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The interview…

the didian concept of pleasure in jazz

When 'Didi' was recorded in Buenos Aires during August 1974, five Argentineans and one Uruguayan landed at Music Hall recording studios. Their leader was Fernando Gelbard, an Argentinean pianist, flautist, composer and record producer.

1974 was a time when neither synthesizers nor Fender Rhodes pianos were usual in Buenos Aires. Nevertheless, Fernando Gelbard chose to forgo his acoustic instruments in making 'Didi', thus becoming the first musician in Argentina to make a jazz record exclusively on the new electronic instruments. This is a pioneering project in more than one way. Through the use, for instance, of two percussionists in all the tunes - with the the exception of a short piece recorded entirely with the Moog synthesizer. I don't think many Argentinean jazz musicians of the time relied so much on electronic instruments and percussion. There is also a saxophone player on three of the tunes and there is a drummer, but only on one track. Gelbard's work of 1974, with its all-pervading percussion and rhythms from Latin America or, better, Latin Afro-America, would be labelled today world music or world jazz. World jazz or whatever you call it, it is nonetheless a jazz work firmly rooted in be-bop and post-bop with a strong electronic and Latin jazz side to it.

Latin? What kind of Latin exactly? Two bossa nova tunes in it: 'Didi', (named after Gelbard's wife), with it's catchy melodic line, and 'Flowers'. Bossa they are, but the many rhythms played and/or implied by the percussionists give it a very special flavour: you've seldom heard that special kind of bossa. The way the two percussionists intertwine creates that particular flavour and colour. One of them, Ruben Rada, from Uruguay, playing mostly congas here, was later to gain wide popularity through his very personal, lively and modern version of the candombe, an Uruguayan Black mixture of religion, traditions, dance and music. Here he gives a beautiful example of his approach on 'Alevacolariea', a piece he wrote together with Gelbard. His chanting at the beginning and the end of the piece is something you find all over the Americas in the afro-american traditions. But your ear will convince you of his original approach to it. The dialogue between the two percussionists, throughout the record, will tell you that the other one, Miguel 'Chino' Rossi, is a perfect match for Rada. The precise bass lines on this cut were overdubbed by Gelbard on the Moog, and the Fender Rhodes and tenor sax solos (Gelbard & Borraro) add a pure virtuoso be-bop flavour to this bouillabaise of sounds. Unexpected flavours and colours, that's what 'Didi' is about.

A master colourist, Duke Ellington, said of one of his compositions with colour in its title: "It's not a colour, it is a hint of a tint." Hints of tints, hues, colours in this record owe a lot to the percussionists, but not only to them. There's also the delicate balance between the electronic instruments used by Gelbard (Fender Rhodes piano, Moog synthesizer, Wa-Wa and Ring Modulator) and the percussionists and the bass player (and in one piece, the drummer too), a mixing balance achieved through hard and meticulous work when it came to editing the songs in the studio. Like the tenor saxophone solo in 'El Señor mayor' ('The Elder One'): different takes are combined so that it sounds as though three saxophones were playing simultaneously. In 'Chau, Ambrosio' ('Bye, Ambrosio'), the most conventional jazz number in the record, the tenor's blowing is recorded straight ahead. Horacio Borraro's tenor solos provide a short introduction to the jazz creativeness of one of the founding fathers of modern jazz in Argentina, who is also an architect, painter and slang creator. Pity no record, as far as I know, ever caught the beauty of his sense of humour and his very personal slang.

The bass player Ricardo Salas has always ranked among the best in Argentina and Norberto Minichilo, the drummer, has been for years consistently proving his exceptional musicianship.

And last but by no means least, Fernando Gelbard conceived the whole thing. Besides his contributions as the composer, Fender Rhodes pianist and Moogist in the band, he's a soloist to listen to. Don't miss the pleasure. Let me recommend you listen to 'Mojo Uno', recorded at his home in Buenos Aires by just himself on the Moog. Or his guitar-like second Moog solo on 'Flowers'. By then you would be probably listening to this record for the second or third time and you'd be telling friends and acquaintances: "Hey, have you heard this 1974 record made in Argentina? We've been missing something!"

Norberto Gimelfarb
Yverdon, Switzerland, February 2002

CEDAR processing by Sean 'Big P' Pennycook

Remastered by Ricardo Garcia at Magic Master
Rio de Janeiro January 2002

Special thanks to Fernando Gelbard & Norberto Gimelfarb

© 2002

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