From the first minute of this sell-out Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival concert, at the comfortably intimate Edinburgh venue, the audience was rapt, with none of the usual Jazz Bar sporadic chat happening. All focus was on the trio as they played in one exhausting set, ten arrangements of the interesting, lyrical and beautiful music of Brazilian composer, master guitarist and pianist, Egberto Gismonti.
A national treasure in his homeland, Gismonti’s extensive and diverse oeuvre is often less well known overseas, with the possible exception of his 1979 collaboration with Charlie Haden and Jan Garbarek on ‘Magico’. So tonight, the trio’s pianist Paul Harrison helpfully shared some background information and tune names, in Portuguese and English, which was very helpful for the ignoramuses (this writer included) present.
According to Harrison, Gismonti is “a genius”, the latter’s creativity wide-ranging and his compositions and musicianship showing that he has a deep engagement with not just jazz, but also with his country’s traditional music and with western classical music. All of which could be heard tonight in the trio’s respectful and vivid homage to him.
Harrison described how he had transcribed the music from Gismonti’s recordings, then made each piece the trio’s own. A labour of love indeed, given the effort this must have entailed. However, one got the feeling that Gismonti himself would have greatly enjoyed tonight’s concert, not least because of the trio’s own extrapolations and additions.
Mario Caribe on double bass, himself Brazil-born, played with his usual fluency and with obvious sympathy and pleasure, likewise drummer Stuart Brown expounded upon the interesting rhythms with rigour yet apparent ease.
Meanwhile the pianism of Harrison, who was also responsible for the rich and lovely arrangements, was remarkable. Clearly, as Caribe stated, Harrison has “dug deep” into Gismonti’s music, resulting in first-rate interpretations, which would not be out of place in any jazz bar or indeed concert hall anywhere.
Nowadays there is a growing appetite for both beautiful melodies and traditional/world music-informed jazz. This trio delivers both, in impressive style. Festival programmers everywhere, take note!