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Brazilian Jazz Percussionist Nana Vasconcelos Dead at 71

By Thomas Swan t.swan@classicalite.com on Mar 15, 2016 02:18 AM EDT

Famed Jazz percussionist Nana Vasconcelos has died of lung cancer in his hometown of Recife, Brazil. The acclaimed percussionist and master of the single-stringed native Brazilian instrument berimbau died on March 9. He was 71 years old and was actually born in the town of Recife. Vasconcelos found a fair measure of fame in attention in the United States as well as Brazil.

From 1983 until 1991, Vanconcelos was at his peak both creatively and professionally. According to Downbeat Online, "Vasconcelos won the Percussionist category in the DownBeat Critics Poll every one of those years. Additionally, he won the Percussionist category in the DownBeat Readers Poll in 1983, 1984 and 1987." As well, the percussionist was well represented on the jazz scene in South America. He worked with a number of prominent figures of the day and was a major creative force on the scene. Argentine saxophonist Gato Barbieri and guitarist Pat Methany also number as collaborators of the talented Vasconcelos.

Mr. Vansconcelos' talent, however, extended far beyond his ability to craft music out of banging on things. As the New York Times obiturary points out, "Mr. Vasconcelos became prominent in Brazil in the 1960s as a master of the berimbau, a bow with a steel string and resonating gourd that is played by striking the string with a baton." His big break came when the aforementioned Gato Barbieri saw him play and invited Mr. Vasconcelos to join him on tour. The exposure made the percussionist an international star.

Born August 2 1944, Juvenal de Holanda Vasconcelos was given his nickname Nana by his grandmother. Born into a musical family, Nana was performing at the age of 12 in a band with his father who played guitar, as well as doing duties in his home town's marching band. According to the New York Times obit, "he recorded his first album as a leader, "Africadeus," in Paris, where he lived after touring with Mr. Barbieri. He often performed his music for patients at a children's psychiatric hospital in Paris as a form of therapy."

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TagsNana Vanconselos, Jazz, Gato Barbieri, 71, Brazilian Percussionist

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