Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)
Despite its fabled name, South America’s Río de la Plata holds many more treasures than just silver. The estuary at the meeting point of the Paraná and Uruguay rivers has long been essential for trade between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and of course, Uruguay; it has also fostered a unique Portuñol regional dialect, and syncretic musical and religious practices. One of the greatest exponents of this wetland melting pot is Agustín Pereyra Lucena. Throughout the 1960s, the influential Buenos Aires guitarist augmented his own studies in Argentine jazz and tango with down-flowing ideas from bossa nova and Tropicália; the poetry of Vinicius de Moraes; and vivacious melodies from Baden Powell. His 1970 self-titled debut is a titillating snapshot of the cultural osmosis transpiring along the river banks, transforming fluttering guitar strings into a universal language unconcerned with syntax or land borders.
A new reissue from Far Out Recordings puts a loving spotlight on the master Brazilophile, lending a birds-eye view of a 22-year-old guitar prodigy as he explores his influences during freewheeling studio sessions. Rounding out his band are bassist Mario “Mojarra” Fernandez and drummer Enrique “Zurdo” Roizner, who previously played on de Moraes’s acclaimed live album, La Fusa. In sharp contrast, Pereyra Lucena also enlisted vocalist Helena Uriburu, a friend and French teacher with no prior studio experience. Though she delivers little more than hums and wordless arias across breezy songs like “Pro Forma” and “Niña No Divagues,” her dreamy poise and undeniable gravitas are nothing short of miraculous, standing shoulder to shoulder with the greats of Brazilian saudade.
Opening with a cover of Powell’s “O Astronauta,” Pereyra Lucena grounds the listener in familiar bossa nova territory; swinging and lively, a hint of much hip-swiveling to come. On “Tema Para Martin” and “Canto De Ossanha,” his rhythm section shines with the aplomb of a seasoned samba charanga. But they all come together in truly rapturous harmony on “Consalação,” another Powell cover, this time going into 7-minutes of big band improvisation with darker undertones and Spaghetti Western flourishes. Jittery album closer “Berimbau” dabbles in noisy experimentation and locomotive percussion; a dazzling tie-in to Pereyra Lucena’s 1971 collaboration with eclectic Brazilian percussionist and berimbau player, Naná Vasconcelos.
Though Pereyra Lucena passed away in 2019, the Porteño icon left an indelible legacy, underscored in the album’s liner notes with a quote from de Moraes: “I think I never saw, with the exception of Baden Powell and Toquinho, anyone more linked to his instrument than Agustín Pereyra Lucena,” he said of the beloved guitarist and composer. “It would give the impression that if the guitar were taken away from him, he would fade into music as one dies from the amputation of an arm.” Agustin Pereyra Lucena is a portrait of a man and his instrument, inextricably bonded, building a monument to South American sound.