Far Out Rec. Nana Vasconcelos : 4 Elementos (BRAZ,rec.2012,pub.2013)****
It’s good to hear from Nana Vasconcelos after all these years. I especially remember him from the unforgettable fusion trio who made the Codone Trilogy on ECM (1978, 1981, 1983, reissued as a box in 2008) with Don Cherry (trumpet,..), Nana Vasconcelos (percussion, bermibau,..) and Collin Walcott (sitar,..). When I saw the introduction video for this new release, where I saw him accompany a few youngsters modestly on berimbau at a local African dance School, I immediately felt a huge sympathy.
I have the impression that this new album is about making us aware of the musical Elements which we experience at the moments when we allow ourselves to be confronted with what we hear and then start to play with it in all its colours and shapes. I guess that there is no deliberate extra rational structure based upon the Elements in this album, while a few themes still return, like the leading track does. The first track of a few seconds is a kind of minimal sound percussion of grabble from a sandsack (?) (later on its mention a sack of chips) and a silent whistle between the teeth, a small track that also proves how less can be more, and that an ear towards things is the basics of all expressions.
“Vinheta-Fogo” shows another reference to the Elements, thanks to a bowl or calabas-in-water percussion with its differently rounded deep tones. This by water influenced percussion is combined with picked violin and some chamber music arrangement. This track with water reminded me of another, unforgettable Brazil track, from Hermeto Pascoal in “Música da Lagoa”, where this master plays flute in and with the water brilliantly, a unique moment in the midst of the Brazilian forests that has been used for a film.
“Legua Tiranna” is a medieval sounding song accompanied by hand percussion, a violin solo and cello harmonies, deep hand percussion and a gong, with Nana doing the singing. The violin here sounds medieval music orientated, while the cello’s have a chamber-music setting, the arrangements also have an ‘African soul’ via the various singing contributions, its vocal sounds and percussion that we also hear in this track, which makes tohgether a brilliant combination.
Several other tracks play lightly with the singing and are playing with wordy sounds and combinations, with the same effect of bringing solmething of a hidden African soul in them to live, in a well arranged way, that almost has a contemporary music vision, but the with a lighter, warm, and lifelike effect. A bit of chamber-music arrangements add a serious touch to it, while they still keep the energy happy and warm.
A few other tracks recall the Brazil spheres of music with percussion, singing and trumpets, while also here the African elements finish its sound and purify it to a level of pure inspiration.
At first hearing I though the album was just light and its essence was related to keep all expressions to the minimal of what is needed, bringing everything to the most workable essence but that’s only just the surface. The arrangements are really carefully constructed. There’s even a bit of well picked sounds of keyboards here and there hidden in the background.
I consider this is a very good album that shows the best of atmospheres from Brazil and Africa with a touch of some other,-like European- elements combined with it, with a light and pleasurable end result.