Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Support NHPR's local journalism that brings clarity, context, and community!

Egberto Gismonti: Guitars That Dazzle

Back in the 1970s, Egberto Gismonti was one of the genre-bending ECM label's great discoveries. Classically trained by Nadia Boulanger in Paris, he wove jazz and Brazilian traditions into a sound so expansive, he needed 10 strings rather than six, and created his own explosive picking techniques along the way.

Gismonti's latest, Saudacoes, is a two-disc collection. The orchestral compositions are fine on Disc 1, but the disc of guitar music is so stunning, I couldn't stop listening to it. His son, Alexandre, accompanies him on many of the songs, but there is no mistaking Gismonti's ferocious attack and roiling rhythms.

Gismonti mixes the lush voicings of classical composers — Ravel is a favorite — with the lively cadences of the Brazilian string music called choro. Choro began as a folksy instrumental genre going back to the 19th century. It grew to incorporate jazz harmonies, and you can hear its echoes in a song like the aptly titled "Two Guitars," recorded with Alexandre.

There are three fine solo performances here: one from Egberto and two from Alexandre. But the seven tracks where father and son converse with breathless intimacy are the real payoff. The music is serious and highly technical, but it's also playful, and there's an entrancing sweetness in the interactions.

Few sounds get under the skin quite as readily as that of bare hands plucking nylon strings. The Gismontis make you feel the physicality and sensuousness of every note. Their palette of sounds and ideas is so broad and varied that the music is impossible to classify. Just call this session the most exciting guitar playing you're likely to hear all year.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

Banning Eyre

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.