Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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PASCOAL, Hermeto

(b 1936, Arapiraca, Brazil) Composer and multi-instrumentalist, an entirely self-taught prodigy described by Airto (Moreira) as 'the most complete musician I ever met in my life'. His name is often spelled Paschoal. He began with flute, then accordion, performing at age eleven, later picking up reeds and piano. For a while in the early 1950s he played in a trio with his brother and Sivuca (Severino D'Oliveira, b 1930, Itabaiana, Penambuco, also later toured the world): the three albinos playing accordions called themselves O Mundo em Chamas (World on Fire). He formed a trio with percussionist Airto '64, then joined him in a trio with two guitars: the new group Quarteto Novo played the styles of northeastern Brazil in a progressive way with the harmonies of modern jazz and made one eponymous album '67.

He went to the USA and played piano on Miles Davis's Live-Evil '70, and recorded with Airto on Buddah that year; a big-band album including 14 strings, Hermeto '72 on Cobblestone, was later issued on Muse: he composed and arranged it, played keyboards and flute. His eclecticism and ability to make music out of anything was an inspiration to others. A Música Livre de Hermeto Pascoal '73 on Sinter was made in Brazil, Slave's Mass '76 on WB in the USA with Airto, Flora Purim, Ron Carter and others; he also recorded with Airto and Purim on Milestone '76-7, and contributed over the years to albums by trumpeter Marcio Montarroyos, guitarist Heraldo do Monte and percussionist Nené. Pascoal's solo Zalumbe-bum-a '79 and quartet Cérebro Magnético '80 were on WEA Brazil, who also issued an octet recorded live at Montreux '79. He joined a new label called Som da Gente, run by songwriters in Brazil with a studio who wanted to let him do as he pleased; octet Hermeto Pascoal e Grupo '82, septet Lagoa de Canoã, Município de Arapiraca '84 and Brasil, Universo '85 were on a Happy Hour label. His live performances in Brazil are legendary.