São Paulo Underground

Tres Cabeças Loucuras
Cuineiform Records RUNE 325

By Ken Waxman

Newest entry in Chicago-based cornetist Rob Mazurek’s ongoing Underground ensemble projects, this CD fuses American improv textures with the beats and melodies prevalent in Brazilian music. With both jazz and maracatu based on African roots, the other members of the São Paulo Underground – Mauricio Takara, who plays percussion and miniature Brazilian guitar, drummer Richard Ribeiro and keyboardist Guilherme Granado – find common ground with Mazurek through rock and samba beats plus the spirited use of samples and electronics.

The end result is that the tracks on Tres Cabeças Loucuras vary from those whose affiliation seems to be with delicate guitar-strummed pop, including mariachi brass-like echoes, to tough, percussion-hammered near rock, plus those tunes which could be taken up by the cornetist’s jazzier projects like the Exploding Star Orchestra, Starlicker or the Chicago Underground Duo/Trio with drummer Chad Taylor.

“Just Lovin’” and “Six Six Eight” are fascinating representations of the last, especially since Mazurek’s Chi-Town associates, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, bass guitarist Matthew Lux and drummer John Herndon are on board. Mazurek’s Six Six Eight”, his most extensive cornet feature, balances on Adasiewicz’s and Herndon’s shuddering percussion pulse, includes sliding bass guitar runs and discursive time-shedding, while the intervallic theme is advanced by flutter-tongued triplets from the brass man. Based on a loop from Granado, “Just Lovin’” is denser with an avant-rock beat presaging measured vibe echoes and snaking guitar runs that end when Mazurek’s capillary slurs climax in a flurry of triplets.

For the Jazz Samba-familiar, some of the more lyrical tunes with delicate, almost slack-key guitar licks, gentle muted brass lines and rumbling dance-like beats may sound more South American. Don’t forget though that Brazil is home to Ivo Perelman as well as João Gilberto. Dragging percussion friction, off-centre bell-ringing and high-pitched guitar licks on Takara’s “Lado Leste” plus the oscillating electronic grinds, overdubbed sound loops, rock-guitar-like distortions and processed cornet smears on “Pigeon” are as much a part of Brazilian music as ever-shifting inventive rhythms.

Fusion in its best sense, Tres Cabeças Loucuras is open-minded music that melds North and South American impulses without fissure.

Tracks: Jagoda’s Dream; Pigeon; Carambola; Colibri; Just Lovin’+; Lado Leste; Six Six Eight+*; Rio Negro

Personnel: Rob Mazurek: cornet, electronics, voice; Mauricio Takara: drums, percussion, cavaquinho; Guilherme Granado: keyboards, electronics, samplers and voice; Richard Ribeiro: drums plus Kiko Dinucci: guitar, voice; Matthew Lux: bass guitar*; Jason Adasiewicz: vibraphone+; John Herndon: drums+

—For New York City Jazz Record September 2012