The percussionist NanÃ¡ Vasconcelos has passed away at the age of 71. He pretty much defined “discovery” for me, before that word came to mean the need of streaming companies to keep you adhered to the digital teat. His name was one I traced through so much pre-Internet crate digging, and led me to so much amazing music. From Arto Lindsay to Jon Hassell (for one, he’s on Possible Musics, Hassell’s 1980 collaboration with Brian Eno) to Peter Scherer to so many others, Vasconcelos was the connective tissue my mind focused on as I consumed all this disparate music. Ryuichi Sakamoto, Mark Helias, Jan Garbarek — Vasconcelos, born in Brazil in 1944, was ubiquitous. And that’s not to mention all the native bossa nova greats he worked with.
There’s something proprietary about discovering musicians. Paul Simon had Tony Levin in his band long before I discovered King Crimson, but by the time Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints came out with NanÃ¡ Vasconcelos on it, I was like, “Oh, man, welcome to the discography party.” I bought many records simply because Vasconcelos’ name was listed in the credits. Some were astounding. Some were simply not my thing. And of course, on his passing, I find myself back with Ginger Baker’s Horses and Trees on repeat. RIP, Vasconcelos — you are my record collection.