Brasil Universo

The cover of 'Brasil Universo' by Hermeto Pascoal (1986).

At ‘The Vinyl Spinner’ in Monmouth last month I took a chance on a late-’80s record by the Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal: Brasil Universo. It cost me £12, so I was relieved to find I greatly enjoyed it. The opening number ‘Mentalizando A Cruz’ begins with a few minutes of arresting solo piano before the rest of Pascoal’s band join in as he meanwhile hums and whistles, the whole thing eventually culminating in a wonky groove akin to off-kilter children’s music. On ‘Peixinho’ guest singer Jane Duboc contributes some vocalese as band-members ‘sing’ along with her on flute and saxophone.

Pascoal seems to be the sort of open-minded soul who can find music in almost any sound, and who, given the opportunity, will bring almost any sound into his music. The first track on side B, ‘O Tocador Quer Beber’, shimmies along irresistably for the most part like a popular accordion-powered tune from earlier in the 20th Century – aside from some brief freak-outs where voices and chicken noises come in to the mix. That’s followed by the somewhat discordant ‘Arapuá’, that would seem harder on the ears if it weren’t kept moving so briskly by its propulsive rhythms. The concluding tune, meanwhile, ‘Calma de Repente’ has some heartfelt vocals over acoustic guitars. It’s a varied album full of ideas & with many twists and turns.

The cover of 'The Wonderful World Of Antonio Carlos Jobim' (1965).

The same day, from the same place, I picked up something else with a Brazilian flavour in the shape of The Wonderful World Of Antonio Carlos Jobim (1964), where the great songwriter plays and sings his own tunes accompanied by master arranger Nelson Riddle and his orchestra. Reputedly Riddle’s favourite among the many records he worked on, it’s a thing of mellow beauty.