I have a section in my CD collection which I think of as the ‘geniuses’ column – artists who I like so much that I buy more or less every CD I come across by them. Yesterday I talked about Marcos Valle, and today it’s the turn of Eumir Deodato. Happily, many of his previously obscure Brazilian albums on the ‘equipe’ label were re-released in the last few years by the Spanish label Blue Moon/Ubatuqui (which was also responsible for the great Plas Johnson tenor sax compilations. The great thing about the early Deodato records is that they contain very early recordings of songs which would subsequently become standards. Hence lots of songtitles which don’t immediately sound familiar turn out to be often covered Brazilian standards (e.g. ‘O sol nascera’). This guy has had an incredibly long career; through the 60s with his bossa work, the 70s with his fusion jazz stuff, the 80s with more fusion jazz stuff on MCA and a lot of production work for bands like Earth Wind and Fire and more orchestration work with Bjork in the 90s. I still have a lot of his stuff to get, but here’s what I think of what I have.
Eumir Deodato: 'Samba Nova Conceptcao' (CD; Ubatuqui; 1964)
A nice, breezy bossa instrumental set with a small combo featuring Deodato on the piano. Everything has a very tight feel to it and is very enjoyable; it's also interesting to hear early interpretations of songs which went on to become quite famous (well, to me, anyway - e.g. 'nana'), as well as the Marcos Valle tunes 'sonho de maria' and 'amor de nada'. My only complaint is that the percussion sound is a little plastic sounding. Odd, since the percussionist is the excellent Wilson das Neves, and the recording is from 1964, but it almost sounds like a drum machine on some tracks. The orchestrations, by a very young deodato, seem to be quite heavily influenced by Henry Mancini, with prominent brass arrangements. All in all a very pleasant sounding record, but one which just breezes by, and from which it's hard to choose standout tracks.
Eumir Deodato: 'Impulso!' (CD; Ubatuqui; 1965)
Another great mid 60s bossa session from Eumir Deodato, this time featuring Eumir on Hammond organ as well as piano. The organ really adds bite to the songs, and this ends up being an extremely compelling album. Standout tracks are the lovely warm opener (featured on many of my compilations), 'menina certiha' and 'pouca duracao' (with its moody opening and striking organ). Eumir also pays homage to Henry Mancini with a version of 'Cheers!' from 'Peter Gunn'. Plus there is a superb upbeat take on Marcos Valle's 'samba de verao' (summer samba). It's another very pleasant, short album; the sound is very appealing, and the songs - a mix of well and lesser known Brazilian standards - drift into each other slightly. It's not as sophisticated as some of my favorite Brazilian pop music, but I like it anyway.
Eumir Deodato: 'Ataque' (CD; Ubatuqui; 1965)
Yet another mid 60s bossa combo release from Eumir Deodato. This one is rather like 'Impulso' in that it features prominent Hammond Organ work. So much, in fact, that the tracks sometimes sound like Walter Wanderley's work of the time, although Eumir doesn't have the same superfast percussive chord style. The songs are again short, and include early recordings of a couple of great and famous Marcos Valle tracks (yes, I am a Marcos Valle freak) - 'Terra de Ninguem' and 'Os Grilos'. I have the same minor complaint that the group sound almost *too* tight, but I still love the instrumental blend on this album - piano, organ, brass and relentless percussion. 'Tristeza', a favorite of mine as sung by Astrud Gilberto is given a storming rendition with a moody opening and a really cool melody line, seguing between solo trumpet and hammond organ.
Eumir Deodato: 'Tremendao' (CD; Ubatuqui; 1964)
I can't think of much to say about this one that I haven't already said about 'Impulso' and 'Ataque'. It's a very similar record. One standout is 'Menina Flor', which uses a very similar arrangement to that of 'Tristeza' on 'Ataque'. Other than that, the material is similar (2 Mancini, 2 Valle, some Deodato originals, some Baden Powell, other Brazilian composers). It has the same kind of tight, sophisticated feel as the others. I couldn't listen to it all day though.... The sound quality on these Spanish reissues is excellent; I can't help but feel they could have releases these as 2-on-1 CDs though.
Eumir Deodato: 'Prelude' (CD; Epic; 1972)
This album represents the more well-known face of Deodato - the shaggy haired Brazilian wonderkid who took pop by storm with his jazz-fusion version of Strauss's 'Also Sprach Zarathrustra' (theme to the film 2001). Funnily enough, I got to know some of the many imitation tracks (e.g. the Cecil Holmes Soulful Sounds take on 'Also...', the Alyn Ainsworth Orchestra's 'Colditz March', Pete Winslow's 'Space Chariots') before I heard the original. While 9 minute-long, noodly instrumentals generally aren't my thing, it does indeed have a great sound to it. I probably would prefer a 4 minute radio edit, if such a thing exists. The rest of the songs on the album are less extravagant in length and very enjoyable. 'Spirit of Summer' is a gentle, Bacharachian soundtrack-style piece, with little evidence of jazz fusion aside from the style of bass playing until the instrumental solos kick in half way through. 'Carly & Carole' is a nice gentle groovy track with flute and electric piano. 'Baubles and Beads' is a funny one. It's actually quite charming, but a funny song to hear played in this style, with electric piano and a light groove. This is nice enough, but to be honest, I prefer the Sinatra/Jobim version on their 1967 album. 'Prelude to the afternoon of a faun' is a slightly sleepy classical adaptation. It's pleasant enough, but is lacking the intensity of, say 'prelude for a dead princess' on 'Deodato 2'. The album's final track is 'September 13', which appears on 'blaxploitation' compilations and is a gentle funk track. It's nice, if repetitive and overlong.
Eumir Deodato: 'Deodato 2' (CD; CBS Associated; 1973)
The follow-up to 'Prelude' has some great moments. While I'm not crazy about 'superstrut', the 9 and a half minute opener, I find his 'new 2001' - an adaptation of 'Rhapsody in Blue', strangely compelling. It's kind of ridiculous (ludicrous rock guitars) and very overlong, but it builds beautifully, and the moment on 55 seconds when the whole instrumentation comes in is mildly breathtaking. Again, I would have applied some heavy editing, but I guess I'm just a 3 minute pop person at heart. Track 3 is a slightly embarrassing version of 'Nights in White Satin'. I guess only hindsight could have predicted the reputation this song would garner, but it's not very good, is it? Next up is a simply stunning version of Ravel's 'Pavane for a Dead Princess'. A reasonably straight cover version, all Eumir does is dot some of the notes. The texture of the strings and piano is really incredible though. Purists would say 'why change something so great?'. I don't know the answer to that - I only know that having heard this version first, I find it hard to enjoy the straight classical version at all (c.f. my reaction to Rachmanninov after hearing Cy Coleman's butchering of his Prelude in c sharp minor). The final track, 'Skyscrapers', is a pleasant enough funky fusion track. I like it, but would hardly ever listen to it the whole way through. Also included on the American CD are 3 extra tracks: 'Latin Flute' (a pleasant flute and electric piano number; I wonder why it was left off the original album...), 'Venus' (a curiously sugary instrumental with cheesy synth noises), and 'Do it again' (not the Beach Boys song, alas, just another overlong repetitive fusion-y track.)