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The Formation of O Grupo, 1981–1992


      At the end of 1979, Cacau, Nenê, and Zabelê left the band. Drummer Alfredo Dias Gomes joined the group and Hermeto recorded his next LP, Cérebro Magnético (Warners 1980), as a quartet with Dias Gomes, Itiberê, and Jovino. Heading off further attempts to classify his music, he told an interviewer for the O Globo newspaper, “My music is not class A, B, or C, it is ABC. It contains both the easiest and most difficult. Whatever you want to have is there. It has all the colors. If you don’t like yellow, you can take my record and play red.” (Cabral 2000:14).

      Following the release of Cerebro Magnético, Alfedo Dias Gomes left the band after only eight months, leaving Itiberê, Jovino and Pernambuco as the sole remaining members of Hermeto’s ensembles from the 1970s. In January 1981, flutist and saxophonist Carlos Malta, then 21 years old, attended a rehearsal at the invitation of a mutual friend of Jovino’s, and after spending the day playing, Hermeto asked him to join the group. Drummer Márcio Bahia followed a few weeks later. Bahia, who was living across the bay from Rio in Niterói, had been playing in the Municipal Theater Orchestra of Rio de Janeiro. Here he relates his first meeting with Hermeto:


The telephone rang and it was Pernambuco. I had known Pernambuco from the Villa Lobos [School of Music]. He was studying there at that time and he told me, “Come out to a rehearsal, because Hermeto doesn’t have a drummer. It’s not an audition, it’s just to play, to jam a bit with the guys.” Man, in the beginning I was scared. I didn’t know if Hermeto was crazy, but I knew that I had to be prepared, you know? But I said I’d go because [I thought] it would be fun. (Bahia interview 1999)


      Carlos Malta, who had attended his first rehearsal just a few weeks before, accompanied Márcio on his first trip to Hermeto’s house, and the two of them continued rehearsing with Hermeto over the next few days. Here, Márcio describes those first encounters with Hermeto:


We rehearsed one day, two, three days, and on the fourth Hermeto said, “Would you guys like to work, to play here?” and I said, “Damn! of course.” Who wouldn’t want to, you know? And he told us, “if you want to fill it, the space is yours.” . . . And that’s how my journey with Hermeto began.
A. Connell: Did you move to Jabour after those four days?
Márcio Bahia: For the first six months, I went back and forth [between Niterói and Jabour] every day. I spent my . . . last salary with the symphony on gasoline, [driving] to and from Jabour. So, after six months, I rented a house [in Jabour] with Carlos Malta [in order] to be closer and gain more time to dream, rest, and study.
When we joined, Carlos and I, the group was complete. . . Hermeto said, “look, because you guys live really far, you can come here three times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.” . . . And we said, “no, no, when is the rehearsal? Everyday? It would be great.” . . . [The group rehearsed] Monday through Friday, from two in the afternoon until eight at night. Everyday except Saturday and Sunday. The group worked like this for twelve years. We only took a break December 24–25 and the 31st through New Year’s Day. From December 26 until the 30th we rehearsed and we [started again] on January 2nd. But everyone wanted [to do] this, and we did it with love. . . . Every morning, each of us would study our instruments separately, and then in the afternoon there was a collective rehearsal with the whole group. . . . The rehearsals were a very intense education. I would arrive at home at night and go right to sleep. In the beginning I was exhausted at the end of every rehearsal, but after [a while] you got used to it. It was great. Because of this [routine], the group became what it was, you know? It progressed to a level that was marvelous.
I practiced in the morning because at night I was dead tired after the rehearsal. I’d wake up at 8 in the morning, drink my coffee and by 9 I would be sitting at the drums, studying until noon, 12:30, stop, eat lunch for an hour until 1:30, rest a little and then leave [for Hermeto’s house]. (Bahia interview 1999)


         This group, consisting of Jovino Santos Neto on keyboards and flute, Itiberê Zwarg on bass and tuba, Carlos Malta on saxophones and flutes, Márcio Bahia on drums and percussion, and Pernambuco on percussion, would be Hermeto’s working group for the next twelve years (Hermeto’s son Fabio would join in 1988), rehearsing, recording and touring under the name Hermeto Pascoal e Grupo (Hermeto Pascoal and the Group). The musicians were young (Itiberê was the oldest at 31) and eager to learn from the man they called “Campeão” (champion). The group’s daily rehearsal schedule allowed Hermeto the unprecedented opportunity to work with and compose for a stable group of dedicated musicians over an extended period (none of his previous ensembles had maintained the same personnel for more than a few years). Luiz Neto writes that these daily meetings merged the processes of composition, arranging, improvisation, and rehearsal into “a single simultaneous process” (L. Neto 2000:124).


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