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Hamilton De Holanda & André Mehmari: GismontiPascoal: The Music of Egberto and Hermeto

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The mandolin is still rare enough in jazz that the ear’s first instinct is to hear it as another instrument. Hamilton de Holanda’s ax on GismontiPascoal: The Music of Egberto and Hermeto sounds like a classical guitar on the opening title track (one of only four pieces not written by Brazilian greats Egberto Gismonti or Hermeto Pascoal) and a banjo on “São Jorge”; not until its 16th-note runs on Pascoal’s giddy “Intocável” is it recognizable as mandolin. Recognizable throughout, though, is the joy that De Holanda and his partner, pianist André Mehmari, radiate. They are, in turn, a joy to listen to.

The duo’s chemistry goes a long way toward communicating that joy. Pascoal’s short “Bebê” seems mainly an excuse for Mehmari and De Holanda to sound long flurries together, with Mehmari’s left hand casting a net to catch them at the end. The pianist is also a crucial factor on “Santo Antonio”: De Holanda plays it as simple, sunny folk, until Mehmari’s accent chords land with the depth and shading of art song.

So much brightness rings through GismontiPascoal that when a darker or more complex emotion does come into play, it has added power. Gismonti’s “Frevo” gets a fast staccato treatment that feels frustrated, even manic, on top of the already moody melody and key; but its position between “Intocável” and Gismonti’s fond “Sete Anéis” makes it stark and jarring. Similarly, “A Fala da Paixão” is the more bittersweet when followed by the gleeful “Chorinho Pra Eles,” with yet another dimension added by guitar from Gismonti himself. It’s Gismonti’s “Iôro” that’s rendered most profound, juxtaposing a rhapsodic middle section with a solemn, longing main theme and lightly hummed vocal. When the sentimental “O Farol Que Nos Guia” begins afterward, it’s like sunrise at the end of a tumultuous night.

Originally Published