I had some unexpected free time last week, so I decided to tackle a song that sneaks into my thoughts from time to time.
Egberto Gismonti is a prolific and versatile composer. A look through his extensive discography finds him playing rock, jazz, folk, chamber music and more. His 1991 album Infância is a collection of mellifluous pieces for cello, guitars (or piano) and bass. The music is sometimes somber, sometimes joyous, and always has a rhythmic flair that is distinctly Brazilian.
Meninas – Score
Here’s a basic version of a very pretty tune by Baden Powell. Of course sheet music can’t convey the tenderness and skill with which he plays it on guitar, but it’s been stuck in my head this week so I thought I’d share it with you.
Berceuse A Jussara lead sheet
Here’s another pretty song from Djavan, dedicated to his birthplace.
Alagoas – Score
Here’s a funky tune from Djavan’s album Alumbramento. This may be the only pop song I know that never fully resolves the harmony. Every time it comes around to the G chord, the bass plays an F. Can you think of another song like that?
Last year on the site I used the month of March to focus on the blues in some of its different forms. I think this year I’ll be even more specific and feature the work of a single artist: Brazilian singer Djavan. He’s been putting out quality albums for over 40 years, and I hope he continues long into the future. His work reminds me in some ways of Stevie Wonder’s… a mix of funky pop songs and heartfelt ballads, featuring some interesting harmonic choices and always fronted by strong, mature vocals.
Let’s start near the beginning. This song is on his self-titled sophomore album from 1978. Its simple melody and danceable groove always put me in a good mood.
I first heard this fun samba by Manfredo Fest on a George Shearing record.
That’s What She Says
Forró em Santo André lead sheet
This song is classic Hermeto Pascoal. It contains some of the quitessential elements of his style. The most obvious “Pascoalism” is the melody itself; full of long runs of 8th notes, often featuring doubled tones both on and off the beat. The bassline is a counterpoint to the melody, not always related to the harmony, as in bar 9 where the bass plays E and A naturals over the Eb and Ab chords. The harmony seems to dance around a Bb lydian tonality before settling on C minor for the remainder of the tune.
Hermeto builds momentum at the D.S. by moving from a downbeat-heavy melody to a more syncopated rhythm. He makes life easy for the soloist by vamping on one minor chord instead of complicated changes, a techinque also favored by Frank Zappa. Another hallmark of Hermeto’s writing is metric modulation. The tune speeds up twice during the first head (ignore the modulations after the repeat). Note the 1st ending repeats all the way back to the bar of 2/4 at the beginning.