Hermeto Pascoal Septet at Ronnie Scott’s

Vinícius Dorin, Itiberê Zwarg, Fabio Pascoal, Aline Morena, Hermeto Pascoal.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved

Hermeto Pascoal Septet
(Ronnie Scott’s, 17 July 2013; first of 3 night residency; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

If pigs could fly … they almost did! Hermeto Pascoal, who is known for having commandeered the grunts of a live pig onstage and on his ‘Slaves Mass’ record, delighted a full house at Ronnie’s by squeezing on two pink toy pigs, one in each hand, adding croaky, playful accents to his band’s rhythmic tide.

Humour is just one facet in the continual treasure hunt that constitutes Hermeto’s musical universe, a camouflage for his presentation of the unexpected and the innovative. He covers all the stylistic bases, from the rural and urban musics of his native Brazil through to jazz and improvisation on anything that sparks his attention. His earliest instrument was the accordion and he moved from keyboards to a touching spell on a small, antique 8-bass instrument late on in the two-hours plus set.

As for his band at Ronnie’s – well, there’s latin jazz and there’s these guys: that unique, incomparable Brazilian sixth sense of rhythm is in their blood. This band has been with him through thick and thin. The peerless drummer, Marcio Bahia, is a phenomenon – you hardly spot him moving but he just churned it up – he’s been with Hermeto for 32 years. Bassist, Itiberê Zwarg, who joined him in ’77, fell into a natural flow, grinning all evening. Sax maestro Vinícius Dorin and piano dynamo, André Marques have been there for 20 and Fabio Pascoal has manipulated all manner of percussion for even longer. The ‘newcomer’ is Hermeto’s partner of 11 years, singer, Aline Morena, who was sensational!

Shambling on to the stage, they grouped around two mics to rattle out a stunningly synchronised a cappella piece which culminated in Morena’s wild rendition of the aria from Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’. Hermeto, in leather gaucho hat, massive floral shirt, all white mane and beard, emerged to take genial, paternal charge from behind the Yamaha, with enchanting modesty. When Dorin turned the heat up, Hermeto raised the hat from his head, letting it down very slowly in appreciation of the sax man’s sizzling solo.

Morena is a vocal force to be reckoned with. Flashing eyes, fearful of nothing, hers is more than a singing voice – there seemed to be no notes that were out of her reach – always threatening a scream, she was in control of an extraordinary range as she single-handedly redefined scat as a drive over the bumpiest of roads, hitting and missing the potholes, as she charged on in mesmerising fashion. It really was ‘from a whisper to a scream’.

The band’s telepathic rapport, tapping a supple stream of percussive momentum, defined their special unison. Marques’s explosive piano style recalled the Cuban, Rubalcaba. Dorin, on tenor, veered from the Carnival, which he took back from Rollins, to soprano flake-outs not far from Brötzmann or Evan Parker, all with a joyous, wilful tendency to brush with dissonance.

Hermeto took to a curious old horn and created his own Roland Kirk moment, vocalising through it as he played keyboard, and took delight in treating a battered kettle and a melodica in similar manner. A plunger whistle was played with pure breath. As he improvised with vocals the house joined in to repeat his phrases with gusto as he directed. Not to forget the tune that he wrote specially for ‘the family of Ronnie Scott’s’ – he recalled jamming with Ronnie in the old days. He was going to write a different one for each night. This one was a soft, mellow piano solo which he then handed over to the band to top off the evening in gentle, sensitive style.

Excellent support from Ronnie’s All Stars – James Pearson (piano), Brandon Allen (sax), Laurence Cottle (bass) and Chris Higginbottom (drums). In their loose, relaxed set they didn’t take the easy way out, opting for contrasts including Monk’s ‘Epistrophy’ and Waldron’s ‘Soul Eyes’. Excellent solos from Allen on a weathered tenor, assured, measured piano and bass from Pearson and Cottle and really crisp drum work from a seemingly un-jetlagged Higginbottom just back from Tokyo’s Blue Note!

Hermeto Pascoal: Yamaha keyboard, piano, accordion, melodica, flute, teapot, horn, toy pigs, whistles, vocals …
Aline Morena: voice, ten string guitar, percussion
Itiberê Zwarg: electric bass, percussion
André Marques: piano, flute, percussion
Vinícius Dorin: soprano, alto, tenor saxes, flutes, percussion
Fabio Pascoal: percussion, duck calls and stage direction
Marcio Bahia: drum kit and percussion

Categories: miscellaneous

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