Brazil in the 60s/70s was, among other things, fertile ground for amazing music. Ana Mazzotti began playing accordion at age 5, before moving to keys and forming a Beatles cover band while still in school. A move from Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul to the more populated São Paulo found her introduced to Rio de Janeiro’s Azymuth, the fusion/funk band that would play a key role in her music. By 1974, Azymuth keyboardist José Roberto Bertrami was already something of a session wizard, having played with luminaries such as Tim Maia and Marcos Valle. When Mazzotti recorded this, her first album, Bertrami and the Azymuth crew were her backing band.
Ninguém Vai Me Segurar translates to “Nobody will hold me”, which is probably a statement of loneliness but which I prefer to liken to Rick Ross’s refusal to be stopped. Mazzotti’s confident vocals and great songs are only the first layer of the music. Bertrami’s contributions are massive: these synths are FUNKY. “Roda Mundo” features some synth-spazzing that rivals Chick Corea and “Eu Sou Mais Eu” has a particularly funky bounce to it.
I think I discovered this record via “Feel Like Makin’ Love”, a cover of the Roberta Flack song (written by Eugene McDaniels) that served as the title track to the first AOTY I ever posted on this blog. Mazzotti’s version is sampled on Isaiah Rashad’s “Cilvia Demo”, and matches the mellow of Flack’s take. We get a sort of Syreeta vibe on “Acalanto” with its sleepy Sunday atmosphere and Stevie-like synths.
Ana Mazzotti followed Ninguém with a self-titled album in 1977, but unfortunately neither were very commercially successful. Little is known (at least to me) about her last 10-or-so years, and she passed away from cancer early in 1988. Thanks to a 2019 reissue on Far Out Recordings, more is known about Ninguém and it is easy to find and stream, which is fantastic as this album is an absolute delight.
Listen to Ninguém Vai Me Segurar here.
When it comes to albums that have that hazy, late-night feeling, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than this. It’s one of those 70s records, like Das Hohelied Salomos, where you can practically hear the weed smoke coming through your speakers. Look at Nelson on the cover – dude is walking on clouds!
The two Brazilian singers were around 22-23 years old when they recorded this album. Angelo, who was part of the Clube de Esquina movement, worked closely with legendary artists Naná Vasconcelos and Lô Borges. Joyce Moreno is a singer and guitarist who would go on to work with Vinicius De Moraes. My understanding of Portugese is about nil, but the opener “Um Gosto de Fruta” translates to “A Taste of Fruit”, and it’s appropriately refreshing.
Angelo is mostly at the reigns here in terms of songwriting and performance. Joyce doesn’t take the lead until “Linda”, which is short and sweet, and then standout “Comunhão” delights in its melodious chorus of na-na-nas. “Ponte Nova” reaches a transcendent jam in its final 20 seconds, only to fade out. Joyce also takes the lead on “Meus Vinte Anos”, which she wrote, and has a blissful harpsichord backing.
Nelson Angelo e Joyce is indispensable. My only possible qualm would be that the record and its songs are so short, it’s hard not to want more. Well then, time to find more Nelson Angelo/Joyce albums…
Listen to Nelson Angelo e Joyce here.
Introspection – How It Feels to Chew 5 Gum! Our head is a castle, our mind a sky. And what better way to journey through the clouds than on the wings of an acoustic guitar?
Rio de Janeiro’s Luiz Bonfa had a lucrative career as part of the samba scene of the 50s and 60s, notably writing some of the music for the brilliant film Black Orpheus (1959), including “Manha de Carnaval”, which has been covered by many including Astrud Gilberto. His collaboration with Stan Getz, Jazz Samba Encore! (1963), was a hit that includes Bonfa’s “Saudade Vem Correndo”, which was sampled by J Dilla on the Pharcyde classic “Runnin’”. The guy could write a good song.
Introspection feels more improvisational, but it’s short and sweet at just over 26 minutes. This works to the album’s advantage as the songs are quite similar. No vocals or accompanying instruments, just that airy guitar, slowing in tempo and then picking up again like a classical movement (hence, “Concerto for Guitar”). “Missal (Estudo)” stands out for having what sounds like two guitars in the mix (although I am almost certain there is only one) for a wonderful harmonic effect.
Listen to Introspection here.
How’s that for a striking cover? I’m not sure if Astrud splashed some water on her face during the shoot, did the acting thing of conjuring up some bad memories, or what. Maybe she was just really that bummed out. In any case, the cover and title drew me to this one. It was actually long before my Sinatra kick, but it would be up any jazz-pop fan’s alley.
Gilberto rejected the “jazz singer” label, and it’s fairly clear why. Her vocals are not complex or improvisational. In fact, they might even be too simple for some, fading into the background at times. Astrud (née Weinert) met João Gilberto through friend and (amazing) singer Nara Leão. João and Astrud married, and she is most known for their smash hit “The Girl from Ipanema” (1963), which they recorded when she was about 23 years old. But it seems she was a bit pigeonholed by this collaboration, and the press referred to her as a housewife.
I like I Haven’t Got Anything Better to Do in part because she is doing her own thing (the couple had by now divorced). Richard Davis, who has perhaps the greatest CV of any bassist ever, is on here. He sounds damn good on “Wailing of the Willow” – one of two Nilsson covers on this album. At under 30 minutes, it’s short and sweet. This album is truly breezy. “The Sea Is My Soil” really comes to life about halfway through in a beautiful moment.
“Without Him”, the other Nilsson cover, is another big highlight. It’s melancholy, yet full of the pep that only that Brazilian-style percussion provides. And as far as tearjerker moments go, I’d rate the saxophone coming in after “if I had wings I could fly” on the closer “If” pretty highly. The fact that this is the last track on the album only adds to its desolate feeling. That’s it! It’s over. What’s left? Nothing!
Astrud Gilberto loves animals and has a very cute old-school website that you should visit.
Listen to I Haven’t Got Anything Better to Do here.