Hermeto Pascoal, the eccentric musical alchemist from northeastern Brazil, entered the Royce stage drawing musical notes from the water bottle he was drinking from. He concluded the night by having his quintet tap and pound thick metal cylinders against the stage floor, a bit of Balinese gamelan to demonstrate how far afield he hunts for an influence.
Rest of the evening, though, fit into subtle and familiar, Brazilian-styled modern jazz — well grooved and well executed but hardly stimulating. As far out as Pascoal is known to be — he’s the sort of avant-gardist adventurous rock fans embraced in the 1970s when Warner Bros. released his “Slaves Mass” and he hasn’t recorded regularly since the 1980s — he never ventured very deep into non-groomed territory. This night, divided into two 40-minute sets, demonstrated cohesion and confluence, a testimonial for his compositional and bandleading skills that was more Weather Report than Sun Ra and his Arkestra.
Pascoal, who spent most of the night behind his synthesizer and soloing only occasionally, drew heavily on his musical youth, blending samba, bossa nova and forro with a smooth version of the electric jazz he played with Miles Davis. He made the audience laugh with shouts and whistles, but anything that would involve the cerebellum was left to the fabulously fleet pianist Andre Marques and the bassist Itibere Zwarg, who punched out a striking balance of melody and rhythm.
A throat infection prevented singer Monica Salmaso, one of the strongest young vocalists in Brazil, from opening the show. UCLA Live director David Sefton said she would be booked for next season.