AZYMUTH PLAYS on the sunny side of the beat. On "Flame," the popular Brazilian trio again mixes Jose Roberto Bertrami's ethereal keyboard melodies with Alex Malheiros' percolating bass lines and Ivan Conti's ruffling Latin percussion. While listeners with a taste for mood music or even light fusion jazz are likely to find the result both soothing and sensuous, others are just as likely to regard it as South American-styled Muzak.
"Flame" opens with "The Prisoner," a tune based on more of a riff than a melody, which for some reason is recycled for nearly nine tedious minutes. Far more enjoyable are "Tamal Vista Boulevard," an alluring ballad, and "Rapa Poeira," a chant enlivened by Conti's insinuating percussion. "The Textile Factory" features vocalist Flora Purim, who, along with other guests, manages to give some of the tunes a much-needed lift.
Incidentally, dedicated fans won't be disappointed in the new solo albums by Conti and Malheiros. In spirit and execution, both records -- Conti's "The Human Factor" and Malheiros' "Atlantic Forest" -- recall Azymuth's breezy blend of samba, jazz and light funk.
AZYMUTH -- "Flame" (Milestone M 9128).
IVAN CONTI -- "The Human Factor" (Milestone M 9127).
ALEX MALHEIROS -- "Atlantic Forest" (Milestone M 9131); Azymuth appears Friday at Charlie's Georgetown.