The passion and energy in the performances of Brazilian harmonicist Gabriel Grossi are as crystal clear as the sounds and atmospheres he produces from one of the smallest yet evocative instruments on the bandstand. Described by legendary Toots Thielemans as his successor, Grossi’s many collaborations have included Chico Buarque, Ivan Lins, Guinga and Snarky Puppy. Now he releases his first live album, #motion, on Whirlwind – a joyous celebration of his career to date, dedicated to those he loves, featuring his latest quintet: trombonist Sergio Coelho, pianist Eduardo Farias, bassist André Vasconcellos and drummer Rafael Barata. Guest appearances including celebrated fellow countryman Hermeto Pascoal.
Captured in Brazil over two nights, Grossi describes this as a resumé of around twenty years of icons and influencers who have been so important to him. “Each number pays tribute to a big name from my life story. For example, Mauricio Einhorn was my harmonica professor in the beginning; and trombonist Raul de Souza, I’m still really close to. These guys are 85 now and still playing – a good sign for us!”
Early on, he fell in love with the harmonica, as well as the strong jazz and blues elements in Brazilian music. “Raised in Rio, I have all these references in my blood”, says Gabriel, “and feel that music is definitely a reflection of what we believe. Toots and Mauricio are my main inspirations, but then Hermeto, Wayne Shorter, Joshua Redman, Chet Baker… they’re all so special.” And #motion? For Grossi, his album title has two facets. “I’m constantly playing, learning and moving forward. But also, by sharing contemporary influences with artists from my generation, we are creating our own movement of new Brazilian instrumental music.”
Villa-Lobos’ much-admired orchestral suites, ‘Bachianas Brasileiras’, have been with Grossi since early childhood – and here, the wistfulness of ‘Prelude from the Bachianas Number 4’ tugs at the emotions from a new viewpoint. Breezy ‘A Samba for Toots’, written and recorded for Thielemans when he was 92, was greatly appreciated by the great man; and following the album’s fizzing title track, Grossi’s affectionate ballad ‘From the Bottom of My Heart’ thanks his supportive, music-loving parents. Hermeto joins the quintet for his own ‘Latin Brothers’, full of characteristic unpredictability, contrasted by amiable ‘Play, Raul’ (“Raul de Souza has played with everybody – Miles, Wayne, Herbie…”).
As a teenager, Grossi would take a weekly 18-hour round trip to be tutored by ‘second father’ Mauricio Einhorn, and his warm ‘Embracing Einhorn’ (“even your saddest notes would make me smile”) brings another moment of repose. ‘Banzo’ reflects Brazilian music’s roots in African rhythms, while ‘A Tribute to Bituca’ is for good friend Milton Nascimento (“the most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard”). Then, bustling ‘Different Beat’ welcomes Einhorn to the stage before both share a final, touching harmonica duet, ‘Carinhoso’.
“When I looked at my songs, I realised those I liked most were for my idols – so #motion is my heartfelt expression of gratitude”, says Grossi. “It’s my truth and, I hope, somebody else’s truth, too.”
Whirlwind Recordings is a musician-owned and operated, London-based indie that has released an eclectic catalogue of over 110 albums since its inception in 2010. The label provides a platform for showcasing adventurous & visceral music that spans genres, is rooted in originality and has a key emphasis on the improvised. The artists on the label range from established masters to guiding lights of their generation to undiscovered stars in the making.
“Whirlwind Recordings gives modern jazz a fresh, new face. The label’s inspired roster of talent bridges genres, instruments and generations—a testament to founder Michael Janisch’s insight into not only where jazz has been, but where it’s headed.”
“Whirlwind Recordings is the new label of the moment, releasing a diverse cross section of excellent music.”
BBC Radio 2
“Several of the most enthralling, powerful and entertaining jazz albums of recent years appeared on Whirlwind Recordings.”
“London’s label of the moment.”
All About Jazz
“Janisch’s Whirlwind label personifies the dictum “if you want something done right, do it yourself,” taking care of business and making available some super-fine singular sounds for global consumption.”
The New York City Jazz Record
“Whirlwind are quickly making a name for themselves in uncovering some of the hippest new talent.”
“American bassist Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind label is fast becoming a major player.”
“One of the major British record labels.”
Jazz Thing and Blue Rhythm
“Whirlwind has established itself, in a remarkably short time, as a natural home for music of power and quality.”
London Jazz News
“One of Europe’s busiest and most creative independent labels.”
The Irish Times
Whirlwind was founded by electric & double bassist, composer, producer and solo artist Michael Janisch