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Jovino Santos Neto: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

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Cornish College of the Arts Photo

In 1977, Cornish College of the Arts faculty member Jovino Santos Neto was coming back home to Brazil after university studies in Canada. Jovino was planning to do graduate work in biology in the Amazon rain forest. But on a whim, Jovino decided to first knock on the door of the famous Brazilian composer, bandleader and multi-instrumentalistHermeto Pascoal.

Jovino at that time was a mostly self-taught pianist who played for fun and really didn’t read music all that well, but he was a big fan of Hermeto and wanted to thank him for his music. So Jovino knocked on the door and was led into the living room where Hermeto sat shirtless at the electric piano, wearing headphones -- completely absorbed in the music he was making. Twenty minutes later Hermeto finally noticed that Jovino was in the room.

Jovino found the courage to play some of his own music for Hermeto. And while Hermeto sensed that this was a young player with lots to learn, Hermeto invited Jovino to play a concert with his band later that week. That invitation led to a life-changing apprenticeship.

Jovino spent the next 15 years playing in Hermeto’s band and learning the art and craft of music from Hermeto. Jovino’s dreams of being a biologist were dramatically altered. From the time he met Hermeto in the late 70s to this very day, Jovino Santos Neto has devoted his artistic life to the piano, to his band and to composing, teaching and performing in Seattle and well beyond.

Though he didn’t become a biologist, the sounds of nature played a big role in shaping the life and music of Jovino Santos Neto. His teacher, Hermeto, also shared fascination with the sounds of nature and the Brazilian landscape. Hermeto grew up in the Brazilian countryside and his parents were farmers. But Hermeto was albino, so he couldn’t work out in the sun with his family. He would sit under a tree, making flutes from native plants and soaking up musical inspiration from the surrounding landscape.

When Jovino and his Cornish College colleague, flutist Paul Taub, play a concert of Hermeto’s music in Seattle this week, those nature sounds will be in full flight. Among the pieces on the concert is Hermeto’s music inspired by the calls of the whip-poor-will. Paul Taub places angular, trill-like passages from the flute in between Hermeto’s dense, rich piano chords as played by Jovino. Hermeto’s music recreates that feeling of awe one encounters in the presence of a stunning landscape and the flutterings of its feathered inhabitants.

Most of the music by Hermeto on the Cornish concert by Jovino and Paul this week has never been published or heard before. For years, Jovino has kept a box of handwritten music given to him by Hermeto that has been waiting to be explored. Such material is a dream for Paul Taub, internationally reknowned for his work in presenting little-known flute repertoire. At one point in the concert, Paul will play a bass flute solo by Hermeto that Paul transcribed from a recording of one of Hermeto’s orchestra compositions.

This flute solo, originally improvised by Hermeto, makes use of what are known as “extended techniques” for flute. Along with producing the rich, round, resonant sounds of the bass flute, Paul Taub also speaks, whistles and blows air into the instrument while tapping the keys of the flute. The eerie, imaginative and diverse sounds that emit from the instrument in Paul Taub’s hands speak to why Hermeto Pascoal is known by his fans, students and band mates as “The Sorcerer.” Hermeto’s unusual approach to teaching, performing and creating music continues to dazzle anyone who has come under his spell.

Paul Taub and Jovino Santos Neto perform the “Unknown Flute Music of Hermeto Pascoal” on Friday, February 15, 2013 at Cornish College of the Arts, PONCHO Concert Hall at 8 p.m.

WEB EXTRA: Hermeto Pascoal performing in 2005.

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