Ivan ‘Mamão’ Conti ‘Poison Fruit’ LP/CD (Far Out Recordings) 5/5

Remarkably for the celebrated Azymuth percussionist, this new release on Joe Davis’ Far Out Recordings is only his 4th solo album. As one-third of the trio of founding members of the group alongside José Roberto Bertrami and Alex Malheiros, Ivan Conti’s musical influence is far and wide – especially in Brazil. With experimentation always a key component of Ivan’s creative outlook, he continues with his progressive approach to music creation, which should be an inspiration to us all especially considering he’s as sharp as ever even as a young man of 73 years of age.

As Conti fans will no doubt be aware, he is actually a multi-instrumentalist, a musical polymath if you will, playing numerous instruments on every track. The album begins with ‘Aroeira’ a frantic percussion and bass led stomper with Ivan’s repeated vocal hook forcing the listener to take notice. ‘Encontro’ moves more into Azymuth territory with its jazzy samba rhythms and Rhodes chords, played by Azymuth’s Fernando Moraes (who replaced Bertrami after his death) and elegant monophonic synth parts. The more downtempo and funky ‘Ninho’ is reminiscent of a Banda Black Rio album track and includes solid bass playing from Thiago Maranhão, Ivan’s son.

The relatively short ‘Ilha Da Luz’ retains the Brazilian funk motif with its breakbeat drumming and graceful synth parts, while ‘O Ritual’ establishes a more moody and eerie temperament, providing a cinematic essence to the album. Title track ‘Poison Fruit’ uses more current production techniques with its combined acoustic and electronic drum sounds and square wave synth lines and is definitely DJ and dancefloor ready. The album remixes are only included on the CD and digital download versions as they have previously been released as singles. These five extra tracks are all very commendable with Far Out rarely getting it terribly wrong with their remixes. In fact, I thought the weakest was the ‘Poison Fruit’ Dokta Venom’s (terrible pseudonym) Digital Dub, but even that is OK.

Produced by Daniel Maunick, i.e., the son of legendary Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick of Incognito, who does an excellent job in integrating the old with the new, but not in a contrived manner which feels forced and unnatural. What this writer found interesting about ‘Poison Fruit’ is conceptually the approach to its creation. It would have been extremely easy for Ivan and Far Out to gather a roster of musically applicable musicians to ultimately recreate a new Azymuth album, utilising established stylised themes which would obviously prove to be popular. But this release incorporates contemporary ideas and not only with the added remixes. This is definitely a 2019 Ivan Conti album and not an Azymuth rehash, which has understandably emanated from its strong line-up of collaborators and Ivan’s obvious openness and sense of progression. I’ve always enjoyed the more recent Azymuth records but one feels ‘Poison Fruit’ has more of an edge. The themes themselves are deeply rooted within Brazilian jazz, soul and funk but with a freshness and a modern sensibility that should please hardcore Brazilian music fans as well as the uninitiated.

Damian Wilkes

Read also:
Azymuth ‘Outubro’ (Far Out Recordings) 4/5
Azymuth ‘Fênix’ (Far Out Recordings) 4/5
Azymuth ‘Light As A Feather’ (Far Out Recordings) 5/5
Azymuth ‘Aurora’ (Far Out Recordings) 4/5
Azymuth ‘Butterfly’ (Far Out Recordings) 4/5