Brazilian/American Trio São Paulo Underground
Expands Psycho-Tropicalia into New Dimensions on Cantos Invisíveis,
a Global Tapestry that Transcends Place & Time
“A visionary jazz-rock trio.”
- The New York Times
“Limitless in its possibilities.”
- Rolling Stone
“A modern approach to Brazil's Tropicália, that takes into account advances in sound manipulation and engineering. It is street music from the Brazilian subterranean avant-garde and it is confusingly wonderful.”
- All About Jazz
“The Post-Don Cherry melodic splendor of Chicago cornetist Rob Mazurek has never been clearer, and it finds a simpatico home amid the polyrhythmic chaos forged by his Brazilian cohorts. This high-energy romp takes the sting out of the term fusion in the best possible way.”
On Cantos Invisíveis, nine tracks celebrate humanity by evoking lost haunts, enduring love, and the sheer delirious joy of making music together. São Paulo Underground fully manifests its expansive vision of a universal global music, one that blurs edges, transcends genres, defies national and temporal borders, and embraces humankind in its myriad physical and spiritual dimensions.
Featuring three multi-instrumentalists, São Paulo Underground is the creation of Chicago-reared polymath Rob Mazurek (cornet, Mellotron, modular synthesizer, Moog Paraphonic, OP-1, percussion and voice) and two Brazilian masters of modern psycho- Tropicalia -- Mauricio Takara (drums, cavaquinho, electronics, Moog Werkstatt, percussion and voice) and Guilherme Granado (keyboards, synthesizers, sampler, percussion and voice). They’re joined on several tracks by Swiss-born, São Paulo resident Thomas Rohrer (rabeca, flutes, soprano saxophone, electronics, percussion and voice), who made a memorable contribution to Mazurek’s Black Cube SP on the transcendent 2014 Cuneiform release Return the Tides: Ascension Suite and Holy Ghost. Together, these singular and wildly imaginative sonic explorers create music unlike any other ensemble.
Alchemical aural conspirators for over a decade, the group has developed its own approach to structure, with slippery forms, unabashedly beautiful melodies and lapidary textures laced with disquieting electronica beats and stutter-stepping improvisation.
Rather than evoke a particular time and place, the music inhabits multiple planes simultaneously as “a projection of sound that celebrates as well as mourns past, present and future times,” Mazurek says. “The vocal quality of this particular music shouts and hollers for love and compassion, the joy and sorrows of life. It’s a street parade for everybody.” In the transcendent spirit of the Second Line, São Paulo Underground summons a joyful noise for all mankind.
The experience of listening to Cantos Invisíveis often feels like stepping through the fourth wall, as if you’re in the room with the musicians, watching the instrumental conversations unfold in real time.
The production enhances the intimacy, creating a space to enter the music rather than building a protective shell around it. It’s a communion that can only develop “as a result of a lot of time spent together working on music and ideas and then travelling together playing throughout the world,” Takara says. “I think there’s a certain atmosphere that only living and spending time together brings, and the record captures that beautifully.”
The title Cantos Invisíveis translates from Portuguese as “invisible corners” or “invisible songs” or “disappearing corners or songs,” and the music evokes the elusive nature of these phantom songs, “always masking it in some kind of way, a disappearing through layering and sound manipulation,” Mazurek says. “The songs kind of disappear in a way like a cloud of pink in the sky. We create atmospheres that cause form and melody to disappear,” and to reappear, enticing savvy sound explorers to join São Paulo Underground on a journey, like following a mountain trail obscured by drifting clouds.
The album opens with the elegiac “Estrada Para o Oeste,” a buzzy, fuzzy processional that flows and ripples into a band incantation, an invitation for revelry. The party kicks off with the brief percussion-driven “Violent Orchid Parade,” which quickly gives way to a very different celebration on “Cambodian Street Carnival,” an unhurried piece based on a wordless chant.
While it opens with electronic blips and beeps, Takara’s wheezy “Lost Corners Boogie” gradually dials into an eight-legged Rube Goldbergian contraption, with each player providing locomotion. The tune paints a vivid interactive portrait of funky street life, simultaneously taking in, documenting and participating in the passing parade.
