Release date: April 1, 1984
Egberto Gismonti is a force so enormous that ECM grandfathered his own label, CARMO, under its wing to archive much of his older material, as well as that of the younger musicians interpreting it still today. But to these ears his finest recordings have always intersected with ECM proper, and the late 1970s/early 1980s defined a golden age in this regard. Producer Manfred Eicher had a way of bringing out an inner peace in Gismonti’s frantic guitar playing and likewise enhancing something rough and ready in his sweeping pianism. It was therefore inevitable that such a sizable body of work would be faithfully abridged in his own “Works” compilation.
“Lôro” is one of two tunes from 1981’s Sanfona to find their worthy place in the mix. Impeccably recorded and performed, this jewel is one of Gismonti’s most precious on record and features the talents of his Academia De Danças band. Exemplifying the sound of both its era and its composer, its instrumentation, engineering, and execution glow in ECM’s resonant chamber aesthetic. “Maracatu” is another pianistic vehicle for Gismonti, whose rolling waves crash onto shore in the last rays of a setting sun. From here we jump back three years to Sol Do Meio Dia, a session shared with Nana Vasconcelos on percussion and Collin Walcott on tabla. Gismonti’s custom 8-string guitar is resolutely beat-driven throughout “Raga,” in which he experiments with harmonics and dissonances until only purest fusion remains.
“Magico” pays tribute to the 1980 album of the same name. This peerless trio with bassist Charlie Haden and saxophonist Jan Garbarek was the living definition of lockstep. As the latter two musicians embrace the space with hands of extremes, Gismonti solos over himself in a brilliant division into multiple voices. But nowhere does his ability clarify itself so resolutely than on his 1979 Solo, from which two tracks are excised. “Ciranda Nordestina” is a look inward through lenses of piano and bells, and is another stunning construction. “Salvador” returns to his 8-string guitar for a piece of remembrance. It is the musical realization that physical locations change just like those who inhabit them and can never go back to the way they used to be. We might flip (or click) through their histories, but the only way to know what things once were is to unbury them with things yet to be.