In-Demand Session Players Amanda Ruzza and Mauricio Zottarelli Explore Provocative New Musical Path on the Freewheeling Glasses, No Glasses…
After years of playing together on gigs as well as getting numerous sideman calls for studio work as an in-demand rhythm tandem, electric bassist Amanda Ruzza and drummer Mauricio Zottarelli have joined forces on their provocative new release Glasses, No Glasses on Ruzza’s Pimenta Music label.
A radical departure from the buoyant sambas, bossa novas and choros that the two principals have been closely associated with in past outings, including Ruzza’s 2012 solo debut This Is What Happened and Zottarelli’s 2009 samba-jazz release 7 Lives, this spontaneous jam in the studio defies all stereotypes while revealing different musical sides of the two Brazilian compatriots now living in New York City.
A no-holds-barred effects-laden jam that recalls aspects of P-Funk, Medeski, Martin & Wood and Weather Report, Glasses, No Glasses was recorded in just two days with guest keyboardist-saxophonist and Esperanza Spalding sideman Leo Genovese. The first day was essentially a spontaneous collective improvisation in the studio. The three seasoned musicians – Ruzza graduated from the New School in New York while Zottarelli and Genovese both graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston – met ostensibly to record a two-minute video for Dunlop demonstrating the company’s latest batch of effects pedals. But in road testing the analog gear, they became so swept away by their loose-tight trio chemistry in the room that they ended up playing totally for an hour straight through. That first day yielded five tracks – “Soundcheck,” “Glasses,” “No Glasses,” “Sugar” High” and “Everybody’s Talking.” As Zottarelli explains, “The first track of the recording was our actual soundcheck to the studio engineer. So we played that track as it is and then when we heard it back in the control room we were all looking at each other, thinking, ‘Let’s keep going! We have time. Maybe this will be a record, who knows?’”
On the heavy-hitting, clavinet-fueled “Glasses” and “No Glasses,” Ruzza reveals the influence of her funk bass forefathers Larry Graham and Bootsy Collins with her deep grooves and slap bass prowess while keyboardist Genovese doubles on an ‘out’ tenor solo on the latter piece. Ruzza’s creative use of analog effects as an arranging device is fully on display on the mood-shifting “Sugar High,” which segues from a Tony Williams Lifetime-syled organ jam to calm rubato exploration with Genovese on melodica to a super-uptempo jam fueled by Zottarelli’s power-precision traversing of the kit. Ruzza’s ultra-deep bass tones on the dub flavored “Everybody’s Talking,” is a nod to Luizão Maia, acknowledged as the father of modern Brazilian bass for his acclaimed work during the 1970s with famed singer Elis Regina. Zottarelli’s facility and dexterity on the kit is largely at play on this aggressive funk-fusion-dub jam, which yields influences from some of his drum idols: Dennis Chambers, Vinnie Colaiuta and Simon Phillips. This track also features some audacious stretching on Farfisa organ by Genovese.
“It’s not just music, it’s a reflection of our friendship,” says Ruzza of her gifted colleagues and their inspired, telepathic work together on Glasses, No Glasses. “We have a good chemistry together because we’re such good friends. I’ve known Leo for a long time and have played together with him many times. And Mauricio is like a big brother to me.” She adds that the very nature of this spontaneous session runs counter to her natural instincts.
“As a bandleader, I am a control freak,” she confesses. “My first album was a control freak record. I composed and arranged everything. But this album is like having a whole different persona because it’s the opposite of what my usual tendencies are. There was no controlling. We didn’t say anything. We just played. And I think what happened between the three of us on the recording was a magical moment. For me, it was a historical thing those two genius guys finally got together, and I was the lucky one that got to play bass with them.”
Because this freewheeling outing was done with no expectations at all, the three principals have no immediate plans to play this music live. “I think we’re taking the same approach for gigs as the actual recording of the album,” says Zottarelli. “We’re just letting it take its life and something will come out of it. I would love to just go and play and not plan anything. I think that’s how music comes out in its purest form, when we’re just playing for fun with no compromises or preconceptions, just trying to listen to each other and arrive somewhere.”
Stay tuned. This could be one of the most exhilarating live trios of 2014. Until then, listen to this daring triumvirate in their maiden voyage together.