Mazurek unleashes on Takara’s quicksilver “Fire and Chime,” while the whole band summons spirits with “Olhaluai,” a mesmerizing, revelatory looping chant that feels like the album’s emotional centerpiece.
The celebration comes to a conclusion with the shimmering Beach-Boys-meets-Pharoah-Sanders good vibrations “Of Golden Summer,” a piece featuring Mazurek’s exquisite melodic horn. For the after party, where the piper is paid and the dawn brings new insight, São Paulo Underground offers what amounts to a mini-suite.
Part invocation and part country lament, the 16-minute “Falling Down From the Sky Like Some Damned Ghost” offers a final and utterly unexpected trip around the universe.
With Cantos Invisíveis, São Paulo Underground expands into realms seen and unseen, deconstructing the material (defying borders and genres) and manifesting the spiritual (universal human spirit and emotion) to create a new organism.
Each of the album’s resulting songs is a breathtaking musical world, a living planet within São Paulo Underground’s visionary universe.
Based on the extraordinary music on Cantos Invisíveis, as well as the dynamic albums the trio released in the past, the universe that São PauloUnderground is boldly charting will continue to flourish, evolve and expand.
SÃO PAULO UNDERGROUND: BAND BIO
São Paulo Underground was born at the end of Mazurek’s eight-year Brazilian sojourn, when he began collaborating with the group’s co-founders Takara and Granado in São Paulo. In 2006, São Paulo Underground released its mind-bending debut Sauna: Um, Dois, Três (Aesthetics/Submarine).
This record established the ensemble as a singular São Paulo/Chicago axis, with contributions by Hurtmold, Marcos Axe, Tiago Mesquita, Wayne Montana, Damon Locks, Joshua Abrams and Chad Taylor. Following up with The Principle of Intrusive Relationships (Aesthetics/Submarine) in 2008, the band expanded to a quartet with the inclusion of drummer Richard Ribeiro.
By the time the group recorded its 2011 Cuneiform debut Três Cabaças Loucuras, Ribeiro was on the way out and São Paulo Underground took its present form as an expansive trio. In 2013, Cuneiform released the trio’s critically acclaimed fourth recording, Beija Flors Velho E Sujo.
It’s difficult to overstate Mazurek’s immersion in the experimental ethos of Brazil’s avant garde.
From 2000-2008, he moved between the denseAmazon jungle of Manaus, the Oscar Niemeyer-designed architectural wonderland in the capital Brasilia and the megalopolis São Paulo.
This brought him recognition throughout Brazil and allowed him to make lasting ties with leading artists and musicians that he continues to collaborate with today.
Simultaneously, Mazurek continued his ascent stateside, in Europe and in Asia, by maintaining an intense touring schedule and constant flow of critically acclaimed, genre-defying recordings.
A polymorphously creative bandleader, Mazurek directs, composes and performs in a wide array of ensembles, from his highly interactive Chicago Underground Duo with drummer Chad Taylor, which released Locus (Northern Spy) in March 2014, to his talent-laden octet, which was captured on 2013’s Skull Sessions (Cuneiform), and of course São Paulo Underground.
Always looking for synergistic cross-fertilization, he brought together his two subterranean ensembles, Chicago Underground and São Paulo Underground), and paired them with tenor saxophone legend Pharoah Sanders in Pharoah and the Underground, which released the CD Spiral Mercury and the LP Primative Jupiter (Clean Feed) in August 2014.
His latest releases include a duo with Jeff Parker, Some Jelly Fish Live Forever (Rogue Art), and Alien Flower Sutra (International Anthem Recording Company), a science fiction song cycle with singer/songwriter Emmett Kelly of The Cairo Gang. Exploding Star Orchestra remains one of the most important vehicles for Mazurek’s increasingly ambitious orchestral compositions.
This constantly shifting and capaciously inventive large ensemble has featured the likes of Roscoe Mitchell, as well as the late Bill Dixon and Fred Anderson, with Nicole Mitchell, Angelica Sanchez, Matana Roberts, Jeff Parker, John Herndon, Chad Taylor, Matt Bauder, Damon Locks, Mauricio Takara and Guilherme Granado, among others.
