"First there were the soft silences, then the bright tropical colours, and when their concert peaked, it became a dancing, joyous celebration of life" - so wrote journalist Irwin Block of the Montreal Gazette, reviewing an exceptional 1989 concert by Charlie Haden and Egberto Gismonti, the recording of which is released now for the first time.
In 1989, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal organized eight tribute concerts to Charlie Haden. The concert with Gismonti was sixth in a series that also included performances with Joe Henderson/Al Foster, Paul Bley/Paul Motian, Don Cherry/Ed Blackwell, Pat Metheny/Jack DeJohnette, the Liberation Music Orchestra and others. The event as a whole added up to a portrait of the bassist as leader and/or co-creator, presenting primarily music that he had helped to usher into being. Of the musics on display in Montréal, none took Haden further from strict definitions of jazz than the concert with Brazilian guitarist/pianist/composer Gismonti, yet the musical terrain was not entirely new territory for the bassist. A decade earlier, he and Gismonti had joined forces with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek in the proto-"world music" trio that briefly toured Europe's stages and left behind the still highly regarded "Magico" and "Folk Songs" albums. Gismonti had written most of the trio's book, and "Palhaço", one of its principal themes is reprised in this Montréal concert. Haden's "Silence" was also recorded by the Magico trio and revisited by its composer on many occasions (there is a spirited account of it on a 1985 recording with Dino Saluzzi, "Once Upon A Time Far Away In The South" ). Several pieces in the Montréal set derive from the repertoire and/or era of Gismonti's popular band Academia de Danças - "Salvador", "Maracatú", "Em Família", "Lôro", and "Frevo" fit into this category (though Egberto has continued to feature the pieces in other contexts) and all of them are excellent vehicles for improvisation. The concluding "Don Quixote" was previously recorded by Gismonti with percussionist Nana Vasconcelos on "Duas Voces".
Although "In Montréal" is the first ECM recording to feature Charlie Haden in 16 years, Egberto Gismonti has of course been a permanent presence, ever since he recorded the acclaimed "Dança das Cabeças", with fellow Brazilian, percussionist Nana Vasconcelos in 1976. In Europe, ECM has also made available, since 1991, Gismonti's recordings and productions on his own Carmo label. To date he has appeared on 26 albums for ECM and/or Carmo.
The Times of London: "Egberto Gismonti is an instrumentalist and composer who defies classification. He has embraced every conceivable melodic idiom of Brazil, and many others from sources as diverse as North India and the Mississippi delta. His relaxed demeanour belies the rigour of his technical discipline. He plays the guitar as handsomely as he does the piano, in which he was instructed by no less a teacher than Nadia Boulanger. The rich magnet of Brazil, fortunately, drew him out of the conservatory. Inspired by Villa Lobos and the use made by him of his country's musical resources, Gismonti began to compose by reference to samba, choro, jazz, bossa and baiao, using each style as but one ingredient for a new music."
The son of a Lebanese father and a Sicilian mother, Gismonti was born in 1947 in the small Brazilian town of Carmo. He studied piano from the age of five, and yearned, initially, to play and compose music in the European tradition. In Paris he studied with Boulanger and with composer Jean Barraqué (1928-73) whose severe and fanatically-complex serial music (refer to the ECM New Series recording of Barraqué's Piano Sonata) is very far removed from the joyous energies of Gismonti's subsequent work. Boulanger encouraged him to make musical use of his heritage. Back in Brazil he turned his attention to the guitar, an instrument at the centre of much 'serious' music, salon music, popular, dance and folk music in his homeland.
Coming late to the guitar, Gismonti brought to the instrument the virtuosity that characterized his piano playing. Two-handed interweaving of independent lines, breathtakingly fast runs, dramatic flurries in the bass register and rapid ostinati are just some of his "signatures". Originally playing classical guitar he switched to an 8-string instrument in 1973, gradually working his way up to 10 and 14 string instruments.
In the 70s and 80s Gismonti was involved in many cross-cultural projects with musicians of other nationalities, of which the trio albums with Haden and Garbarek are the most enduring. In the 1990s however he recommitted himself wholeheartedly to the Brazilian cause. "In the end you have to decide whether you want to be involved forever in 'cultural exchange' or if you want to try and develop your own culture." The concert in Montréal, however, shows that the two goals are not mutually exclusive...
Gismonti's most recent release on ECM is the orchestral album "Meeting Point". Several new projects are in preparation.***
Charlie Haden, born in Shenandoah, Iowa in 1937, began his performing life as a child, broadcasting daily on country radio. He began playing jazz in the 1950s in Los Angeles where early partners included Hampton Hawes, Art Pepper, Red Norvo, Paul Bley and most crucially, Ornette Coleman. Relocating, with Ornette's quartet, to the East Coast, Haden helped to rewrite some of the ground rules of the music on such epochal recordings as "Change of the Century", "The Shape of Jazz To Come", "This Is Our Music", "The Art Of The Improvisers" and "Free Jazz" and a further two dozen Coleman albums. Of his work on these discs, Coleman made two memorable remarks: "Charlie Haden has a lot of heart", and "He plays the music, not the background"; Haden indeed had a lot to do with the liberation of the bass, and the emotional gravitas of his playing is unmissable. These qualities were much appreciated by other employers including John and Alice Coltrane, Archie Shepp and Carla Bley and Mike Mantler. For nine years (1967-76) Haden worked extensively with Keith Jarrett, an association that first brought him to ECM. He appears on Jarrett's "Survivors Suite", "Eyes of the Heart and Arbour Zena". Other ECM recordings include work with fellow Coleman alumni Don Cherry, Dewey Redman and Ed Blackwell on "Old And New Dreams" and "Playing" , with Pat Metheny ("80/81" and "Rejoicing"), Paul Motian ("Conception Vessel", "Tribute" ), Denny Zeitlin ("Time Remembers One Time Once") Dino Saluzzi ("Once Upon A Time") and Haden's own Liberation Music Orchestra (the prize-winning "The Ballad of the Fallen"), as well as the aforementioned Haden/Garbarek/Gismonti albums.
In the 1980s, Haden's profile was boosted by the success of his Quartet West group which has continued to be one of the most popular groups in jazz. Haden was also instrumental in introducing Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba to a wider audience. Several musical associations formed during his tenure with ECM have continued to prove fruitful, including his collaboration with Pat Metheny; their "Beyond The Missouri Sky" album was a 1997 Grammy winner.