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Amanda Ruzza teams with Mauricio Zottarelli, with and without 'Glasses'

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Jazz-funk bassist extraordinaire Amanda Ruzza’s latest recording project Glasses, No Glasses—with drummer and fellow Brazilian Mauricio Zottarelli--didn’t start out that way.

“The first song, ‘Soundcheck,’ actually came out of a soundcheck,” says the New York-based bassist. “We were after a drum sound and Mauricio played something for the sound levels, and we stopped and thought we’d make an album out of it.”

Ruzza was actually holding a long bass note while adjusting her monitor.

“I was playing with one hand and adjusting the monitor with the other hand,” she recalls.

Ruzza and Zottarelli—along with Esperanza Spalding’s ace keyboardist Leo Genovese—were initially in the studio to test out pedals for Dunlop Manufacturing (Ruzza is a musician rep for the music instrument accessories company) and cut a promotional video for it.

“They usually do videos of guitar players shredding that are fun and show the different ways of using pedals,” continues Ruzza. “I said, ‘Sure, but let’s not play alone.’ So I called my friends Leo, with whom I’ve been friends for years, and Mauricio, who’s in New York a lot. They knew each other but never played together--but they were magical here. It sounds like we’ve been playing together forever.”

There was a “very loose energy” the first day, she notes. The second day they recorded compositions with a "different mindset and energy.”

“We had three compositions out of the eight tracks,” says Ruzza. “I wanted the album to be loose and not so much about one person’s thing.”

Ruzza contributed the composition “Classic Golden” to the mix.

“I woke up at 6 a.m. and wrote it and brought it to the studio, loose and not arranged, and let these guys play,” she says. “It’s the absolute opposite of how I am as a bandleader, where everything’s written with so many instructions for the band. But it felt so good, not controlling the musicians but letting them be themselves. I think they all felt the same way pretty much, doing something that was light and fun. We had so much fun and so much music that we decided, ‘Let’s not just make a jam session.’”

Both Zottarelli and Genovese also brought one song to the project, which took only two days in the studio to record everything in one take and no overdubs.

“It was like a jam band, ‘contemporary fusion jazz,’” says Ruzza, adding, though, that “it’s hard to put labels on things nowadays.”

As for the album title, “It was very stupid and simple,” she explains. “On the first song I told them to wear sunglasses and be a jam band: You play differently when you have sunglasses on and can’t see things as well, and Leo said he wasn't sure if he could play well without seeing anything. I said, 'That's the point!'"

The glasses came off for the next song, making for a "yin-yang metaphor and energy."

“There was a beautiful, happy energy between the three of us,” says Ruzza, “and we just went into the studio and played without any plan--just friends hanging out and having so much fun.”

"The sound you hear is the sound of friendship.”

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