Sounds of Impetus Vol. 1

I have no memory of how Ao Vivo, specifically, came into my life (the man's discography is enormous), but it became a turning point in my musical interests. Now, I rarely attempt to rank records because it is so variable and contextual, but this one is forever in my top three - I don't even know what the other two might be, but it's that special. In college, I used to run live sound at a country bar half an hour from my aparment and when I left at one or two in the morning, I'd listen to it on my drive home, obsessively. Driving back roads alone in the dark juxtaposed with the wildest sounds streaming from my little Honda's stereo.

Portrait of Hermeto Pascoal

I was first introduced to Hermeto in a modern music ensemble I was a part of in college (shout out to Dr. Riepe). I distinctly remember the sounds of pigs, so looking back it was definitely Slaves Mass I had heard. The titular tune opens with a call and response between a pig and fingerpicked guitar. This was a formative moment for me. New rhythms, new harmony, and new sounds. It was jazz, but it was foreign. It was foreign, but familiar. And so deeply rooted in nature.

Hermeto was born in an area of Brazil with no electricity. His family worked the fields, but because of his albinism, he wasn't able to. Instead, his father taught him accordion and he'd play it for hours and hours at home. Today, he's a virtuoso on any instrument he's ever touched. Miles Davis is even alleged to have said that he's 'one of the most complete musicians on the planet.'  The two actually collaborated on Davis' 1971 record Live-Evil, featuring three of Hermeto's pieces, introducing him to international audiences.

Recorded at Montreux Jazz Festival in 1979 (look up the rest of that year's lineup by the way - oof), Ao Vivo has everything; the energy of a live performance, a wildly fanatic audience, incredible dynamics - going from full band to a chamber trio in moments - and easily some of the most impressive improvisation I've ever heard.

As I will with all records in this series, I encourage you to listen to this one from beginning to end. I can all but guarantee you'll be hooked in the first two minutes after the announcer introduces the band to the stage.

The audience simmers, the percussion begins to rumble, and then the first chord on the Rhodes hits. You're in another world.

Hermeto Pascoal - Ao Vivo

Music mentioned:

Slaves Mass