Egberto Gismonti: Selected Recordings (:rarum 11)


Egberto Gismonti
Selected Recordings
Release date: January 26, 2004

To my ears, the music of Egberto Gismonti is ultimately about one thing: memory. This single word may, of course, have as many shades of meaning as there are people to interpret it, and therein lies its power to invite listeners to reflect upon their own experience through the stories Gismonti tells. Whether running across the piano or examining the internal lives of his custom-built guitars, he can always be counted on to put a pin in our collective past as if it were something to revisit when proper arrangements have been made.

And proper arrangements he certainly provides on 1991’s Infância, on which every plucked string of “Ensaio De Escola De Samba (Dança Dos Escravos)” and “Dança No. 1” distills spirit into song. With an unerring sense of concentric motion, he allows quiet thoughts to yield dramatic expositions like the oil between tectonic plates. At the piano, he emotes with bassist Zeca Assumpção, saxophonist Mauro Senise, and drummer Nene on “10 Anos” (Sanfona, 1981), and on “Cavaquinho” packs down one of his most picturesque walking trails to date. Its arpeggios are webs in which the poetry of our lives is caught, seemingly distant yet actually within arm’s reach.

Though each of the pieces selected for this compilation tends to defy lumping together, I can’t help but feel that Gismonti endeavors to pull out songs that might otherwise remain forgotten in the recesses of history. Such is the case in “Kalimba (Lua Cheia)” (Sol Do Meio Dia, 1978), of which the titular instrument serves as foundation, as well as in the oddity of “Bianca” (Duas Vozes, 1984), wherein he is accompanied by the clapping of percussionist Nana Vasconcelos. And when he is alone at the guitar, as on the elliptical “Lundu (Azul)” (Dança dos Escravos, 1989) and the jangling seesaw between introversion and extroversion that is “Selva Amazônica – Pau Rolou” (Solo, 1979), he unwraps implications as the full gifts they were meant to be. Even in “Frevo,” as arranged for orchestra and piano on 1997’s Meeting Point, he makes us feel that we are the only ones being spoken to. He is site-specific, yet knowable anywhere, anytime, without a single introduction needed to take it all in.

Egberto Gismonti: Works


Egberto Gismonti
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.

Daniel Murray: Universo Musical de Egberto Gismonti (CARMO/18)


Daniel Murray
Universo Musical de Egberto Gismonti

Daniel Murray 6-string and 10-string guitars
Recorded and mixed April 2018 at Visom Digital Studios, Rio de Janeiro
Recording engineer: Guido Pera
Mixed by Guido Pera and Egberto Gismonti
Produced by Egberto Gismonti
Release date: August 23, 2019

On July 19, 2015, Rio de Janeiro-born guitarist Daniel Murray sat down with one of his greatest musical heroes: Egberto Gismonti. After hours of sharing music, conversation, and dessert, he left the meeting inspired to start arranging Gismonti’s compositions for solo guitar. Gismonti so loved his first such attempt, “Forrobodó,” and the freedom of approach it embodied that he gave his approval for the present recording. The appropriately titled Universo Musical de Egberto Gismonti is filled to the brim with original arrangements of Gismonti’s music, save “Memória e Fado” and “Choro,” both already written for solo guitar.

Murray is an exquisitely talented musician possessed of technical virtuosity and a genuine adoration for Gismonti. But his deepest talent may just be his ability to balance clean, classical execution with open expression. This is most obvious in pieces like “Carmem” and “Memória e Fado,” in which his attention to detail shines. Sul tasto playing and harmonics speak of external ornamentation but of layers within. Some of the most coniferous tunes (e.g., “Água e Vinho” and “Baião Malandro”) are quietly re-clothed with finery, while “Sete Anéis” hides none of the heavy emotional lifting required to move it.

“Maracatu” and “Frevo” are among the more adventurous interpretations. Where the former opens with a flurry of extended sounds working their way into the tune proper, the latter offers its virtuosity in humility, taking on Gismonti’s butterfly effect without fear. And if “Saudações” is a kaleidoscopic wonder, then “A Fala da Paixão” is the lyrical light passing through it, as is the concluding “Palhaço,” in which breath surrenders to beauty.

There is a nocturnal feeling to this session that, in being so close to Gismonti’s heart, emphasizes the sunshine that awaits on the other side of life.

Grazie Wirtti/Matias Arriazu: Caçador de Infância (CARMO/17)

Caçador de Infância

Grazie Wirtti
Matias Arriazu
Caçador de Infância

Grazie Wirtti voice
Matias Arriazu guitar
Recorded September 19, 2018 at Visom Digital, Rio de Janeiro
Engineer: Guido Pera
Mixed September 20, 2018 at Visom Digital, Rio de Janeiro by Guido Pera and Egberto Gismonti
Produced by Egberto Gismonti
Release date: August 23, 2019

Brazilian singer-songwriter Grazie Wirtte teams up with Argentinian guitarist-composer-arranger Matias Arriazu for this, their CARMO debut. The duo was discovered by label head Egberto Gismonti, who invited them to perform as part of a 2017 concert in Buenos Aires before welcoming them into the studio a year later to record Caçador de Infância.

