Nana Vasconcelos, the unique Brazilian percussionist, singer and berimbau master has died in his hometown of Recife, aged 71. His vivid playing conjured echoes of the rainforest, scurryings in the undergrowth, the sudden flap of bird-wings, animal calls, the crackle of flames, cloudbursts and more. He busked on street corners, played with symphony orchestras, breakdancers, and with all manner of improvisers.
In Brazil he first gained a reputation as a member of Milton Nascimento’s group, and he arrived in Europe in early 1970s as a member of Gato Barbieri’s band, basing himself initially in Paris. His highly productive association with Egberto Gismonti was begun on the often thrilling ECM recording Dança das Cabeças in 1976 and continued on albums including Sol do meio Dia, Duas Vozes and Nana’s 1979 leader date Saudades, for which Gismonti wrote the orchestral arrangements. (Egberto and Nana were due to revive their musical association this year, and a tour of the Far East had been booked for April.) Vasconcelos was one third of the magical Codona group with Don Cherry and Collin Walcott whose ECM recordings are reprised in the box set The Codona Trilogy.
“Codona was the best collaboration in my life because it was a really unpredictable situation,” Vasconcelos told writer N. Scott Robinson in 2000. “Codona was true improvisation; freedom. Because it was true collaboration, three different persons, three different backgrounds put together.”
Nana Vasconcelos also appears on ECM albums with Pat Metheny, Jan Garbarek, Pierre Favre and Arild Andersen.
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