Azymuth ‘Outubro’ LP/CD (Far Out Recordings) 4/5

azymuthAttempting to follow up the stunning 1979 debut for Milestone, ‘Light as a Feather’, was never going to be an easy task, but Azymuth came up with a winner in its own right with ‘Outubro’ (Portugese for ‘October’) and this really set the template for all subsequent Azymuth releases. It is an extremely well-balanced set, with dance floor winners, subtle intimate jazz-inflected numbers, and gloriously uplifting percussion as only the Brazilians know how with assorted guest musicians of whom Aleuda’s participation is particularly praiseworthy. While not as infectious as a rhythm as ‘Jazz Carnival’, ‘Dear Limmertz’ was convincing enough with gritty bass line from Ivan Conti and those multi-layered keyboards from José Roberto Bertrami. It reached the lower echelons of the UK pop charts and was backed on the original 12″ by the lovely groove of ‘Papa song’, which happens to be the opening track of the album. Bubbling bass and inventive percussive work make this as near to a part two of ‘Jazz Carnival’ as could be achieved without resorting to pastiche, but this wisely featured on the B-side of the single. The funky disco of ‘Maracana’ has long been a favourite of this writer and even the slightly formulaic handclaps now speak of a hedonistic bye gone era with vocoder vocals and repetitive keyboard riffs. The title is presumably a homage to the iconic national football stadium. For jazz fans a sensitive cover of Chick Corea’s opus, ‘500 Miles High’ stands out for its lengthy intro which has more of a live feel and the subtle fender touches by Bertrami are a pure delight. A second cover is that of Milton Nascimento’s ‘Outubro’ and the dream-like keyboards showcase the more reflective side of the band. For an often overlooked left-field number, the rootsy folk of ‘Un amigo’ (A friend) is something of a lazy samba with lovely vocoder-led vocals and the acoustic guitar accompaniment hints at ECM period Pat Metheny while the keyboards could just as well be George Duke in his prime. Of note on this recording is the use of short vignettes, a device that Azymuth would utilise on future recordings.

Tim Stenhouse