The »ECM sound« is polarising. Some people’s eyes light up at the word, while others roll them at the mere mention of it. And then classical strings on top? Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos, with his thoroughly »earthy« sound, seems an unlikely candidate to combine his berimbau and other instrumental sounds with a German symphony orchestra. ECM’s Manfred Eicher made exactly that possible. As with bassist Eberhard Weber’s 1974 solo début, »The Colours of Chloë«, Eicher brought Vasconcelos together with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra (still called the Südfunk Sinfonieorchester with Weber) for »Saudades« five years later. Both times were successful, but with very different means regarding the details. This is not only down to Vasconcelós’ concentrated rhythmic playing, but also to the way he uses the orchestra. In addition to flat harmonic passages, there are dissonant, jagged movements arranged by Egberto Gismonti that, for all their virtuosity, never sound artificial. On some tracks, such as »Vozes (Saudades)«, on which Vasconcelos collages his voice into a call-and-response loop, the orchestra only makes a very discreet appearance at the end. »Cego Aderaldo« even dispenses with the symphony orchestra altogether in favour of Gismonti’s guitar. Surprisingly unchanged after 44 years, it’s now back on the shelves for the first time in this country after 43 years on high-quality vinyl. This is quite appropriate, given the record.
Fabiano Do Nascimento