(Photo credit: Ana Luz)

While the set list contains a sizable portion of original songs, a handful of favorites has been daubed onto the canvas. Among the livelier examples of their style are “Moleca Saci” (Breno Ruiz/Paul César Pinheiro), a showcase of distinctly Brazilian rhythms and melodic changes in which Wirtti treats her voice like a guitar, and “Verde Limão” (Andrès Beeuwsaert/Iara Ferreira), a deck of chants shuffled into twirling motifs. On the darker side of things is “Memórias de Valparaíso” by Guto Wirtti. A prayerful evocation of reminiscence, it waters roots that, while severed in the material world, nevertheless thrive in metaphysical soil. And I cannot fail to highlight the epic interpretation of “Eu vou pro Céu,” a public domain gem that tickles the heart with its lyricism and spiritual uncertainty.

In the duo’s own writing we find a lifetime’s worth of moods and interactions. Across both the title song and “Fuga de Trem,” they unfurl imaginative landscapes as yet untouched by the colonialists of maturation. Wirtti’s voice is a force to be reckoned with. Whether squeezing juice from the soul over Arriazu’s fluttering guitar work in “El Dulce Gavilan” or playing with onomatopoeia in “Iarare,” she shares her intimate understanding of presence in the creative act. While capable of quiet reflections, she blossoms when belting her heart out, as in “Gira com Jurema” and “Candombe Santo,” the latter an ornate vessel of geometric guitar oared by a singer who sees the horizon as another beginning—a palimpsest for personal identity.

Bernard Wystraëte & Group: Strawa no Sertão (CARMO/15)

Strawa no Sertão

Bernard Wystraëte & Group
Strawa no Sertão

Véronique Briel piano
Philippe Berrod clarinet
Jean-Yves Casala guitar
Frédéric Guérouet accordion
Philippe Macé vibraphone
Pierre Strauch cello
Bernard Wystraëte flutes, musical and artistic direction
Guest artist:
Egberto Gismonti piano
Recorded by Philippe Labroue  at May, June, and September 2001 at Studio Labroue in May, June, and September 2001, Paris, and at Auditorium Magne in February 2002, Paris
Edited by Bernard Wystraëte and Philippe Labroue
Co-produced by Egberto Gismonti
Release date: May 9, 2005

Bernard Wystraëte enters the CARMO fold with an album recorded under the banner of his self-titled group. Throughout his career, the composer and flutist has dipped into a variety of fonts, including classical and free jazz, but has always held a special place in his heart for music of the Andes. Naturally, his interests intersected with the work of Egberto Gismonti, from whose work this program is entirely drawn and whose blending of traditional and futuristic streams yields a powerful river on which to invite other vessels strong enough to handle its current. Thankfully, Wystraëte is not only able to navigate those waters, but populates their surrounding ecosystem with flora of his own.

Gismonti gives his sonic seal of approval by joining at the piano for some of his most enduring (re)creations. They also feature the accordion of Frédéric Guérouet, lending his painterly touch to “Sanfona” (named for that very instrument) and the lesser-heard “O Amor Que Move o Sol e Outras Estrelas” (Love that Moves the Sun and Other Stars), a wordless poem that leaps in slow motion toward completion. Even without Gismonti in the studio, his presence is felt in renditions of such evergreens as “Baião Malandro” (Trickster Baião), which adds a jazzier sleight of hand through the vibraphone of Philippe Macé, and the almighty “Karatê,” which blossoms in a version for Bb clarinet (Philippe Berrod), guitar (Jean-Yves Casala), cello (Pierre Strauch), and alto flute. It deserves highest place in the pantheon of Gismonti interpretations. The lead flute makes it flow with even more legato grace than when played on the piano, showing the interconnectedness of every movement like time-lapse photography. Another standout is the album’s title suite, a humorous musical fantasy in five parts that imagines Igor Stravinsky living in the arid lands of Northeastern Brazil. Though two movements of it were featured on Gismonti’s 1997 ECM album Meeting Point, as far as I know this is its only complete performance on record. Dedicated to Wystraëte, it combines rhythms from that same region with others from Rio de Janeiro, dappled with the Russian composer’s fondness for angularity and childlike wonder. Wystraëte goes a step further by improvising on the section called “Cherubin I,” playing the unaccompanied bass flute as if it were the only message that mattered in the moment. Each note is a tender mercy, a memory captured as if by camera, a fire that burns to be remembered.

