Recorded live at Munich’s Amerika Haus in 1981, a double album of previously unreleased performances by an exceptional trio comprised of strongly contrasting musical personalities: Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek, Brazilian guitarist-pianist Egberto Gismonti and US bassist Charlie Haden.
From the early 1970s through the 1980s, ECM frequently presented concerts in the recital hall of the Amerika Haus. It was a good space for acoustic music especially, and many tapes were made to document the events there: only a few have been released thus far, an artistic treasure trove awaiting further investigation. Albums drawn from this source have included, for instance, Ralph Towner’s “Solo Concert” (1979), and the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s “Urban Bushmen” (1980). Egberto Gismonti recorded a solo set for his album “Sanfona” there in April 1981, a month that also saw two shows by the trio known as “Magico”. Engineer Martin Wieland recorded the live performances under the direction of Manfred Eicher who, three decades later, produced the present album in Oslo, mixing it with Jan Erik Kongshaug.
“Carta de Amor” means “love letter” and Egberto Gismonti says, “think of it as a message in a bottle that has taken this long to reach the shore.” In the interim the musical message has lost none of its pertinence or potency. This recording finds the protagonists two years along the road from the albums “Magico” (ECM 1151) and “Folk Songs” (ECM 1170), opening up the repertoire to admit extended improvising, changed by their experiences as a touring band, bringing in new pieces but still maintaining the taut balance of energies that made their first studio dates so arresting.
The concentrated cry of Garbarek’s saxophones, the restless movement of Gismonti’s guitars and his focused, lyrical piano, and the dark tones of Haden’s bass, anchoring the music... The three musicians had a unique rapport. Manfred Eicher: “Listen to what they can create in a chamber music format, as a trio, a great instance of the art of listening, of interaction, and suspense. Two soulful notes from Jan – or Egberto or Charlie - can open up a whole new soundscape, to be sculpted and detailed by each of the musicians.”
Material heard here includes five compositions from Gismonti’s pen: “Cego Aderaldo”, “Don Quixote”, “Branquinho”, “Palhaço” and the title track, heard in two versions which open and close this enthralling double album. Garbarek brings in his Norwegian folk song arrangements plus a very freewheeling version “Spor”, incorporating collective improvisation. Haden contributes “La Pasionara”, his dedication to Spanish activist Dolores Ibárruri, a piece from the repertoire of the Liberation Music Orchestra (see “The Ballad of the Fallen”), rarely heard in small group interpretations. Magico’s 16-minute account of it does not lack for intensity. Haden’s other piece, “All That Is Beautiful”, receives its recorded debut here.