Earlier this year I reviewed an album by Brazil's legendary master musician Hermeto Pascoal (click here if you missed it). This review has set me on a journey looking for more of this music from the man Miles Davis apparently once dubbed "the most impressive musician in the world." Pascoal's recordings are inexplicably elusive here in the United States save for streaming services like Tidal and Qobuz (and via mail order).
On my first visit back into a record store since the Covid 19 lockdown -- wearing double masks, rubber gloves and social distanced with only two others in Tunnel Records including the store owner -- I found many great albums including one I'd never seen or heard of before credited to Sean Khan and featuring Hermeto Pascoal! Apparently Khan came out of the "broken beats" scene in the UK and morphed into a jazz powerhouse over there.
The best review I can offer is that I have played Sean Khan's Palmares Fantasy Featuring Hermeto Pasocal six or seven times end to end and it is just a sweet listen.
Not only can this fellow play -- with a sound that is at once sounds familiar yet is all his own -- he's crafted some great tunes that have wrapped around me like a glove. One of the pieces he co-wrote with Hermeto.
Sean Khan's Palmares Fantasy Featuring Hermeto Pasocal (on the Far Out Records label) is an album that at times reminds me of those vintage Fender Rhodes electric piano-driven Return To Forever records. I hear echoes of Weather Report and Herbie Hancock in here. "Said" feels like what might have happened if John Coltrane sat in with Dave Brubeck on a night when Paul Desmond got sick on tour of the Middle East.
"Montreux" is a beautiful original by Pascoal that fits the vibe of this album perfectly (and I feel pretty confident writing that you probably haven't heard anything quite like this as he plays a vocal solothrough a pot of water!). "The Conversation," co-written by Khan and Pascoal, feels kind of like what might happen if Pianists Chick Corea and Thelonious Monk had a love child who improvised with the offspring of Saxophonist Paul Desmond and multi-instrumentalist Paul McCandless.
Palmares Fantasy Featuring Hermeto Pasocal opens up with a tune featuring a vocalist who reminds me a bit of Patti Cathcart (from Tuck & Patti) by way of Flora Purim and Sarah Vaughan, Heidi Vogel on "Moment of Collapse."
This is nice conceptual continuity for me given that Flora was one of my gateways to Hermeto years ago when I picked up his 1977 album Slaves Mass (on Warner Brothers Records); Flora was on that album along with Airto, Chester Thompson, Ron Carter, Alphonso Johnson and many others and the reason I was curious the check out the recording. Heidi has a great voice so I hope to explore some of her recordings in the near future as well...
And then Mr. Khan has crafted beautiful soaring orchestral arrangements which float in and out of some of the songs here. At times, the vibe he evokes recalls no less than one of my favorite Bill Evans albums, 1966's Bill Evans Trio With Symphony Orchestra).
One of these tunes -- "Waltz For Hermeto" -- feels like a sweet nod to Evans' classic "Waltz For Debby."
You can find Palmares Fantasy Featuring Hermeto Pasocal streaming in CD quality on Tidal (click here) and Qobuz (click here). Both versions sound quite nice but the vinyl is the richer listening experience.
Any way you listen, if you like Jazz, do check out Mr. Khan's music.