The volatile ensemble released Galactic Parables: Volume 1, the most recent of nine Mazurek suites written for Exploding Star Orchestra, on Cuneiform in 2015.
Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Mazurek moved to the Chicago suburbs as a child. In 1983, wanting to follow the example of his hero Sun Ra, he moved to the city and immediately immersed himself in the eclectic Chicago scene, playing alongside and studying with jazz masters like Ken Prince, Jodie Christian, Earma Thompson, Billy Brimfield, Fred Hopkins and Lin Halliday.
In 1994, he and guitarist Jeff Parker launched the Chicago Underground workshop at Chicago’s storied jazz club The Green Mill. The workshop featured many of the scene’s rising stars including drummer Chad Taylor. Eventually the workshop gave birth to the Chicago Underground Collective, an ensemble that recorded several albums for Delmark, Thrill Jockey and most recently Northern Spy. Mazurek’s collaborations include a wide cross section of leading figures and ensembles in jazz, electronic, rock and improvised music, including the late Bill Dixon, Yusef Lateef, Naná Vasconcelos and Fred Anderson, Pharoah Sanders, Roscoe Mitchell, Mike Ladd, Emmett Kelly, Jim O’Rourke, Sam Prekop and Isotope 217.
More than a prolific composer, Mazurek is increasingly recognized by major arts institutions as an accomplished visual artist and has received a number of grants and commissions for multi-media projects and collaborations.
In 2016, he was awarded a grant from Chicago’s Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts for a film shot in collaboration with Lee Anne Schmitt at Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Farnsworth House. In 2015, Marfa Book Company presented “Marfa Loops Shouts and Hollers,” a solo exhibition of paintings, sculpture and sound by Mazurek.
In 2013, he received a Helen Coburn Meier and Tim Meier Arts Achievement Award and was given a residency at the famed URDLA Centre International Estampe & Livre in Villeurbanne, France where he realized four 3D lithographs to be used as graphic scores for improvisation.
In 2010, Mazurek received a Commissioning Music USA grant from New Music USA for a multi-media work developed in collaboration with video artist and choreographer Marianne Kim. In 2005, the year before he founded São Paulo Underground, he was awarded a prestigious artist residency at the French Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud, which gave him the opportunity to hone his interest in multi-media works.
Mazurek received a commission from the French Ministry of Culture in 2015 for a new work for a 17-piece ensemble comprised of French and American musicians. In 2013, the Sant'Anna Aressi Jazz Festival commissioned Mazurek’s Galactic Parables: Volume 1, which was performed live on Italian Rai Radio3.
He topped off a highly productive 2012 by being voted International Musician of the Year alongside Wadada Leo Smith by Musica Jazz, Italy's top jazz magazine. In 2011, the Jazz & Wine Festival in Cormons, Italy commissioned him to compose his Violent Orchid Suite and the Sant'Anna Aressi Jazz Festival in Sardinia, Italy commissioned the Transgressions Suite.
Mauricio Takara is considered one of the leading voices in the new post-Tropicalia wave of Brazilian music.
A São Paulo native, Takara has performed and recorded with a dazzling array of artists. From Brazil, key connections include Paulo Santos, Toninho Horta, Nacao Zumbi, Vanessa Da Mata, Sabotage, Naná Vasconcelos and Marcelo Camelo.
On the international scene he’s allied with heavyweights such as Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Yusef Lateef, Tony Bevan and Prefuse 73. Besides São Paulo Underground, Takara has also worked with other Chicagoconnected projects and artists such as Exploding Star Orchestra, Joshua Abrams and John Herndon. Born in 1982, Takara started playing the acoustic guitar at the age of seven. Two years later, he took up drums.
He played with local hardcore punk bands throughout the ‘90s and started Hurtmold in 1998, releasing six records on the Submarine label. Most recently, Selo Sesc released a collaborative recording, Curado, featuring Hurtmold with Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Paulo Santos. Since 2003, Takara also released five solo albums on Desmonta Discos including Puro Osso in 2014 and Sobre Todas e Qualquer Coisa in 2010.
