Jovino e Hermeto—A Family Reunion


Hermeto Pascoal e Grupo finale with the Jovino Santos Neto Quinteto at The Neptune Theatre. Photo by Jim Levitt. (L-R): André Marques, Itiberê Zwarg, Ajurinã Zwarg, Jota P., Ben Thomas, Mark Ivester, Jovino Santos Neto, Fabio Pascoal, Jeff Busch, Tim Carey, and Hermeto Pascoal


Brazilian-bred pianist and composer Jovino Santos Neto celebrated a jubilant, historic reunion May 30 at the Neptune Theatre with his storied former bandleader, Hermeto Pascoal. The packed house could barely contain its delight, awarding a standing ovation to Santos Neto’s Quinteto and another for Pascoal, who was joined by Jovino on melodica for half his show.

When Santos Neto was first drawn into the Hermeto musical family, in 1977, Pascoal was already famous, having made his reputation as an eccentric, wizardly composer/bandleader at home and on the world stage with Miles Davis, on his 1971 album, Live-Evil. Thirteen years later, in 1990, when Earshot’s board president, Mark Solomon, booked Pascoal at the old Ballard venue, the Backstage, Santos Neto was thinking it might be time to leave his dizzying life on the road. After Earshot brought the band back for the 1991 festival, he thought Seattle might be the perfect place to land. 

“I felt like I had to step away, take a break,” he said, after the Neptune concert. “Each time we came through Seattle, I thought, ‘This place really speaks to me.’ I didn’t have a plan. But the thought kept brewing.”

In 1993, he made the leap, at first studying, then teaching, at Cornish College of the Arts, where he stayed until 2020. During all those years, Santos Neto has maintained a close relationship with Pascoal, teaching his music and playing with him around the world – including his last Earshot Jazz Festival appearance show, in 2004. He also became the composer’s archivist, cataloguing and duplicating more than 1,500 of the maestro’s tunes. But this concert had a special resonance, reuniting his Seattle family – wife, Luzia; son, Ariel; and three grandkids, all in the crowd, along with scores of former students – with his touring musical family of yore.

“For me it was like bringing together two different worlds,” he said, “like having a snapshot of your whole life in front of you.”

That feeling was palpable at the Neptune, as the Quinteto played Pascoal’s sea-sparkling homage to a Brazilian beach, “Juvenal No Grumari” (sizzling Jovino solo), and Santos Neto’s evocatively galumphing “Donkey Xote.” Percussionist Jeff Busch and drummer Mark Ivester bristled with energy, with Busch twanging his berimbau on “Pontapé.” Vibraphonist Ben Thomas lit a fire on Santos Neto’s samba, “Cerca do Macaco” and the grandkids were treated to the children’s tune, “Festa de Erê.”

Hermeto, who turns 87 on June 22, appeared after intermission wearing a fedora festooned with musical notes and a loud, untucked floral shirt, partly covered by his long platinum beard and ponytail. Joined by André Marques (piano), Itiberê Zwarg (bass), Ajrinã Zwart (drums), Jota. P (reeds), and his son Fabio Pascoal (percussion), he delivered a non-stop, high-speed show that was loud, technically dazzling, rhythmically jagged and theatrically witty. Highlights included a wordless vocal ensemble that included bird calls and the first of many sizzling piccolo solos by Jota P.; the pretty “Quiabo”; Pascoal’s samba, “Viva o Rio de Janeiro”; and the cheerful and joyous “Papagaio Alegre,” which featured an accelerando to infinity and more hi-jinks, as Pascoal conducted with his hat then sang a wordless vocal that morphed into a laugh. 

Santos Neto joined in on “Rebuliço,” wailing on melodica, and continued through an extended version of the flamenco-inspired “Ailin,” which included a comic percussive interlude and the band randomly shouting ‘Olé!’” Wooden shoes as instruments made an appearance on “Tamancos e Pilões.” The rest of the Quinteto joined the party for the tricky, penultimate tune, “Depois do Baile.” Remarkably, Santos Neto spit out precision unison lines with Jota P. on “Jegue,” which he hadn’t played in years. The band returned for an exuberant encore, “Irmãos Latinos,” a mambo that got the crowd dancing. As the musicians filed off stage, Pascoal thumped his heart and waved his hat goodbye. 

Adeus, old friend, and obrigado for a night to remember.


Posted on

June 26, 2023