Brazilian composer/musician Egberto Gismonti’s lovely Agua e Vinho has found its way into the repertoire of many classical-guitar players. This week’s Video Pick is a much less-performed Gismonti piece called Palhaço (which translates as “clown” from Portuguese). Though Gismonti (b. 1947) has played guitar for many years, and indeed commissioned guitars of 8, 10, 12 and even 14 strings to play some of his compositions, Palhaço was written on piano (Gismonti’s main instrument; he once said, “Basically I’m a piano player that plays guitar”), and the oldest recorded version of the piece I’m aware of is from a 1980 ECM Records album called Mágico, where he plays as part of a trio with bassist Charlie Haden and saxophonist Jan Garbarek. Then in 1986, he recorded a completely piano-dominated version on an album called Alma (which also contained a version of him playing Agua e Vihno, which he’d first recorded in 1972).
Fellow Brazilian Sérgio Assad has long championed Gismonti’s work, and it is his guitar arrangement of Palhaço that appears in this wonderful version by German guitarist Jule Malischke, who also adds a few moments of wordless vocalizations. Though very well-schooled in classical guitar, Malischke has also embraced the jazz side of the repertoire, as her treatment of pieces such as this one and Simone Iannarelli’s Tribute to Keith Jarrett show, and on YouTube you’ll also find her performing deft covers of songs by the likes of Stevie Wonder and Ed Sheeran (and singing quite well in the latter), and also playing steel-string guitar. “A musician is a musician to me,” she explains in a short interview video. “I don’t like to stick to one thing or style…. In general, you gain so much from checking out different styles of music…. I think you should just let music influence you—no matter what instrument or country it comes from. And by that you can find your own way of playing or composing or what you want to play.” —Blair Jackson