Rodney Waterman & Doug de Vries: Água e Vinho (CARMO/14)


Rodney Waterman
Doug de Vries
Água e Vinho

Rodney Waterman recorders
Doug de Vries guitars
Recorded between November 1997 and March 1998 by Robin Gray at Allan Eaton Studios
Tracks 4, 17, 20, and 21 recorded by George Butrumlis at Adeney Studios (1999)
Mastering at Estúdio Tom Brasil, São Paulo
Sound engineer: Alberto Ranellucci
Produced by CARMO & Dulce Bressane
Release date: November 13, 2000

This collection of duets for recorder and guitar, played respectively by Rodney Waterman and Doug de Vries, comes two CARMO catalog numbers after the equally engaging duo of Ernesto Snajer and Palle Windfeldt. Breath and string are a natural combination that harks not only to the Renaissance but also to the many folk traditions that grew from such music’s spread throughout the colonized world. As melodies were taken up, transformed, embellished, and added to, they took on lives of their own, birthing entirely new cultures by melding into ancient ones. The duo’s ear for melody steeps us in these histories, lest we forget the pain and struggle often encoded into beauty.

“O ôvo” (The Egg) is one of two selections by Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal and references Pascoal’s beloved 1967 debut, Quarteto Novo, which was a harbinger of the very sort of jazz-folk hybrid for which Egberto Gismonti would soon become known. This is followed, appropriately enough, by “Bebê” (Baby). Both assume a refreshing form made evident by the baião rhythms around which they are structured.

Waterman himself is artfully represented by a handful of originals. His “Song of Reconciliation” was written in 1997 in response to the Australian government’s refusal to atone for aboriginal atrocities. Played on the tenor recorder for a more anguished sound, it nevertheless cups its hands around a pilot light of hope. The title of “Xanthorrhoea” comes from the Latin name of a grass tree species native to Australia and takes its cues from nature. Here the guitar is played like a drum, lending a bygone air. “Zana” pays homage to Australian virtuoso Zana Clarke on the very instrument she made famous: the “Ganassi” alto recorder. Accompanied by de Vries on egg-shaker, it is meant to evoke the sunlight of Brazil. “Ade” is inspired by Lazy Ade Monsbourgh’s 1956 album Recorder in Ragtime and incorporates further influences from Pascoal and Gismonti. It is played on soprano recorder and the cavaquinho (a Brazilian 4-string guitar) to effervescent effect.

Gismonti himself shines via six tunes, most of them touchstones of his compositional career. Of those, the duo’s rendering of “Frevo” is possessed of an especial fervor (hence the title) and sports some lively adlibbing in the middle section. The somber “Água e Vinho” (Water and Wine), after which this album is named, exhales without emotional compromise. Other highlights include “Parque Lage,” deepened by the bass recorder, “Lorô,” dancing with avian energy, and the omnipresent “Karatê.” The latter was actually what brought the duo together in the first place when de Vries introduced Waterman to Gismonti’s music via Alma. They even concluded their first concert in July of 1995 with the piece.

“Jorge do Fusa,” by the deeply venerated guitarist and composer Anibal Augusto Sardinha (a.k.a. “Garôto,” or “The Kid”), cleanses the proverbial palate as a prelude to four Catalan folksongs arranged by the duo. Of these, “La Nit de Nadal” (Christmas Night) is achingly nostalgic, while “El Noi de la Mare” (The Son of Mary) warms the heart. Two ricercars by Spanish Renaissance composer Diego Ortiz are just as lovely, along with of de Vries’s own, round out the scene. Where “Chorinho Toccatina” is a solo guitar piece inspired by a trip to Bali evoking forests and wildlife, “May” looks at it titular month from the southern hemisphere’s perspective, on the cusp of winter’s gaze. Let this be our hibernation.

Quaternaglia: Forrobodó (CARMO/13)



Eduardo Fleury guitar
Fabio Ramazzina guitar
Sidney Molina guitar
Paulo Porto Alegre guitar
Breno Chaves guitar (on “Baião de Gude,” “Lun-Duos,” “Uarekena,” “Quartetinho,” and “Forró”)
Egberto Gismonti synthesizer (on “Um Anjo”)
Recorded September 1998 (“Uarekena,” “Lun-Duos,” “Baião de Gude,” “Quartetinho,” and “Forró”) and December 1999 (“Forrobodó,” “Karatê,” “Escovado,” “Batuque,” “Furiosa,” and “Um Anjo”) at Estúdio Tom Brasil, São Paulo
Sound engineer: Alberto Ranellucci
Produced by CARMO & Dulce Bressane
Release date: November 13, 2000

Following a self-titled 1995 debut and 1996’s Antique (both released on other labels), the Quaternaglia Guitar Quartet intersected with Egberto Gismonti’s CARMO imprint for its third album. With a studied yet organic body language, this São Paulo-based ensemble guides us through its account of four distinct yet complementary composers, each of whom the QGC has worked with closely toward building a defining repertoire. Despite having undergone more than a few changes of roster since its inception in 1992, in this present iteration we have Eduardo Fleury, Fabio Ramazzina, Sidney Molina, and Paulo Porto Alegre. The guitarist whom Alegre replaced, Breno Chaves, joins as special guest on five pieces, adding a fifth layer of virtuosity.

