The Art of Jazz Orchestra was at its most advent makeup and will be hard pressed to surpass this performance in putting it all out there. Members of the orchestra played as an ensemble, trios and duets, they took turns imitating jungle sounds, jumping from their chairs with sounds, both strange and humorous. They followed the directions of the conductor Mr. Neto and of the leader Mr. Pascoal. They took solos that were as intense and focused as any I have heard.
The orchestra had many familiar faces, Jane Bunnett, Larry Cramer, Pat LaBarbera, Terry Clarke, Rich Brown, Davide Virelles, Reg Swagger, Luis Denis, Alexis Baro, Alex Brown, Kervin Barreto, Kevin Turcotte, Alister Kay, Perry White, Mike Ruby, John Johnson, Brazilian percussionist Maniho and many faces I did not recognize, mostly from the trombone section and I was not able to catch their names.
Performing songs that sounded similar to tunes from the American songbook, yet with melodies and rhythms that were a mix of Bossa Nova, Samba, Maracatu, Batucada and many other folkloric traditional sounds of Brazil, the orchestra seemed at ease, while at the same time, being as intrigued as the audience in Hermeto Pascoals' performance.
The percussion section was a traditional sounding two piece section that added the heavy Brazilian heartbeat to the backbone of the orchestra. The arrangements of the compositions sounded intense, great solos by sections of the orchestra, the trumpets as a group, the trombones, the saxophones, all taking their respective spots and creating magical moments with sounds that were on the wild side and reverberated through the room with blazing tones.
Once your ears became accustomed to the sound quality of the room, a giant cement cave, with exposed mechanical architecture and one hundred year old beams of petrified wood, you became wrapped up in the flow, the magic and the incredible adrenalin like energy rush of power that poured forth through these wild arrangements and imaginative songs. By the third tune I had adapted to the sound and was transfixed by the performance. The orchestra took the audience on a wild ride, a Samba like rhythm with a big grand sound and lush horns all blending stupendously to create a vibrant energy. Hi-light solos with John Johnson and Luis Denis taking call and response lines through about sixteen bars, a rolling wave like tsunami of spirit that gathered up the audience and pulled them into the performance.
Along with Hermeto Pascoal came Aline Morena, a singer and guitarist as well as, long time collaborator Jovino Santos Neto, who during his 15 year tenure with Hermeto Pascoal and O Grupo, 1977 to 1992,has made it his mission to share the music of Hermeto Pascoal with the world. He has collected all of Hermeto's original manuscripts and created a file of over one thousand compositions. Everything from orchestral and chamber settings, to the pieces that were actually performed and recorded by O Grupo, so that musicians of the world will be able to read this unique repertoire.
Mr. Neto a pianist, flutist, and co-producer of most of Hermeto's albums conducted the orchestra with near flawless precision and through his passion for the music seemed to propel a performance from the group of Canadian musicians of masterful proportions. There were great solos from Alister Kay on trombone, Pat LaBarbera and Mike Ruby on tenor saxophones, Luis Denis and John Johnson on alto saxophone, Alexis Baro and Kevin Turcotte on trumpet and many other exciting moments.
The second set opened with lush vocal chanting by Ms. Morales, enriched by the harmonization of the horn section. There were interesting interludes of audible journeys through the jungle as the horn section played through their mouthpieces only, recreating the sounds of nature. Hermeto Pascoal played tuba like tones while blowing into a bottle, he arranged the vocal harmonies for the audience who responded with professional chops that impressed even him. Hermeto coaxed his longtime friend and compatriot, as well as the co-recipient of the second Art of Jazz Lifetime Achievement Award Egberto Gismonti, up on to the stage to perform for a very receptive audience.
The global village of the Art of Jazz celebration came to life at this evenings performance, the third annual celebration and branching out into territory that is usually reserved for the most advant garde of festivals. Hermeto Pascoal shared his music and his spirit with the audience and with the orchestra. Members of both the audience and the orchestra agreed that they had never witnessed anything quite like this. Perhaps a once in a lifetime performance, definitely one of the most memorable.