Takara has toured extensively in Europe (Sonar Festival/Barcelona, Roskilde/Denmark, WOMEX/Seville & Club Transmediale/Berlin), the US, India (World Socials Forum) and Brazil (Nublu Jazz Festival, SESC Pinheiros, and opening for Lo Borges and Milton Nascimento at Coquetel Molotov Festival).
Also hailing from São Paulo, Guilherme Granado is in the vanguard of Brazil’s electronic spiritualism sound makers, devoted to promoting music, beats and ideas in Brazil. He’s been avidly sought after by a disparate array of artists, including Prefuse 73, Naná Vasconcelos, Tulipa, Pharoah Sanders and Exploding Star Orchestra. Granado is an integral member of the Brazilian rock group Hurtmold and has released five records under Bodes and Elefantes, his solo project. His 2014 release, Glaciers of Nice Vol. 1 (Propósito Records), is a glorious electronic-infused spiritual.
In 2016, Granado released Bode Holofonico (Prop Recs) with Leandro Archela, Prestige Duo with Ricardo Pereira, Transition Hustle and Homeless Loops Vol. 2 (guilhermegranado.bandcamp.com).
Born and raised in Switzerland, Thomas Rohrer has lived in Brazil since 1995. Rohrer began his musical studies as a violinist and studied saxophone in the Jazz Department at the University of Lucerne. Rohrer, now a master of the keening rabeca (Brazilian viola), earned his stripes through two decades of intense studies with leading practitioners in Brazil’s northeast. Using his classical training, extensive knowledge of Brazilian folk music and love of improvisation, Roher integrates his rabeca and soprano saxophone into collective improvisations and traditional Brazilian music.
He is a member of Trio TEC, the free-improv Abaetetuba Collective, a trio with reed expert Hans Koch and percussionist Panda Gianfratti, and a duo with Kazakhstani singer Saadet Türköz. He also performs in a long-running duo with Gianfratti and has worked extensively with double bass player Célio Barros since 1996. A cultural catalyst, he’s curated a number of international free improv festivals in São Paulo and collaborated with legendary multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef on a series of performances in Brazil. He has also collaborated with the London Improvisers Orchestra, Terry Day, Marcio Mattos, Mauricio Takara, John Russell, Javier Carmona, Phil Somervell, Bella, Ute Wassermann, Audrey Chen, Sabu Toyozumi, John Edwards, Phil Minton and Roger Turner.
1. Estrada Para o Oeste (Takara, Mazurek) 13:44
2. Violent Orchid Parade (Mazurek) 1:51
3. Cambodian Street Carnival (Mazurek) 6:45
4. Lost Corners Boogie (Takara) 6:02
5. Desisto II (Mazurek, Granado) 3:36
6. Fire and Chime (Takara) 2:38
7. Olhaluai (Takara) 5:51
8. Of Golden Summer (Mazurek) 4:14
9. Falling Down From the Sky Like Some Damned Ghost (Takara, Mazurek) 16:20
São Paulo Underground
cornet, Mellotron, modular synthesizer, Moog Paraphonic, OP-1, percussion and voice
drums, cavaquinho, electronics, Moog Werkstatt, percussion and voice
keyboards, synthesizers, sampler, percussion and voice
rabeca, flutes, soprano saxophone, electronics, percussion and voice
Dedicated to the Spirit of Armando Julio.
Recorded by Manuel Calderon (Comanche Sound) at Sonic Ranch, El Paso, TX.
Additional recording by Mark Mazurek.
Mixed by Rob Mazurek and Manuel Calderon (Comanche Sound) at Sonic Ranch.
Mastered by Marco Ramirez at Sonic Ranch.
Produced by Rob Mazurek.
Cover Design by Damon Locks.
Compositions by Rob Mazurek (OLHO, ASCAP) and by Mauricio Takara (Basement Brazil).
Special thanks to Mark, Jennie and Alex Mazurek for their support during the creation of this record.
ARTIST WEB SITES
SÃO PAULO UNDERGROUND - TOUR DATES: FALL 2016
São Paulo Underground - Cantos Invisíveis (CUNEIFORM RECORDS)