Album of the Day: Azymuth, “Demos (1973​-​75) Volumes 1&2”

For almost half a century now, Brazilian group Azymuth have blazed their own style of cosmic, samba-tinted jazz-funk. Their discography is broad; their legacy beyond reproach. Demos (1973​-​75) Volumes 1&2, a set of recordings that ostensibly predate the release of their 1975 debut album, gives their story a true beginning. It offers the earliest showcase of the group’s serene musicality and forward-thinking spirit.

It was English producers Joe Davis and Roc Hunter—they were in Brazil in 1994 to work on the first Azymuth album in over 10 years—who found these mostly unreleased tracks. What the pair unveiled is a set that’s minimal and without gloss. And while the songs on the collection definitely sound like “demos,” the level of musicianship among Azymuth’s original line-up—Jose Roberto Bertrami (keyboards), Ivan “Mamão” Conti (drums), Alex Malheiros (bass), and Ariovaldo Contesini (percussion)—frequently rises above the rough and ready connotations of that term. This is funk-informed jazz music at its breeziest, the simple instrumentation only occasionally interrupted by some inventive synth sections.

Take “Xingó (Version 1)”; the retro-futuristic analogue sounds press down on the cool-hand keys and peppy drums like an alien space cruiser touching down on earth. For the most part, though, these are grooves. The 118-second “Unknown Jam” could score Danny Ocean strutting through a casino floor, while mellow cuts like “Laranjeiras” and “Manha” showcase Bertrami’s wandering keyboard work. It adds up to an album that’s far more than just a set of curiosities for Azymuth acolytes. For true beholders of languid jazz-funk, Demos (1973​-​75) Volumes 1&2 is crucial.

-Dean Van Nguyen

One Comment

  1. Posted June 1, 2019 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    This album is a pure jewel from the 70s. The Jazz Funk distilled here is pure honey to ones ears. Not to mention the exceptional level of three very accomplished musicians.

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