• Bryon Harris

Marcelo Maccagnan - "Creatures of Habit"

Reviewed by Aaron Cloutier


Brazilian bassist Marcelo Maccagnan and company deliver a captivating performance on the beautiful and sprawling "Creatures of Habit." The record is an epic jaunt into the experimental. It harnesses jazz's improvisational spirit and technical proficiency while blending the explorative song structures and sweeping dynamics of progressive rock to create something more significant than the sum of its parts.

One of the many surprises I discovered during the first listen was that the same three chords played over and over again throughout a lot of the song. I mean a lot!

This seems like commonplace for a pop song but not exactly what you'd expect from a tune that clocks in at over eight minutes in length.

Given all that I just mentioned, one might think that the song would drag on, get incredibly repetitive, and ultimately wind up sounding boring. Nothing could be further from the truth in this case, as Maccagnan's clever usage of dynamics and attention to arrangement serves to create a piece that is incredibly potent as well as undeniably hypnotic. The vibe on this song is practically tangible. The progression sounds to me like a creative vehicle of sorts. As if Maccagnan was self-imposing a limitation to explore around. There is a generous amount of space for each instrument to shine in its respective sections.


In other words, there is not a dull moment to be found in this tune.

Examples of this are apparent to me, particularly with the drums, as the sound of a dry, stripped-down jazz style kit jumps (often on a dime) from subtle and delicate to robust and driving. The tastefully dirty guitars soon follow in lock-step fashion while the bass maintains a constant pulse throughout. They are blending insane chops with a beautifully warm tone that serves as the sonic anchor for the overall mix of the song.


Though I said that the chords don't change for the majority of the song, there is an incredibly alluring B section that occurs about 5 minutes in. Huge swells of volume and emotion cascade as the collective instruments crescendo into these eruptions of sound reminiscent of a band like Tool before giving way to a King Crimson meets Mahavishnu Orchestra freak out.

Credit is also due to guest vocalist Simona Smirnova whose jazz sensibilities and impressive command of her instrument kept me engaged throughout the entirety of the piece. Smirnov expertly weaves back and forth between a delivery that can be both quiet and intimate and powerful and commanding. Blending a versatile range with an incredible use of vibrato, her melodies somehow manage to be both technically ambitious AND instantly memorable at the same time which is an act of high sorcery on its own. You may not usually think of "earworm" when it comes to jazz but after checking this tune out, you will. I always love lyrics that hint at the title's meaning without saying it outright. In this case, its very cleverly conveyed in the li`ne, "Time goes by but nothing's gonna change. Try to break away, but I can't. Just keep making the same mistakes, again."

In short, "Creatures Of Habit" is an epic and hypnotic ride that is equal parts soulful, mysterious, uplifting, and deliciously nerdy. Side effects include swaying from side to side and running to buy the song (just like I did)

 

About Marcelo Maccagnan


Brazilian bassist Marcelo Maccagnan has established himself as an exciting bandleader and in-demand sideman on the New York scene. Growing up playing a whole range of styles - rock, electronic music, Brazilian, pop - he first moved to Boston to study jazz at Berklee College of Music where he got the chance to perform with big names such as Kenny Werner and Tigran Hamsyan. Three years and two albums later, he has refined a truly authentic fusion of sounds such as jazz, Brazilian music and progressive rock, which, whilst modern and electric, never loses sight of the improvisation and communication central to jazz. His second album “Boundless” features Andrew Cheng on Guitar and Kelvin Andreas on Drums, exploring a mix of styles from Pat Metheny and Donny McCaslin to Radiohead and Mahavishnu Orchestra.

 

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