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Seu Jorge & Almaz

The Summer ’10 release, “Seu Jorge e Almaz,” is rapidly becoming one of my favorite recordings of 2010. It is a disc that flat-out sounds unlike anything else you’ll hear this year. It’s raw production values harken to Punk, but think Pil, or something slightly dub-drenched. Listening to this remarkable album for the first time you’ll surely be struck first by the deep, soul-piercing voice of that great Brasilian singer, Seu Jorge. Yes: he’s a singer first and foremost. Many may know him as an actor for his screen-stealing performances in the likes of Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic and Fernando Meirelles City Of God, but Seu has known since he was a child that we was destined to sing. First discovered by the late Paulo Moura, he is a Brasilian singer who speaks the truth through samba, to paraphrase a well-known Seu Jorge quote. But this project is about a band: Almaz. Drummer Pupillo and guitarist Lucio Maia from the stalwart Nação Zumbi; bassist and composer Antonio Pinto from the soundstages of movies starring Seu Jorge. They came together naturally to record a song for a Walter Salles film; they enjoyed the experience so much that they recorded an entire album of music that inspired them. Songs famous within the Brasilian diaspora (Tim Maia, Jorge Ben) mesh with classic American (Roy Ayers, Michael Jackson) and European (Kraftwerk, Cane and Abel) soul songs begging for a bit of psychedelic samba. They enlisted producer and fellow Brasileiro Mario C. (Beastie Boys, Jack Johnson) to put the finishing touches on the project. Their album is both warm and dark; psychedelic and yet grounded, uplifting but at times somber. To listen to it is to join them in the studio, where the only bandleader is the music and the only agenda is to follow your heart.

A spontaneous, relaxed vibe flows throughout the record, and it also lives in the repertoire – each musician freely choosing songs which inspire them. “The only leader here is the music” says Jorge. “This project is a place for liberation” explains Antonio, and that freedom is something you feel at the heart of their spacey, psychedelic sound. As Lucio points out, there’s a great tradition of fabulous collaborations in Brasil, and it’s clear this is a band everyone deeply enjoys being part of. Pupillo: “Apart from being beautiful, the words of the song “Errare Humanum Est,” or ‘to err is human’, the lead off track on the project, and one of its best, says everything about Almaz in the sense that taking risks is perfect, it’s good to have the freedom to play and create without being afraid to make a mistake.”