The concept for ‘Mad Flux’—a new instrumental album—first sparked this past January, when renowned American guitarist Adam Levy (Norah Jones, Tracy Chapman) invited Brazilian guitarist Joao Erbetta (Forro in the Dark, Nation Beat) to join him for a duo performance as part of a “NY Jazz night” at Cafe du Nord in San Francisco. Levy and Erbetta met a few years earlier, when both were living in New York City, but they’d somehow never got around to making music together. For their San Francisco debut, they cherry-picked several of Erbetta’s compositions—full of Brazilian rhythms—and added some early-20th Century jazz tunes, including a few New Orleans classics. The pair were an instant hit—the crowd that night loved them. Right then and there, the guitarists decided to set up a recording session as soon as possible.
When Erbetta and Levy reconvened at the Pow Wow Fun Room in Los Angeles—a cozy studio run by producer/engineer/musician Pete Curry (Los Straitjackets)—they brought their unusual repertoire and a carload of cool guitars. Musical arrangements were mostly done “on the fly.” Though guitarists, in general, have a reputation as cats who just want to jam and solo, the Mad Flux men’s priority throughout the 3-day session was always to highlight the songs’ melodies.
The tunes gained some special sonic twists with the use of unusual guitar combinations. “Patricia,” for example, features Levy’s steel-bodied 1931 National Reso-Phonic guitar and Erbetta’s vibey vintage Gretsch archtop—with the guitarists playing each other’s instrument. Curry always knew how match the right guitar with the right amp and the right microphone, and no guitar pairing was repeated. The big idea was to give every tune its own sound, each in turn becoming one chapter of a bigger story—the ‘Mad Flux’ story.
‘Mad Flux’ shows that—in the hands of two imaginative musicians—North America and South America may not be so far apart after all. Nor are the 20th and 21st Centuries. With strong melodies and big hearts, anything is possible. “The combination always feels very natural,” says Erbetta, and very fluid.”
Levy couldn’t agree more. “I have to stifle a giggle whenever people ask me, ‘What kind of music do you play?’ I know they mean well, but one of the primary joys of music has—for me—to explore everything, without the limitations of time, place, or style.”
The California-based duo continues to expand their repertoire—adding songs and retooling arrangements. They are planning a West Coast tour for the Fall—including concerts as well as guitar clinics for those who want to learn more about their techniques and concepts.