable, shifting between places and times with that same easy sense of overlap that happens only in dreams. In “88,” Gomes hits the drums like a vessel to water while bassist Marcelo Mariano opens the river to whatever may come.

And then there are Fischer’s piano solos. “Araçagy” is complex in the most organic way, bouncing between metaphors at the drop of a hat yet holding on to a sense of integrity at all costs. Fischer proceeds as if catching a ride on a coastal train to meet a lover somewhere along the shore. The more elegiac qualities of “Velhos Tempos Lá em Casa” hint at the underside of nature, lamenting the very earth as a source of inherited trauma and pain. Here we see an artist who understands that our histories are all connected, and that we cannot just allow them to dictate our actions without encouraging some form of sacrifice. “Maio” bears dedication to the late pianist and composer Luiz Eça, echoes of whose humanity linger on. Finally, “Arcádia” balances mourning and invitation, shifting into architected spaces where sunlight always finds purchase.

An atmospheric gem very much in the Gismonti mode, and a high point of the CARMO catalogue.

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