In 1975, under the oppressive air of 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 realise 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 during the years of dictatorship. 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.
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 home-made 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) - the first of its kind in Brazil, which he would also use on Hermeto Pascoal’s Viajando Com O Som and throughout his career.
“Suite Orquidea Negra'' (Black Orchid Suite) was written by Lelo Nazario as the score for an imaginary movie - the story of a rare, black orchid which produced a substance meant to cure all diseases, but which had mysteriously disappeared from the laboratory… “As a screenplay it’s not very good” reflects Lelo in jest, “but the music ended up being very interesting, the way its parts are chained to one another carries a little of the mystery I imagined for the movie.”
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. Their debut now sits in the lofty echelon of otherworldly 70s Brazilian music, alongside the likes of Marcos Resende & Index’s self-titled debut, Cesar Mariano & Cia’s Sao Paulo Brasil, Azymuth’s debut and indeed Hermeto Pascoal’s Viajando Com O Som. But just like all of those titles, which were either shelved or largely ignored at the time, Grupo Um - so radically ahead of their time - struggled to find a label to release their debut album. So Lelo kept the tapes safe in his archives, which is where they sat for almost half a century. Finally, almost fifty years later, this mesmerising piece of history is here, and it was only the beginning...
Grupo Um’s Starting Point will be released by Far Out Recordings, on vinyl LP, with an insert featuring unseen photos and liner notes by the Nazario brothers, as well as a CD and digital release, 17th February 2023.
Also available on Bandcamp
A1. Porão da Teodoro
A2. Onze por Oito
B1. Suite Orquidea Negra
B2. Jardim Candida
B3. Cortejo dos Reis Negros
CD/ Digital Tracklist:
1. Porão da Teodoro
2. Onze por Oito
4. Suite Orquidea Negra
5. Jardim Candida
6. Cortejo dos Reis Negros
Lelo Nazario | piano, prepared piano, fender rhodes, percussion, voice
Zé Eduardo Nazario | drums, percussion, berimbau, voice
Zeca Assumpção | bass, voice
Produced by Lelo Nazario and Zé Eduardo Nazario
Recorded at Vice-Versa Studio, São Paulo, 1975
Engineered by Renato Viola
Mixed by Lelo Nazario, Zé Eduardo Nazario and Renato Viola
Tape restored by Lelo Nazario at Utopia Studio
Mastered by Lelo Nazario @ Utopia Studio, February 2022
Mastered by Stuart Hawkes @ Metropolis Studios, September 2022
Liner notes by Lelo Nazario and Zé Eduardo Nazario
A&R by Joe Davis
Project coordination in Brazil by Irati Antonio (Utopia Studio)
Photography by Jorge Las Heras and artists' personal archives
Photos restored by Lelo Nazario
Art direction by Josh Tautz
Artwork and design by Alessandro Renaldin