It is vexingly difficult to get used to the idea that drummers somehow can be composers; this despite the fact that celebrated drummers from Kenny Clarke and Max Roach to Elvin Jones and Art Blakey have all written and performed their own works. Mauricio Zottarelli makes it that much more demanding to do so especially because his recording Upside Down Looking Up also has a deeply philosophical component to almost all of the narratives and by that I mean, he not only narrates experiences, but also editorializes from the emotional experience – both inside and out. This is, one might add, difficult to do dispassionately even for men and women whose life revolves around musical composition and this is what makes Upside Down Looking Up a significant recording.
Mauricio Zottarelli plays fast and furious, but never without control. On this recording, we find the drummer at times pensive; even playing with profound delicacy. He cuts to the quick, however, performing his “Upside Down Looking Up” suite at the very top of the recording. The whimsical title, he explains, reflects how ‘crazy’ life feels and how ‘we believe it’s upside down’, and if ‘we “look up” searching for solutions, we are actually looking down’. Magically he uses a series of inversions to describe this feeling and the giddying emotions that go with it, through swinging rhythmical changes through its three movements. But the recording does not stop at elaborating on Mr Zottarelli’s disjunctive mindset over the last few years.
Two wonderful pieces – “Luca” and “Samba Pra Mi” describe the bright spots in the drummer’s existence. The first is a ballad written in waltz-time for his son Luca and the latter describes his ongoing love affair with his wife, Milene Corso, whose soaring voice is heard on both songs; wordlessly beautifully on the former and with rhythmic sensuality on the latter. Speckled all over the album are other kinds of musical stardust from Mauricio Zottarelli. The former Paulista is now living in New York, but he shows off his homegrown chops first in “7 Lives Part 2” (a fine vehicle for pianist and regular cohort Klaus Mueller), and later on “Open Road” where he uses much musical ingenuity to celebrate the rural splendor of the state of São Paulo.
Lest we forget that Mauricio Zottarelli has a very deep-rooted love for Jazz improvisation, the drummer provides a timely reminder on “Alone Together” a standard that has fascinated many musicians over the decades. Naturally Mr Zottarelli turns on the subtle charm in his arrangement, also showcasing the versatile genius of pianist Helio Alves, bassist Itaiguara Brandão (a regular musical companion) on a wonderfully rolling, roaring short solo together with Rodrigo Ursaia on tenor saxophone. The contributions from others on the disc are more than a match for each musician’s reputations. So watch out for songs such as “Open Road” which is one of six tracks on which the amazing Gustavo Assis Brasil – one of many stellar artists also performs on this benchmark recording from Mauricio Zottarelli, one of the premier drummers in just about any music played today.
Track list – The Upside Down Looking Up Suite – (Part 1: Perspective Shift; Part 2: Sight; Part 3: New Cycles); 4: Luca: 5: 7 Lives Part 2; 6: Alone Together; 7: Mountain View: 8: Open Road; 9: Samba Pra Mi
Personnel – Mauricio Zottarelli: drums; Itaiguara Brandão: electric bass (1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9) and contrabass (4); Oriente Lopez: piano (1, 2), flutes (4, 5, 7, 9) and accordion (4); Gustavo Assis Brasil: guitars (1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8); Rodrigo Ursaia: tenor saxophone (1 – 3, 6); Mike Pope: electric bass (3, 8); Eldar Djangirov: keyboards (3, 8); Klaus Mueller: piano (5, 7); Helio Alves: piano (6, 9); Milene Corso: vocals (4, 9)
Released – 2017
Label – Independent
Runtime – 55:13