Mozik: Mozik (2011)
Co-led by Berklee graduates keyboardist Gilson Schachnik and drummer Mauricio Zottarelli (best-known for his work with pianist Hiromi Uehara), Mozik's self-titled debut CD features the sort of fusion-tinged Brazilian jazz made popular a couple of decades ago by artists such as Airto Moreira Moreira, Azymuth, and Egberto Gismonti. Playing a program comprised largely of classic Antonio Carlos Jobim pieces ("A Felicidade," "O Amor em Paz," and "Desafinado") and recognizable modern jazz selections by Thelonious Monk and Herbie Hancock, Mozik's modus operandi combines intense focus with a characteristically Brazilian sort of hip, breezy nonchalance.
The quintet's two original tunes have a similar flavorneither "Web's Samba" nor "Zelia," both penned by Schachnik, would have sounded out of place on an early Azymuth LP. Outwardly friendly and sunny, both tunes feature funky hard-hitting percussion and somewhat darker intervals that epitomize the Brazilian concept of saudade.
The quintet provides a contemporary take on three easily recognizable Jobim tunesits interpretations nimbly straddle the line between slavish reverence and complete overhaul. Guitarist Gustavo Assis-Brasil shines on "A Felicidade," his clean tone, mind-boggling chops, and fastidious attention to detail suggest influences such as Mick Goodrick and John Abercrombie, though his harmonic and melodic ideas are completely his own. Zottarelli's drumming here is also remarkable, seamlessly blending funk, Afro-Cuban, and Brazilian rhythms in a particularly stimulating fashion.
Assis-Brasil, this time on nylon-string acoustic guitar, is also out front on "O Amor em Paz" (Once I Loved) which benefits from Schachnik's appropriately lush arrangement. Mozik's take on "Desafinado" features some intricate rhythmic modulations, fine solos by Shachnik and bassist Fernando Huergo, and lots of lovely flute from Yulia Musayelyan. Departing somewhat from the fusion-esque aspects of Brazilian jazz, Mozik really delve into samba on the CD-closing "Canto das Tres Racas." Zottarelli's percussion gives this piece an Afro-Cuban feel, while Musayelyan's airy, primal flute flutters nimbly over Schachnik's piano.
The remainder of the CD is similarly engaging. The quintet's high-energy take on Hancock's rarely-covered classic "Eye of the Hurricane" gives Schachnik an opportunity to show off his Rhodes chops and Assis-Brazil a chance to demonstrate the high- energy aspects of his playing. Monk's "Pannonica," by contrast, gets a relaxed, samba-like treatment that suggests some of Jerry Gonzalez' Latin-ized Monk rearrangements.
Never veering off into smooth jazz irrelevance, or overly-abstruse experimentation, Mozik's music effectively, sweetly pays tribute to the salad days of Brazilian jazz without going completely retro. The quintet's music is both warm and intelligent, while retaining the sort of funky playfulness that some may interpret as an invitation to dance.
Track Listing: Web's Samba; A Felicidade; Eye of the Hurricane; O Amor em Paz; Pannonica; Zelia; Desafinado; Canto das Tres Racas.
Personnel: Yulia Musayelyan: flute; Fernando Huergo: bass; Mauricio Zottarelli: drums, percussion; Gustavo Assis-Brasil: guitar; Gilson Schachnik: piano, Fender Rhodes, keyboards.
Record Label: Self Produced