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Nana Vasconcelos

Premier percussionist Nana Vasconcelos was an innovator in the fusion of Brazilian rhythms and jazz in the 1970’s. Born in Recife on the Northeast Coast of Brazil and, after a lifetime of playing throughout the world, his roots are apparent in everything he plays.

When Nana was 12-years-old he began playing with his father, a guitarist, and in the city's marching band. Prodded by intense curiosity and an inquisitive ear that led him from the music of Brazil's greatest composer, Villa Lobos, to Jimi Hendrix, Nana came to learn all the Brazialian percussion instruments and, by the early Sixties, came to specialize in the berimbau. He has taken this instrument far beyond its traditional uses and is acknowledge as its foremost player.

After playing in every imaginable context from symphonic orchestras to street bands in his hometown, Nana moved to Rio de Janeiro and began to play with one of Brazil's greatest singers, Milton Nascimento. In 1970 the Argentinian tenor player Gato Barbieri was in Rio and invited Nana to join his band. They played in New York and then toured Europe, starting at the Montreux Jazz Festival where Nana caused a sensation. When the tour finished Nana decided to stay in Paris. During his time in the city he made his first recording, “Africa Deus.” Nana returned to Brazil and recorded his album, “Amazonas,” and began a collaboration with guitarist Egberto Gismonti that lasted for eight years and produced three albums of duets. Back in New York he formed Codona with Don Cherry and Collin Walcott, as well as touring and recording with Pat Metheny's band. Since 1975 Nana has recorded with everyone from B.B. King to Jean Luc Ponty to the Talking Heads, but has never allowed himself to become a studio musician. His contributions to each project are special and go beyond the usual role allotted a percussionist.

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