Grupo Um - Starting Point LP
The previously unreleased debut album from 1975. In 1975, under the oppressive military dictatorship in Brazil, brothers Lelo and Zé Eduardo Nazario invited bassist Zeca Assumpção to join their musical experiments in a basement under Sao Paulo's Teodoro Sampaio Street. As teenagers, the trio had already been playing together in Hermeto Pascoal's Grupo, alongside guitarist Toninho Horta and saxophonist Nivaldo Ornelas, and it was while working together under Hermeto's direction that the Paulista rhythm section (as they were then known) began to realize their own potential. With many nightclubs and venues closed in the mid-70s and government censors dictating the output of radio, TV, and art galleries, many Brazilian artists fled. But underground, Grupo Um were fusing avant-garde ideals with contemporary jazz and Afro Brazilian rhythm; making phenomenally free and expressive music -- in stark contrast to the sterile, conservative conditions being imposed above ground. Just like Hermeto Pascoal's Viajando Com O Som from the following year, Starting Point was recorded over two days at Vice-Versa Studios, by revered engineer Renato Viola. The studio was one of the best in Sao Paulo and musicians communicated with engineers through cameras and a monitor, allowing the group complete immersion in the process. They also made use of the studio's hemispherical tiled room, which served as an acoustic reverberation chamber. The album begins with Zé Eduardo Nazario's thunderous drum solo on "Porão da Teodoro", before clearing the clouds with the lone Berimbau which opens "Onze Por Oito". Built around a hypnotic electric bass line, heady Fender Rhodes improvisations, and more rip-roaring drums, it's a rapturous, electrifying freak-jam in 11/8. Like some invertebrate deep-sea curiosity, the free-form "Organica" is made up of Lelo Nazario's playfully eerie prepared piano, with Zé Eduardo's percussion flurries darting around Assumpçao's double bass. The equally non-conformist, percussion-only piece "Jardim Candida" features many of Zé Eduardo's homemade instruments, including a long saw blade played with vibraphone sticks and violin bow. While working with Hermeto, Zé Eduardo famously built his own all-in-one percussion set-up known as the "Barraca de Percussão" (Percussion Tent). "Suite Orquidea Negra" (Black Orchid Suite) was written by Lelo Nazario as the score for an imaginary movie about a rare, black orchid. The album closes with the triumphant "Cortejo dos Reis Negros" (Procession of Black Kings) -- a groovy variation on the Maracatu rhythm, with a two-note bassline underpinning piano improvisations, exultant wordless vocals, cuicas, slide-whistles and a very special guest appearance from Zé's dog Bolinha. Starting Point was to mark the inception of one of Brazil's most daring instrumental groups. Finally, almost fifty years later, this mesmerizing piece of history is here, and it was only the beginning...