The Human Factor
Produced, written & arranged by Ivan Conti
Solo outing from the drummer for the Brazilian jazz-funk trio Azymuth, here Conti offering up a mixed bag–regarding styles and quality–starting off with a rather uneventful version of fusion, perhaps a notch above most of the fusion from this era but that’s not really saying that much. Fortunately, about ten minutes into the proceedings–about halfway through the first side–Arturzinho’s popping baseline rises in the middle of the second cut. This focus on rhythm leads us to the third cut that closes the side–the tribal percussion workout “Pantanal II (Swamp)” taking us into the massive wetlands of Conti’s homeland.
The original electronic-heavy “Pantanal” from Azymuth’s 1980 album used electronic sounds to likely mimic the buzzing/chirping/squealing of the swamp fauna, while the sequel on this album discards the keyboards and focuses on four percussionists running down the voodoo and doing their thing, a frantic dance around the fire, a run through the jungle, the rhythm of the hunt, the beat of the heart. A fourth musician offers some whistles to help paint the wetland scene, and Conti doubles up with some vocoder to apparently represent the growl of some sort of fauna, all the instruments sounding like they are conversing, the mix of old tribal and new electronics both recalling the roots of fusion put down by Miles Davis and Weather Report and helping to reveal the jungle roots of that innovative music. With its percussion-heavy tribal electronics, this cut also helps pave the way for things to come. While the selection isn’t groundbreaking, it does get the earth shaking, causing the listener to stand up and take notice.
The flipside eases into the proceedings with moderately enjoyable jazz fusion, picking up the pace with a jazz-trio piece (drums, acoustic piano, and electric bass), and slowing down again with a brief solo number–the drummer offering vocals, acoustic guitar and splashes of synthesizers. The set concludes with the title track, another multi-tracked Conti solo number, this one just drums and synthesizers, sounding extremely dated and fairly charming, very intentional and robotic–in many ways in sharp contrast to the closer of side one. While the rest of the set was recorded in Rio, this title track was recorded where the set was mastered and mixed–in Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California.
This isn’t an essential outing, but for better or worse, it has plenty of variety, and the more interesting selections make this set at least worth a listen.