Canadian label We Are Busy Bodies announces the reissue of the rare and sought-after 1973 Venezuelan jazz album Espejismo (‘Mirage’) by Virgilio Armas Y Su Grupo, offering a fascinating snapshot of the thriving music scene in early 1970’s Caracas, until now largely undocumented because of the musical dominance of Venezuela’s far larger southern neighbour, Brazil. Pianist and bandleader Virgilio Armas skilfully combined Latin Jazz, post-bossa swing (Balanço), with home-grown variants of Son Cubano, Montuno, Merengue and Estilo, honed over years of playing in clubs in the Altamira and La Castellana districts of the capital.

Venezuela was one of the most affluent countries in Latin America during the 60’s and 70’s, largely due to oil revenues, and this period also saw a boom of record labels and pressing plants.The home-grown Latin musical progression showcased on Espejismo is especially apparent when compared with the preceding album, from 1970, which will also be reissued simultaneously: De Repente (‘Suddenly’) byVirgilio Armas Trio. Much rarer and released on a tiny, one-off label, this release is much closer to the Bossa Duro (Hard Bossa) or Balanço sound of contemporary Brazilian Trio outfits at the turn of the decade, and is every bit as compelling and musically accomplished.

Virgilio Armas was already a seasoned performer by the time Espejismo (‘Mirage’) was released in 1973 on the Leon imprint owned by the album’s producer, Freddy Leon. Initially intended for sale at live club appearances, it was then optioned by BASF for a national release later the same year. Armas had previously released an album, Estamos En Algo (We’re Onto Something’) billed as the Sexteto Fantasia and issued on the Palacio label in 1968, with essentially the same personel that appeared on Espejismo in 1973.

Armas notes: “My first album as leader with a Quartet and Rhythm section was Espejismo, which was oriented more towards Venezuelan music with influences from jazz and improvised themes. This recording was made at the old Gozalito Studios with the following great musicians: Domingo Moret (flute), Rodolfo Buenaño (bass), Guillermo Tariba (Drums), Cuban émigré Tata Guerra (percussion) and Freddy Leon (additional keyboards and album producer). There are five of my own compositions on the album that are still very popular with my audience”. Highlights include ‘Sobre El Orinoco’, ‘Caracas Moderna’, ‘Sueño Indio’ ‘Tamanaco’ and ‘Rio Manzanares’.

Three years before the release of Espejismo, in 1970, the Virgilio Armas Trio released De Repente on the tiny Discos A&B label, very likely a one-off, self-financed project. Virgilio Armas recalls: “The nightlife in Caracas of the 1950’s and 1960’s inspired me to record an album in 1970, with songs influenced by the Jazz, Bossa and Latin genres. De Repente was created with my beloved Piano, and my long-time musical partners Rodolfo Buenaño (bass) and Guillermo Tariba (drums).”

The style is very much influenced by the harder post-Bossa Nova ‘Balanço’ style of numerous Brazilian piano/bass/drum trios, and is easily equal to the best of them, while somehow also managing to incorporate a uniquely Venezuelan rhythmic sensibility. Highlights include ‘Petite Mambo’, ‘De Repente’ (Part 1 & 2), and ‘Venezuela En Fiesta’. As with Espejismo, the audio on De Repente has been remastered by Noah Mintz at Lacquer Channel Mastering and the artwork expertly restored by Steve Lewin.

Both albums will be released October 28, 2022.

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