Cesar Mariano and Cia ‘São Paulo Brasil’ LP/CD (Mr Bongo) 5/5

Rarely does a Brazilian re-issue, that went largely undiscovered upon its original release in 1977, have as much inner depth and refined sophistication as this, but keyboard wizard, Cesar Camargo Mariano, the other half of the late Elis Regina, conjured up pure magic on this outstanding album from start to finish. With a vastly expanding array of musical technology at his disposal, Mariano used his considerable creative talents to create a musical fresco of infinite nuanced textures and that results in some glorious sounds that do not necessarily impact upon first hearing, but gradually and permanently seep into the subconscious. A case in point is the somewhat experimental ‘Fábrica’, where the synths are deployed as quasi-wordless vocals and this, in turn, creates the most melodic of sounds. Sheer bliss! In places the music is at once moody and laid back, with a restrained yet nonetheless bubbling jazz-funk undercurrent, as illustrated on the gentle ‘Poluição’, which during the course of its existence shifts in tempo with Fender Rhodes and layered synths operating in tandem. A strong ECM feel permeates ‘Metro’, and the unnamed guitarist on board could just be Egberto Gismonti, or at least someone heavily influenced by his style of playing. There are definite comparisons to be made with the early work of Azymuth from the same period and that multi-keyboard approach favoured by the late José Roberto Bertrami is seemingly evident on the jazz waltz, ‘Estação Do Norte’, which is notable also for shuffling percussion, alternating acoustic and electronic keyboard usage, and the shift from medium to rapid tempo in quick succession is pulled off with skillful aplomb. Possibly best of all is reserved for the opening piece, ‘Metrópole’, that captures the daily of a major city such as São Paulo and the heavy funk bass and rhythmic guitar underpins some lovely electric piano, while the piece goes through different moods, including a memorable bass and percussion breakdown. Music of this calibre simply does not turn up that often and that makes it all the more important to champion it from the rafters, and, in general, celebrate the pure creative genius of a musical mind that Cesar Camiargo Mariano has in abundance. One of the all-time great Brazilian recordings of the 1970s and music that is overlooked at your peril. A definite contender for re-issue of the year in all categories.

Tim Stenhouse