Listening to this remarkable album for the first time you’ll surely be struck first by the deep, soul-piercing voice of that great Brazilian 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 Jorge has known since he was a child that we was destined to sing. He’s a Brazilian 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 Hollywood and Brazilian blockbusters such as City of God, the film that showcased Seu Jorge’s star-turn as Knockout Ned. 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 Brazilian 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 Brazileiro Mario C. (Beastie Boys, Jack Johnson) to put the finishing touches on the project. And now Almaz, looking to only “common sense” as bandleader, spring forth with an album both warm and dark; an album that is psychedelic and yet grounded, uplifting but at times somber. To listen to Seu Jorge and Almaz is to join them in the studio, where the only bandleader is the music and the only agenda is to follow your heart.