Written by 12:35 pm Audiophile Music, Audiophile News, Compact Disc, Streaming, Vinyl

Listening Report: Hermeto Pascoal’s New Live Album Recorded In A Planetarium

Mark Smotroff hopes more listeners discover a Brazilian artist’s fantastic music…

I remember excitedly reading the news of a live album coming out from one of my more recent musical obsessions, Hermeto Pascoal. But as there are so many releases coming out rapid fire and erratic these days, coupled with all the trials and tribulations of life in these trying 21st Century tymes, I honestly forgot about it. However, the buzz came back to me when scouring the racks at Amoeba Music last week when I found the new release from my new musical hero. 

Planetário Da Gávea is an archival release featuring Pascoal with his then new band (eventually named O Grupo), an assemblage which would last 11 years (some members remain in the group to this day!). Recorded in 1981 in a Rio De Janero planetarium, the album is a terrific snapshot of everything that tickles my fancy about his music and keeps me digging down deeper into his catalog.

The album’s liner notes help to visualize it: “On the Planetário Da Gávea recordings though, Hermeto is cast as the “sorcerer” or the “cosmic emissary” (as the great Brazilian guitarist Guinga once called him), exhibiting an intuitive sense of harmony and melody beyond that of our own world.”

I’ll be more direct: if you’ve ever enjoyed music by Frank Zappa (especially the “Grand Wazoo” and “Roxy” eras of his band), Return To Forever and even Charles Mingus you might well enjoy this music. And if you perhaps wondered how they might all sound together, well — again — you might enjoy this music!  

I have written about Hermeto in the recent past. Please click here for a link to several of my reviews of his albums and related guest appearances on albums by Airto and Sean Khan. 

So, you may be wondering why you need to hear Planetário Da Gávea — which was sourced from a lone remaining soundboard-recorded cassette — in your Hermeto journey? Well first off, the tape sounds excellent all things considered and the performances are exemplary. You can really hear the band finding its groove on the stage and coming together as a tight unit. Apparently Pascoal used to rehearse his bands much as Zappa did, nearly seven days a week, eight hours a day. The band’s collective vision shines on these live-without-a-net recordings.

Again, I’ll reference the liner notes which do a good job of encapsulating this music on Planetário Da Gávea:

“Across the recording of the Planetário concert, wild improvisation meets groovy, virtuosic vamping on progressive, extended psychedelic jams. The tracks are generally built around a beautiful, transcendent melody; instantly recognizable as being Hermeto’s, and for the most part, the musicians then solo over extended two chord vamps. There’s a plethora of powerfully delivered rhythms, wild solos and the performances are punctuated by Hermeto’s unpredictable, at times comical sonic antics.”

That describes what I’d like to imagine a resultant music would sound like if Mingus jammed with Zappa’s band at a Return To Forever festival. 

Many of the songs on Planetário Da Gávea had never been recorded before this concert (many still unique to this concert) including ‘Homônimo Sintróvio,’ ‘Samba Do Belaqua’ and ‘Vou Pra Lá e Pra Cá.’

Wait until you hear his vocal solo with himself and a horn mouthpiece (probably from a trumpet) on ‘Bombardino’!

The vinyl pressing from Far Out Recordings is excellent. Planetário Da Gávea is also available on CD and you can find it on the finest streaming services including Tidal and Apple Music. (click the service name to jump to the recording there if you have access to those services).

Miles Davis once called him “one of the most important musicians on the planet.“  

What are you waiting for?   Check out Hermeto Pascoal’s music and Planetario Da Gavea.

This is the good stuff.

T-shirt available from Pascoal’s Bandcamp page
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