Brazilian electrified trio Azymuth called their music samba doido, which means "crazy samba." The actual sounds, though, were not so crazy: the intelligent, high-voltage blend of Brazilian rhythms, jazz, and funk with occasional acoustic episodes gained a sizable following in the 1980s. The members of the group included José Roberto Bertrami (born February 21, 1946, in Tatui; died July 8, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro) on acoustic piano and keyboards, Alex Malheiros (born August 19, 1946, in Niteroi) on bass, and Ivan Conti (born August 16, 1946, in Rio de Janeiro) on drums.
Classically trained and originally influenced by pianists Bill Evans and Luíz Eça (of the Tamba 4), Bertrami worked with Flora Purim and Robertinho Silva before meeting Conti at a Rio nightclub. Upon a visit to a bowling alley/club in 1972, they heard Malheiros and decided to join forces to form Azymuth. Their first album, the soundtrack for the film O Fabuloso Fittipaldi, was released in Brazil in 1973. After spending a number of years as session men in Rio recording studios and touring South America, a successful appearance at the 1977 Montreux Jazz Festival led to a 1978 U.S. tour with Airto and Purim. A contract with Milestone in 1979 resulted in a long string of eclectic and influential albums that established the group in the American and European markets. All three members also recorded solo albums for Milestone.
Bertrami left the group around 1988, after which Malheiros and Conti carried on for a while with keyboardist Jota Moraes. In the '90s, Bertrami rejoined Azymuth permanently. They signed to Far Out Recordings and issued a long string of albums including Carnival, 1997; Woodland Warrior, 1998; Pieces of Ipanema, 1999; Before We Forget, 2000; and Partido Novo, 2002. In 2007, their self-titled debut album was reissued by the label in a deluxe package. It was completely remastered, and contained an additional disc of remixes by some of the world's best-known dance music producers. In 2008, Azymuth continued their tireless display of creativity with the universally acclaimed Butterfly, which they followed with Aurora in 2011. Sadly, José Roberto Bertrami died in Rio during July of the following year; he was 66 years old. ~ Richard S. Ginell