Brazilian guitarist and composer Paulo Bellinati is represented by three pieces. Of these, “Baião de Gude” is one of his best known and, in this interpretation, moves with a filmic quality. I imagine someone on a frantic search for something, only to realize they’ve been in a dream all along once they find it. Before that, the session opens with “Furiosa (Maxixe).” This pleasing mélange of microtonal harmonies sports a robust sense of progression and muted rhythms. The latter impulses cross over into “Lun-Duos,” through which Chaves circulates with increasing fervor, spanning the gamut from shout to whisper and back again.

The pivot comes in “Uarekena.” Written by Sérgio Assad (of Duo Assad fame), it’s a weave of pulsing harmonics and dissonant chords around inviting linear melodies.

“Quartetinho” begins a traversal of works by Egberto Gismonti, whose writing is well-suited to the format of the quartet, who capture his litheness with gusto. Among the perennial classics of his oeuvre to make an appearance are the album’s title piece, which manages to scintillate while still making room for Gismonti’s inchoate shadows in a passage of astonishing detail, and “Um Anjo,” which features the composer on synthesizer. Chaves joins the quartet again for “Forró,” taking on some of Gismonti’s more cynical textures and chord voicings. But it’s in “Karatê” where the quartet’s virtuosity shines for handling such a constantly shifting composition with fluidity. It feels reborn here, played to the strengths of its dissonances.

The program ends with a twofer by Ernesto Nazareth, arranged by Gismonti and adapted by Alegre. Between the familial “Escovado” and the welcoming “Batuque,” a deep and joyous farewell is given in full knowledge that this isn’t goodbye.

Egberto Gismonti: Alma (CARMO/10)


Egberto Gismonti

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.

Egberto Gismonti: Amazonia (CARMO/9)

Amazonia CD

Egberto Gismonti

Egberto Gismonti 12-string guitar, acoustic guitar, Indian organ, conductor
Orquestra Transarmônica D’Alma D’Omrac
Bianca Gismonti voice
Alexandre Gismonti laughter, voice
Jaques Morelenbaum cello
Nando Carneiro acoustic guitar
Edu Mello e Souza synthesizer
Zeca Assumpção bass
Ruth Gismonti Amim voice
Recorded, mixed, and edited (digitally) at Porão Studio, except “Sertão/Forrobodó” (recorded like at Fabrik, Hamburg, 1990)
Artistic production: Carmo Produções Artísticas Ltda
Production assistant: Dulce Bressane
Release date: June 1, 1993

Here we have Egberto Gismonti’s original soundtrack for the film Amazonia: Voices from the Rainforest. The 1991 film, directed by Monti Aguirre and Glenn Switkes, gives a voice to indigenous peoples of the Amazon. Gismonti, as someone who knows the rainforest intimately and understands the film’s cause, was an organic choice to translate that broken silence into music. Originally released in 1991 on EMI, this CARMO reissue stands as a testament to Gismonti’s invention as a composer and gives credence to the maturation of his electronic experiments.

From tracks such as “Dois Curumins na Floresta,” we can hear that his integration of electronic and acoustic instruments is fuller, richer than before. Whether in “O Senor dos Caminhos,” a melding of synth flutes and strings dedicated to environmentalist Ailton Krenak, or “Forró na Beira da Mata,” which folds in the liquid metal of 12-string guitar, the feeling is of connective tissue between worlds: technology and nature, the “civilized” and the “untouched.” Even the most overtly synthesized passages only serve to emphasize the natural settings of the filmmakers’ interest. And while some (e.g., “Turma do Mercado” and “Fuga & Destruição”) are less successful without their images, the album works far better as a whole than Trem Caipira and yields such beauties as the blended chords of “Floresta (Amazônia).”

That said, as a standalone experience the highlights for me are overtly instrumental. The folksong “Sertão,” in Gismonti’s adaptation, glows under the bow of cellist Jaques Morelenbaum, who lends further beauty to “Ao Redor da Fogueira” alongside the lithe bassing of Zeca Assumpção and Gismonti’s own guitar. Both take in warmth from the heart as solar center, turning empathy into orbiting planets. Overseeing them all is “Ruth.” Written by Gismonti’s grandfather Antonio and sung by his mother (for whom it is named), it is the ultimate expression of heritage. Let us never forget where we come from, she seems to say, to remind ourselves of how little we have traveled.

Original vinyl cover:

Amazonia VINYL