Review: While names like Azymuth or Marcos Valle have become synonymous with Brazil's infamous 'jazz-dance' scene, it's really thanks to artists like Victor Assis Brasil that the genre has become such a staple of the enlarged jazz and funk movement. Brasil was a saxophonist in primis, and the best out out there at the time; Toca Antonio Carlos Jobim was one of his earlier albums, and it's striking to hear just how fluid and at the cutting-edge of jazz this man was in 1970. The opener "So Tinha De Sir Com Voce" is a delightfully subtle number, backed by intricate guitars and gentle pianos, while "Wave" heads down a deeper, more pensive tone with the man's sax on the front lines. "Bonita" is sweet, seductive but still full of zest and Brasil's inimitable charm on his preferred instrument, and "Dindi" winds the momentum down to a peaceful tempo that bursts with the South American continent's unmistakable glow. Excellent.
Review: Not that it's any surprise to us, but London's Far Out imprint is really smashing it at the moment, putting out some Brazilian fire left, right and centre. This week, along with an excellent reissue from Baiano & Os Novos Caetanos, we have 1975's Azambuja & Cia, another unforgettable gem from the Golden Era of South American funkin'! Although there are plenty of moments worth a dance on here, this album is a much gentler, more soulful number which often spans into the livelier end of the jazz spectrum. In fact, this is the vibe right here, with fat basslines coming meandering amid mild-mannered beats and the group's inimitable vocal swagger. It's another Brazilian gem, and one worth copping as a reissue. Magnificent stuff.
Review: Far Out takes a second deep dive into the previously unheard early demos of Brazilian jazz-funk greats Azymuth, offering up more unpolished gems recorded during the years as one of Brazil's most sought-after session bands. Interestingly, much of the material is closer in tone and style to their subsequent releases, though some of the rhythms, solos and basslines are arguably a little wilder and more experimental. Highlights include the fizzing opener "Duro De Roer", the sweaty and percussive brilliance of "Bateria Do Mamao", the Blaxploitation influenced spy-chase madness of "Quem Tem Medo" and the surprisingly smooth "Manha", the demo that eventually earned Azymuth a recording contract.
Review: Before they found fame with their 1975 debut album, Azymuth divided their time between working as backing musicians (attending recording sessions with some of Brazil's top talent) and recording experimental home demos. Recently rediscovered, these demos are finally being given a release thanks to the efforts of Far Out chief Joe Davis. There's much to admire on this first batch (a second volume is also available) of previously unheard early recordings, from the high-octane Brazilian funk insanity of "Prefacio" and Jimmy Smith-esque "Melo De Cuica", to the spacey samba/jazz-funk fusion of "Xingo (Version One)" and the relaxed, slow-burn brilliance of seven minute B-side opener "Laranjeiras".
Review: Joe Davis' Far Out Recordings has always been at the top of our list. Without this fundamental imprint, we wouldn't have discovered a lot of Brazilian funk, soul and disco material from the 70s, and the likes of Gilles Peterson have much to thank Davis for. This particular release is even more special because, unlike the plethora of reissues on Far Out, it's a brand new album from the legendary Azymuth group, leaders in jazz-fusion and disco since their first album back in '73! Sadly, the original keyboardist, Jose Roberto Bertrami, passed away in 2012 but the younger Kiko Continentino has done a fantastic job at accompanying Ivan Conti and Alex Malheiros on this new LP. Fenix is an album of energy and magnetism, leading with the jazzy, wonked-out disco of Batucada Em Marte", and continuing into the myriad of tropical flavours that span the entirety of this excellent LP. It's disco for those that don't like to dance, or jazz for those that do - warmly recommended, of course.