Azymuth ‘Demos [1973-75] Volumes 1&2’ 2xLP/CD (Far Out Recordings) 4/5

In the early 1980s, Notting Hill Record & Tape Exchange, a well-known London-based record shop which focused on rare and used music, would package and seal a carrier bag of say 20 records and sell them as lucky dip bags for £1. Within the package, they would always include one or two funk or soul gems. One of those records I vividly remember was Azymuths classic 12″ ‘Dear Limmertz’. And there began a pre-internet adventure of discovering more of the incredible sound that was Azymuth as well as discovering many other previously unheard jazz-funk and fusion bands.

This new highly anticipated album epitomises the bands early freedom principle and boundary-pushing authenticity that helped shape their distinctive sound over the forthcoming years. Azymuth ‘Demos 1973-75′ is a rare and valuable documentation of the bands early recordings prior to their signing for the Brazilian label Som Livre and thereafter on Orrin Keepnews’ Milestones label for whom the band recorded many of their well-known albums.

Left untouched for over 20 years it was unlikely that this Important music would ever emerge from the archives until a particular trip to Brazil by Far Out label owner Joe Davis. It was on this trip that he met up with Azymuth’s late great Roberto Bertrami at his home studio in Rio de Janeiro, which led to the discovery of the dusty demos. Had it not been for the Joe and the team at Far Out Records this rare insight would have been lost and most probable forgotten. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of work that went into bringing these lost gems back from obscurity.

Featuring some great cover artwork that captures the essence of a moment in time and a beginning of a journey not yet realised, the album lays focus on 16 tracks, spread over two volumes on vinyl or, on either one CD or on digital format.

The band Azymuth have travelled through the decades with a timeless captivating appeal that nearly always seems imaginative and adventurous. Their music is warm, inviting, progressive yet illusive. The demos featured on this collection evoke a particular insight into the freedom and energy that surrounded the group’s music in those formative years. The album also explores their individual genius, highlighted on tracks such as ‘Bateria do Mamao’, on which drummer Ivan Conti brings his incredible skills to the stage with a 7-minute solo workout laying sparks of genius upon a tight driving groove.

In 1975 the group released their seminal self-titled debut album ‘Azimuth’, on the Brazilian label Som Livre, which has since become regarded as one of their best albums. One of the highlights on the album was a track titled ‘Manha’, which is in many fans top 5. On ‘Demos 1973-75’ we get the chance to hear an excellent alternative version of ‘Manha’, which spreads out over 7 minutes supporting the freedom for the group to shape a more probing spacious sound.

All through ‘Demos 1973-75’, you can feel the collective sound in its early formation. Music that has inspired many throughout the years and continues to inspire. There’s a liberating air about the sound. For instance on the excellent space funk cut ‘Melo de Cuica’ which had a slight Meters feel, or on ‘Laranjeiras’; where the late keyboard player Jose Roberto Bertrami weaves a dreamy journey that was vaguely reminiscent of a track by Paz on their album ‘Kandeen Love Song’. Check the 4Hero remix of ‘Laranjeiras’ on the Misturada 3 compilation on Far Out or some other great remixes such as an early remix of ‘Tempos Atraz’ by Adrian [APE Sounds] which was featured on the Future Sounds of Jazz 5 compilation back in the ’90s. Compelling music indeed.

Azymuth’s music has led to many collaborations over the years. For instance Madlib under his Jackson pseudonym on his album ‘Sujinho’ features alongside Azymuth drummer Ivan Conti who also collaborated with Grupo Batuque and was part of the Ipanemas magic alongside Wilson Das Neves and Astor Silva. Check the trio’s album ‘Samba Is Our Gift’ on Far Out Recordings.

Azymuth ‘Demos 1973-75’ is a perfect platform in which to explore many of the other subsequent recordings that Azymuth gifted the music world. Far Out have pieced together a great selection which grows with each listen. A highly recommended and welcome release.

Mark Jones

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