Integrating spirited avant-garde jazz improvisation and lo-fi electronica with the revolutionary innovations of Brazil's Tropicalia movement, Beija Flors Velho E Sujo is São Paulo Underground's fourth recording and the first to exclusively feature the variable ensemble's core trio. The group was originally co-founded by Chicago-based cornetist Rob Mazurek and Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Mauricio Takara, whose debut, Sauna: Um, Dois, Tres (Aesthetics, 2006) was made as a duo with contributions from invited guests. Keyboardist Guilherme Granado and part-time drummer Richard Ribeiro were subsequently recruited for the band's sophomore effort, The Principle of Intrusive Relationships (Aesthetics, 2008), while Três Cabeças Loucuras (Cuneiform) followed in 2011, bolstered by appearances from a handful of Mazurek's Windy City associates.
Written and rehearsed during a 2012 North American tour, the electro-acoustic material on Beija Flors Velho E Sujo is more melodically focused and thematically concise than any of the group's previous efforts. Left to their own devices, Mazurek, Takara and Granado engage in a mercurial series of celebratory excursions, beginning with "Ol' Dirty Hummingbird." An enigmatic ode to the Wu-Tang Clan's Ol' Dirty Bastard, the capricious number vacillates wildly from a frenetically amplified fanfare to a mysteriously impressionistic elegy and back again, making it an ideal tribute to the master trickster. Another dedication, "Arnus Nusar," devoted to Sun Ra, reveals the trio's boundless capacity for sonic experimentation with a psychedelic array of celestial tones that transcend the stereo field before segueing into a phantasmagoric interpretation of Harold Arlen's tender "Somewhere Over The Rainbow."
Operating as a true collective, the members casually alternate between support and leadership roles, their congenial interplay and individual contributions reinforcing the multihued tunes' harmonic, melodic and rhythmic characteristics. Taking the spotlight, Takara's twangy cavaquinho (Brazilian guitar) arpeggios spur the authentic Carnival groove of "Evetch," Granado's overdriven keyboard textures dominate the boisterous funk of "Six-Handed Casio," and Mazurek's ardent brass refrains elevate the buoyant anthem "The Love I Feel For You Is More Real Than Ever," a passionate ballad written for his wife.
The record concludes with the episodic tone poem "Taking Back The Sea Is No Easy Task," which veers from bristling textural abstraction to spare pointillist introspection, encompassing the totality of the band's expressive range in just under five minutes. An adventurous yet accessible offering from São Paulo Underground, Beija Flors Velho E Sujo expertly conveys Mazurek's "idea of breaking through to the other side ... through sonic power and beauty."
Ol' Dirty Hummingbird; Into The Rising Sun; Arnus Nusar; Over The Rainbow; Evetch; Six-Handed Casio; The Love I Feel For You Is More Real Than Ever; Basilio's Crazy Wedding Song; A Árvore De Cereja É Ausente; Taking Back The Sea Is No Easy Task.
Rob Mazurek: cornet, evolver, ring modulator, analog delay, harmonium; Guilherme Granado: keyboards, synths, sampler, voice; Mauricio Takara: percussion, cavaquinho, electronics.