For whatever reason, I don’t tend to dig jazz flute. There’s something altogether corny about it in my mind, something that is perhaps more involved with Will Ferrell’s performance in Anchorman than any actual experience or dislike for jazz flute. But all the same, it hasn’t exactly been my listening weapon of choice.
With their new record Mozik, pianist Gilson Schachnik and drummer Mauricio Zottarelli offer a take on Brazilian jazz that happens to include, yep, a jazz flute. In this case, the flutist is Russia's Yulia Musayelyan.
Here, the flute doesn’t sound the least bit corny or out of place in the context of Brazilian jazz and bossa nova. On the contrary, Musayelyan’s playing easily sinks into the arrangements and helps to accentuate the rhythms. Musayelyan’s playing isn’t all flourishes and flavours; it highlights, brightly assisting Zottarelli’s varying beats while dancing with Gustavo Assis-Brasil’s guitar and Schachnik’s keys.
Now you can’t have an album of Brazilian jazz without including some standards from Antonio Carlos Jobim. Mozik has three such arrangements, each one lovingly tinkered with by Schachnik. The theme from Black Orpheus, “A Felicidade,” is a standout with its slow-burning gait that doesn’t ignore the melancholy of the original while building to inevitable bliss.
There’s also some traditional jazz, with Herbie Hancock’s “Eye of the Hurricane.” The piece, a beautiful standard of modal jazz with its slow-moving harmonies, is lovingly kissed by Brazilian jazz rhythms and Assis-Brasil’s velvety strings.
This combination of players may never have come to fruition had it not been for Schachnik’s influence on Zottarelli. “I didn’t want anything to do with Brazilian music when I was there,” Zottarelli says. “I was very much into heavy metal, blues, rock, and a little fusion. But when I got to Berklee, people assumed I know Jobim’s music, that I could play samba, and I couldn’t. When Gilson presented me some of those Dom Salvador records, it gave me a chance to get to know the music…and that’s how it all started.”
Schachnik was born and raised in Sao Paulo and started playing organ at age 11, learning through his love of Deep Purple. He broke into the club scene early on and accompanied Patricia Marx and Rosa Maria on the road. By 1990, he had won a scholarship to Berklee and graduated with a degree in jazz composition.
The history of these two musicians shines through with every note of Mozik, an enticing album of Brazilian jazz that is bathed with a wealth of influences from various genres. And then there’s that damned jazz flute, hot as hell and causing me to rethink my whole hardline stance on the thing.