Hermeto Pascoal Credit: Gabriel Quintão

There’s no one in the world quite like Brazilian polymath Hermeto Pascoal, who at 81 continues to produce music in a world all his own. Since the 1970s, when he traveled to the U.S. and worked briefly with Miles Davis—he appears on the classic 1971 album Live-Evil—he’s pursued a feverish hybrid of frantic jazz fusion, Brazilian folk, and outward-bound exploration akin to that of Sun Ra’s Arkestra (though without the extraterrestrial themes). He’s still making worthwhile music, but his finest accomplishments date from the 70s and 80s, which makes the surprise appearance of Viajando Com o Som: The Lost ’76 Vice-Versa Studio Session (Far Out) an event worth noting.

The album was the second full-length Pascoal cut after the American sojourn that shook up his sound: it followed 1973’s A Música Livre de Hermeto Paschoal and arose from the same hothouse environment that produced his 1977 breakthrough, Slaves Mass. Amazingly, this is the first time it’s been released in any form—though the lengthy liner notes are so muddled it’s hard to find a satisfying explanation for why the music sat in the can for so long. Viajando Com o Som is hardly a trifle you could understand Pascoal simply forgetting about. It’s a serious, idea-crammed collection, veering organically from meditative, flute-driven incantations to hard-driving Brazilian funk to spacey machinations—and that’s just within the first piece, “Dança do Pajé,” which you can hear below.
On the concise, horn-focused “Mavumvavumpefoco,” the braided saxophones of Nivaldo Ornelas, Mauro Senise, and Raul Mascarenhas deliver a wonderfully striated sound reminiscent of Roland Kirk’s performances when he’d blow multiple horns at once. “Natal (Tema das Flutas)” blossoms from austere layers of birdsong-like flute into beautiful vocal exotica, with singer Aleuda Chaves cooing like some kind of benevolent seashore siren. The album concludes with an adaptation of the Brazilian folk song “Casinha Pequenina,” which Pascoal transforms into an episodic, almost orchestral masterpiece—though it shifts steadily in focus, tempo, attack, and density, it’s consistent in its lush grandeur.

Today’s playlist:

Nadia Sirota, Tessellatum (Bedroom Community)
Cuong Vu, Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny (Nonesuch)
Bang on a Can All-Stars, More Field Recordings (Cantaloupe)
Paul Motian Trio 2000 + Two, Live at the Village Vanguard Volume III (Winter & Winter)
Morgan Evans-Weiler, Unfinished Variations (for Jed Speare) (Weighter)