It’s unusual that a band who has recorded more than sixteen albums as a unit and as soloists are still relatively unknown outside their home country, but this may be true of Azymuth.
The band consists of keyboarder and arranger Jose Roberto Betrami, drummer Ivan Conti and bassist Alex Malheiros. Betrami and Conti met whilst playing in two separate bands in a club in Rio one night in the late sixties and immediately formed a mutual respect and decided to form a union to explore a fusion which was quite innovative for the time, They searched Rio’s nightlife for a bassist and found Alex Malheiros playing in a band at a bowling alley and knew that this was "their guy".
Azymuth started life out playing as session men in their native Braz ûil and recorded a number of movie and television soundtracks and toured with artists like Elis Regina, Eumir Deodato, Jorge Ben, Gal Costa and Milton Nascimento and established themselves with a string of album releases. The first album was a movie soundtrack from "O fabuloso Fittipaldi" in 1973.
Azymuth performed at the 1977 Montreux jazz festival and backed Flora Purim and husband Airto Moreira on their American tour the following year. In 1979 the band formed an affiliation with Milestone records and began to find an audience outside of Brazil.
"Jazz Carnival" from their "Light as a feather" album was a top 10 hit in the English charts in the early eighties and "Telecommunication "was a top 10 hit album for more than 12 weeks in America and England in 1982.
The Best of Azymuth is a mixture of wonderful arrangements and off beat bossa and traditional rhythms. The tracks are predominantly instrumental except for the scat sounds of guest Flora Purim and Betrami.
Throughout this wonderful album each musician plays his own distinctive instrument which sometimes sounds like they are all on separate musical journeys which makes the listener sit up and take notice of what they are expressing but yet the generic sound is a combination which is dynamic and exciting.
The use of traditional and conventional instruments blend together in a unique harmony which makes their sound typically Brazilian but with jazz overtones. Betrami’s mentor was Bill Evans and bossa pianist Luis Ec‹ and the Leslie / Hammond l type sound is exciting, warm and passionate.
Alex Malheiros playing is similar in many ways to the Jaco Pastorius fretless bass sound which was so evident around the seventies and eighties with Weather Report and is inventive and dynamic.
Ivan Conto is a typical "carioca" whose native name is "Mamao". His use of every conceivable percussion instrument makes each track an adventure with no two sounding the same. This is a trait of Azymuth that their music always sounds fresh and "freshly brewed"
There are so many wonderful tracks on this album which are worth mentioning but the highlights for me are "Club Morrocco", "Song of the jet" and "Dear Limmertz". If you are like me and you were raised with a daily dose of bossa nova and big band jazz, I have a feeling that once you listen to this sampler, you will be searching your local record stores for more of the same.
In the late eighties, Betrami parted from the band to concentrate on production and the band was joined by Jurgen Seefelder on sax. In my opinion this altered the whole spirit of the band the albums prior to this change are definitely more appealing to me.