Azymuth ‘Light As A Feather’ LP/CD (Far Out Recordings) 5/5

azymuthRewind in time to the late nineteen-seventies and an unlikely left-field group from Brazil stormed both the dance and pop charts with the anthemic instrumental winner in ‘Jazz Carnival’. The album from which that classic piece emanated has now been re-issued in its full glory augmented by some tasty remixes and a full original mix of the aforementioned track. Revisited some thirty years later, ‘Light as a feather’ now sounds way ahead of its time since it contained other pieces that were tailor made for lovers of quality Brazilian grooves. Repetitive, heavy basslines, an array of keyboard wizardry and a plethora of percussive sounds characterised the Azmuth which was orchestral in nature and yet only three players made up the group. Another composition that was tailor made for dancefloor action is ‘Avenida das Mangueiras’ which not only pre-dates house music by several years, but also sounds like a tune that Gotan Project could have been influenced by. This sprawling track develops and morphs into new entities as it goes along for some nine minutes. The title track with uptempo groove bassline, vocoder and handclaps was an ideal vehicle for leader, the late José Roberto Bertrami, to shine on electric keyboards and is an album highlight. One could arguably describe the track as a halfway house between Chick Corea and Light as Feather (surely an early influence upon Azymuth) and the Headhunters. For some subtle playing, look no furrther than the atmospheric, ‘Fly over the horizon’ which has been one of this writer’s favourite b-sides to the 12″ version of ‘Jazz Carnival’, and uses the sparsest of accompaniments and simplest of keyboard riffs over layers of synths from Bertrami. In a more experimental vein, ‘Amazonia’ was possibly Azymuth’s attempt at cracking the Kraftwerk danceable sound, but still in a thoroughly Brazilian fashion. Overall the group sound is unmistakably Azymuth even if they took on board diverse influences including Weather Report and others, and while immediately Brazilian to the ear, it was not quite like anything else before. This is no less than a Brazilian fusion masterpiece, right up there with George Duke’s ‘Brazilian Love Affair’ and Tania Maria’s ‘Come with me’. Essential listening.

Tim Stenhouse