Pascoal, Hermeto (1936–)

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Pascoal, Hermeto (1936–)

The Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal is one of the best-known jazz artists from Latin America. Born on June 22, 1936, in Lagoa da Canoa, a small rural town in the northeastern Brazilian state of Alagoas, Pascoal performs music that is deeply rooted in the folkloric music and ambient sounds of his birthplace. A self-taught musician, Pascoal is a virtuoso pianist who also performs regularly on accordion, flute, saxophone, and various brass, percussion, and string instruments. In addition, he is a prolific composer who by the beginning of the twenty-first century had written well over 2,000 pieces, several of which, including "O Ovo" (The egg), "Chorinho pra Ele" (Chorinho for him), and "Bebê" (Babe) have become standards in the Brazilian jazz repertoire. He often integrates ambient sounds into his compositions—for example, his use of live pigs on "Missa dos Escravos" (Slaves Mass) from his record Slaves Mass (1976) and a soccer announcer on "Tiruliruli" from Lagoa da Canoa Município de Arapiraca (1984).

Pascoal's musical talent was evident early; by age eleven he was already playing accordion professionally with his father and brother at local dances. In the late 1950s he moved south, first to Rio de Janeiro and eventually to São Paulo, where he worked as a studio musician and played with several influential groups, including the Sambrasa Trio and Quarteto Novo. In 1970 Pascoal traveled to the United States, where he recorded with Miles Davis and Airto Moreira, among others. While there Pascoal also recorded his first solo album, Hermeto, before returning to São Paulo to embark on a solo career. In 1977 Pascoal relocated to Rio de Janeiro, where he organized his greatest band, O Grupo (The group). Rehearsing at his home six hours per day, five days per week, the band developed an extensive and varied repertoire that ranged from complex, multilayered works to folklike tunes and free improvisations. From 1980 to 1992 Pascoal enjoyed the most productive phase of his career, touring regularly throughout Europe, the United States, and Asia and releasing a series of influential recordings. Since 1993 his recordings have been more sporadic, but he continues to compose and tour, both as a solo performer and in conjunction with O Grupo. In 1996–1997 he completed a project in which he composed a tune per day for an entire year, the results of which were published in his book Calendário do Som (Calendar of sound) (2000).

See alsoMusic: Popular Music and Dance .


Work by Pascoal

Pascoal, Hermeto. Calendário do Som. São Paulo, Brazil: Editora Senac, 2000.

Other Works

Connell, Andrew M. "Refiguring the Familiar in Hermeto Pascoal's Som da Aura." In Musical Cultures of Latin America: Global Effects Past and Present, edited by Steven Loza. Los Angeles: Department of Ethnomusicology and Systematic Musicology, University of California, Los Angeles, 2003. UCLA Selected Reports in Ethnomusicology, vol. 11.

Neto, Luiz Costa Lima. "The Experimental Music of Hermeto Paschoal e Grupo (1981–93): A Musical System in the Making." British Journal of Ethnomusicology 9, no. 1 (2000): 119-142.

                                   Andrew M. Connell