Ivan “Mamão” Conti, the founding drummer of Brazilian jazz-funk greats Azymuth, has died, his record label said in a press release. No cause of death was given. Ivan Conti was 76 years old.
Conti, bandleader/keyboardist José Roberto Bertrami, and bassist/guitarist Alex Malheiros started their music careers in the 1960s, playing bars as session musicians in the Rio de Janeiro bossa nova scene. They became a trio in 1968 and, after breaking out in the early ’70s, began operating in earnest under the name Azymuth. They developed an exploratory, antic style that fused elements of jazz, bossa nova, música popular brasileira, samba, folk, psychedelia, and, later, disco and funk that seduced international DJs as well as a vast following in their native Brazil, partly thanks to prominent syncs on national soap operas.
After a string of LPs on American jazz label Milestone, Azymuth signed with Far Out Recordings, which reissued the group’s earlier albums and cemented their hallowed status among cratediggers. Among them was Madlib, who joined forces with Conti for the collaborative LP Sujinho in 2008. Conti—who also released several solo albums, from 1984’s The Human Factor to 2019’s Poison Fruit—continued to perform with Azymuth after the death of Bertrami in 2012. The group’s latest album is 2020’s Azymuth JID004, made with Adrian Younge and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad.
In its statement, Far Out Recordings wrote, “As well as being a musical icon, Ivan was a joyous, kind hearted, hilarious and immensely charismatic man. He had time for everybody and thrived off the love of his family, friends, fellow musicians and fans, which he reciprocated through his music, his warmth and his generosity. He approached playing and making music with a childlike sense of openness and a truly infectious joy and he will live on through his work with Azymuth, his solo projects and the countless recordings he worked on with other artists in Brazil and around the world.”