Jazzitalia - Interview with Eumir Deodato
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Interview with Eumir Deodato
January 2008
by Alessio Berto

I know that you have always had a great passion for orchestral music and that you recorded your first session with a 28 piece orchestra when you where 17. Who were your favourite composers and who inspired your taste?

Some of the classical orchestrators that inspired me a lot were Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, Alban Berg, Paul Hindemith, Rimsky-Korsakoff and a few others. On the jazz and pop side, Gil Evans, Oliver Nelson, Bob Brookmeyer, Henry Mancini, and many others.

1964 was a very prolific year for you. From your first album "Inútil Paisagem" where you mainly performed and rearranged classic pieces by Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes up to "Idéias" where apart from the songs of Marcos Valle and other composers, we started to hear some of your own compositions. How did you go about choosing the tracks for your LP´s?

Usually together with the record company and some of the writers of the songs involved.

In 1965 with "Impulso" and "Tremendão", you begin a chapter which is very dear to me: Os Catedráticos, the use of the organ and a turning point for Bossa Nova, for me..Tell me about this project and of the contribution that the organ gave to create that sound that today is known as Lounge.

This started with my collaboration with a small Brazilian label called Equipe. I did an album for them called "Los Danseros In Bolero" since boleros were still very popular in Brazil. It had an instant success which was then followed by Os Catedráticos which was originally intended as a dance group playing mostly samba and slow dancing pieces.

Roberto Menescal, Paulo Moura, Wilson Das Neves, Maurílio Santos, Rubens Bassini, Dom Um Romão, Airto, Bebeto are a few of musicians you have played with. What kind of relationship did you have with these great musicians considering that you were all very young and full of ideas?

These were mostly studio musicians at that time and also the best ones you could find then.

Milton Nascimento, Marcos Valle, Elis Regina and Antonio Carlos Jobim in Rio and then you moved to New York in 1968 and you started to work with the Brazilians that were already there: Luiz Bonfa, Astrud Gilberto, Walter Wanderley and again with Marcos Valle. What was the difference between composing in Brazil and composing in the States? Were there other influences at work in the States and what were they?

The major differences of working in the States versus Brazil is primarily the fact that in the States the musicians have a more serious development (studying in colleges and Universities) and a very good sense of "team" as opposed to "individual" which happens a lot in Brazil and other less developed countries. Besides, it´s much easier to find equipment and instruments in the US. Better and more advanced studios etc.

You arranged "Beach Samba" for Astrud Gilberto and you were noticed by Creed Taylor, from then on you started to produce for many artists. In which way did your musical taste change working for CTI?

I learned a lot by working with the Creed Taylor "team" (Herbie Hancock, Billy Cobham, Ron Carter, George Benson, Eric Gale, Ray Barretto and many others). My most important lesson was to be simpler and let the individual musicians create on their own, which was not the case in Brazil where I had to write note by note for the guitar, for example. As far as my "taste" in music, it did not change at all. Just my "perception" of people´s vision of "pop jazz" and other styles.

Your arrangements on CTI for Wes Montgomery, Paul Desmond, Stanley Turrentine George Benson and Tom Jobim made your style much sought after even by artists that were not essentially jazz, like Frank Sinatra (Sinatra & Co.) Roberta Flack (Killing Me Softly, Chapter Two, Quiet Fire) and Aretha Franklin (Let Me Be Your Life). How important were those collaborations for you?

It was always very important to me, to be able to get involved in diverse situations. The biggest challenge for an arranger is to be able to deal with different styles and personalities. But it is even more important to make sure that the artist achieves its goals either musically or even commercially. It´s also essential to work with the record company to make sure that they are happy enough to spend good money in promotion for that particular project. It would be a very serious mistake to go against the record company or trying to impose your musical "views" into a project that needs your help and specific work done.

And then "Prelude" in 1973 and Also Sprach Zarathustra, 2001: A Space Odyssey, right up to worldwide success and 16 platinUM Records, and all the other albums (at least 450 in the whole career) on which you worked on as a musician, producer and arranger. How did Deodato career change after that in the 70´s...

I went "on the road" (traveling and doing concerts around the world) and met many wonderful people what in turn helped the continuation of my work even as an arranger. Also got involved with a couple of other movie soundtracks etc.

A curiosity: Marcos Valle told me that after exchanging his Rhodes for a DX7 he regretted it and he once came to New York to the hotel Suite where you lived and he asked you to sell him one of your Rhodes. What´s your version of this story?

I don´t think he had a Fender Rhodes in the States. Maybe in Brazil. Since I had many keyboards (6 Fender Rhodes...) I agreed to sell him one of my best ones. We were always good friends

How do you see Eumir Deodato today?

I see Eumir Deodato every day... In the mirror !!! Specially when I'm shaving...


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