Tag Archives: Bossa Nova

On Her Debut, Claude Fontaine Writes a Love Letter to Reggae and Bossa Nova

Claude Fontaine

Photo by B Plus

Claude Fontaine’s debut LP is a labor of love, written on the heels of a failed relationship—but it is not a breakup album, at least not technically speaking. Sure, there are moments of melancholy on Claude Fontaine. But this is first and foremost a love letter, addressed to the sounds closest to her heart: reggae, rocksteady, bossa nova, and dub. Her airy, yé-yé-style vocals make the dub and rocksteady on the album’s first half feel like a spiritual sequel to Serge Gainsbourg’s late ’70s Jamaican sabbatical, while its final five tracks of retro bossa nova evoke seductive, after-dark, if-these-walls-could-talk lounges—the kind of dimly lit hideaway where Hunter S. Thompson might have guzzled Cuba Libres. What we’re left with is a highly personal pocket guide to multiple, timeless musical styles.

[Listen to an interview with Claude Fontaine on Bandcamp Weekly.]

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Azymuth’s “Fênix” Rises

Azymuth

Jazz-funk trio Azymuth rose—already aflame—from the fluorescent ashes of the countercultural, kaleidoscopic world of Tropicalismo (or tropicalia). Since the early ‘70s, the Rio de Janeiro natives have gone on to create their own signature style, “samba doido” (“crazy samba”), an electric mix of spacious jazz with heavy funk and traditional Brazilian folk rhythms. They’ve been one of Brazil’s most experimentally daring groups for decades running.

Over two dozen studio albums later, they’ve gone through a difficult lineup change for 2016’s Fênix. Legendary keyboardist José Roberto Bertrami tragically passed away in 2012, and Kiko Continentino, a skilled pianist who’d also been a student of Bertrami’s, inherited his place in the group alongside drummer Ivan “Mamão” Conti and upright bassist/composer Alex Malheiro. Fênix is their first new material since Bertrami’s death, and, as the title suggests, this is Azymuth reborn in their latest configuration.

While Bertrami was obviously a core component of the samba doido sound, Moraes faithfully carries on his legacy. Fênix is a soulful, blissed-out head trip of a record, a cosmic daydream that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some of Azymuth’s ‘70s classics (Azimuth, Light As A Feather). Samba doido’s classic characteristics—slick, supple bass lines, syncopated percussion, and iridescent keyboards—are all here, and the group’s chemistry and energy is unflagging. Recently returned from an Azymuth European tour, we caught up with Conti, who shared the challenges and pleasures of the group’s recharged life.

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