Recorded in February 1981 in Rio de Janeiro, Planetário da Gávea is a time-traveling concert led by musician, composer, sorcerer, and poet Hermeto Pascoal, joined by his group, then known simply as “o Grupo.” This blissful performance is so atmospheric and enchanting, you’ll feel the very air of Rio’s favelas, beaches, and “old city” creep up your back like some enchanted serpent.
During this period, Pascoal and his group would rehearse for hours, seven days a week. Consisting of largely unissued compositions and performances, Planetário da Gávea shows their high level of communication, as well as Pascoal’s unpredictable leadership and spontaneous personality.
Doleful electric piano, tortured violin, and moody accordion levitate opener “Paz Amor e Esperança,” a 32-minute, samba-driven performance rife with early-’80s ambience. The contained “Samba Do Belaqua” is mellow urban funk, with a winding tenor solo and comic groans, whoops, and howls from Pascoal. The chewy melody of “Vou Pra Lá e Pra Cá” maintains the glowing vibrations, followed by Pascoal’s spoken-word introduction of “Bombardino” and its sinuous, bell-rattling, electric bass-spiking, trumpet-searing solos. Midpoint, the leader performs a humorous call and response with one of the horns. After a drum solo, “São Jorge – Ilza na Feijoada” changes tone with a dissonant unaccompanied electric-piano solo before returning home.
As one who has visited Brazil twice, I can attest that Planetário da Gávea comprises all the magic of Rio’s street life, people, and rhythms. With the magnificent Pascoal as your guide, it provides the perfect vacation in pandemic times.