Review

Naná Vasconcelos

Nana Nelson Angelo Novelli

Altercat • 1975

Paris, 1975. Brasilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos is on the fence. A return to his homeland, plagued by a military dictatorship, is not an option. But to survive in France, Vasconcelos must navigate exoticizing phantasms directed towards Latin artists. He hires himself out as a session musician or as a »music therapist« in a children’s hospital. When nearly going broke, Vasconcelos decides to score a Chrysler ad with clichéd tropicana. Since releasing his solo album »Africadeus« two years prior, the percussionist is slowly undoing his reputation as backing musician. Vasconcelos still a long way before becoming a paragon of Brazilian music.

However, this transitory period is also immensely productive. Case in point: the collaboration with guitarist Nelson Angelo and bassist Novelli. Their album offers eight Jazz pieces with Brazilian flair. The trio never strays to far from European listening habits. The songs are missing the raw self-assurance of »Africadeus« or the finesse of Vasconcelos’ eventual cornerstone album, »Saudades«. It is usually treated as a side note in his discography. (Daniel B. Sharp doesn’t even mention the cooperation in his wonderful book on Vasconcelos.) Nevertheless, all its songs are good, if not great. This suggests a bitter »double bind«: In the 1970s, musicians in exile had to conform to Western standards. For this very reason, their albums are met with less interest today. It doesn’t have to be like that.