CTI Records

Deodato - In Concert

Since his days at Verve Records in the early 1960s, when he produced seminal bossa nova albums by such artists as Luiz Bonfá, Antonio Carlos Jobim and João and Astrud Gilberto, until his latest activities at the Greenestreet label (which thrived for a scant ten months in 1984, but gave him enough time to launch trumpeter Claudio Roditi’s solo career), Creed Taylor always expressed a special affinity for Brazilian artists.

However, none of these collaborations proved more successful than the one with Eumir Deodato, the superb composer, arranger, keyboard player and conductor, probably due to this artist’s incredible ability to fuse his Brazilian roots with jazz, pop, rock and classical elements.

Ironically, it was this same gift that harmed Deodato’s career in Brazil. After a promising start in the bossa nova days, he suffered extreme prejudice from those who found that his work transcended this style’s musical boundaries. In fact, Deodato’s decision to leave his homeland came soon after he lost his job as in-house arranger at EMI-Odeon Records in Rio de Janeiro, where, in the words of the musical director of that company, he was “writing arrangements that were so difficult they confused the singers and negatively affected the sales of the albums.”

The opportunity to move to the United States came in 1967, through master guitarist Luiz Bonfá, with whom Deodato had worked before on the soundtrack for the motion picture The Gentle Rain. Bonfá not only paid Deodato’s ticket to New York, he also provided him with enough work so as to allow him a minimum income in his first year in New York City. In June 1967, during a session with fellow Brazilian Astrud Gilberto for her Beach Samba album, which included some tunes by Bonfá, Deodato completed and recorded five arrangements in six hours, something which attracted the attention of the album’s producer, Creed Taylor.

Some months later, Creed invited Deodato to score some tracks on Wes Montgomery’s album, Down Here on the Ground, which was released to critical acclaim with particular emphasis on two tunes arranged by Deodato. After that, the eclectic youngster worked several times for Creed Taylor, on albums by Jobim, Walter Wanderley, Milton Nascimento, Paul Desmond (on whose Summertime album Deodato did a rare studio as guitarist), Stanley Turrentine, once again with Astrud Gilberto, and as a member of the CTI All-Stars group. Between 1969 and 1972, he also worked with such industry greats as Frank Sinatra, Roberta Flack, and Aretha Franklin, gaining the respect of all in music circles.

By the time Creed offered Deodato the chance to cut his first solo album for CTI, the talented Brazilian was already a mature artist. As a result, Prelude (40695), released in the spring of 1973, became a huge success, yielding the hit “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (2001). Deodato got rave reviews and by the end of that year his awards for “Prelude” and “2001” included: Top Instrumental Album, Top Jazz Album and Top Instrumental Single in “Billboard”; Top Instrumentalist for Albums in “Cashbox”; Top New Instrumentalist and Top Singles Instrumentalist in “Record World”; and Top Orchestra Album in “Playboy”. A Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental for “2001” confirmed the acclaim.

That same year, Deodato recorded album for CTI. Despite its excellence, Deodato 2 (40930) did not achieve the commercial success of Prelude. This ruined the relations between Creed Taylor and Deodato, and led to the artist’s departure from CTI to sign with MCA in late 1973. Creed never got over the loss.

In trying to capitalize on his former protege’s success, and possibly get additional mileage from his forthcoming MCA debut, Creed went back to the tapes of a concert Deodato and the CTI All Stars had given some months before at the Felt Forum of Madison Square Garden in New York. To his surprise (and delight!), he found that the tunes performed at the concert included two that also were on the MCA release, the one posteriously chosen as the title track, “Whirlwinds”, and another intended as the first single, “Do It Again.”

Creed also selected another tune performed at the concert, “Spirit of Summer, ” added two selections played by percussionist Airto Moreira (who had opened for Deodato at the Felt Forum), and rush-released Deodato/Airto In Concert, which strongly diminished the impact of Deodato’s first album for MCA. In so doing, Creed also helped promote Airto, simply by not mentioning on the album cover that the two artists had played separately at the concert.

For 15 years, all the other tracks recorded at the Felt Forum remained unreleased…One listen will suffice to prove that Deodato gave particularly inspired performance on that night of April 20, 1973, before an audience consisting mostly of young people, teenagers who screamed, clapped and even danced, in the kind of participation more characteristic of rock concerts. Obviously, they were some of the first “fusion” fans, attracted to Deodato’s jazzy sound through the monster hit, “2001.”

The highly energetic repertoire performed that night included tunes which originally appeared on the Prelude album, and others that the arranger was still preparing to record for Deodato 2.

The band was singularly skilled, the lineup consisting of John Tropea on guitar, John Giulino on bass, Rick Marotta on drums, Rubens Bassini and Gilmore Degap on congas/percussion, Burt Collins and Joe Shepley on trumpets, Garnett Brown on trombone and Joe Temperley on baritone sax.

A master on grooves, Deodato displays his dexterity to make the horn section swing along over funky, strong rhythms. In fact, it is interesting to note that the horn riffs on “September 13” and “Baubles, Bangles And Beads” are more reminiscent of R&B recordings than of jazz dates.

As a keyboardist, Deodato is equally capable of intense, very personal statements. Not only does he perform notable solos on “Do It Again” (an irresistible version of Steely Dan’s hit) and “Spirit of Summer” (a Deodato original in a haunting arrangement full of luminous orchestral textures, in which his keyboard work reveals a provocative harmonic imagination, with an exemplary use of dissonant chords), but he steams a bit further by building a tune on a three-note motif and a few chord changes on “September 13,” so titled because it was first recorded on that day in 1972 for “Prelude”.

Creed Taylor originally had no title for “Whirlwinds”, since that tune was untitled at the time of the Felt Forum concert, but because it showcased John Tropea’s powerful approach he called it “Tropea” (in a review of Deodato 2, DownBeat called Tropea “a master of pithy guitar…the most forthright new guitarist since Mahavishnu John McLaughlin”). The other musician featured on “Whirlwinds” is Brazilian Rubens Bassini, an incredibly underrated percussionist who worked with Deodato from 1973 to 1979, before joining Dave Grusin with whom he played up until his death in 1985.

After performing the best conga solo I have ever heard on a contemporary jazz recording, Bassini returns to the front line for a fiery interplay with Degap and Marotta on the frenetic “Skyscraper”, which also includes an exciting Garnett Brown solo. The concert ends, of course, with Deodato’s adaptation of “Also Sparch Zarathustra”, without the slow intro heard on Prelude.

Nowadays, Deodato no longer performs live (the last time he gave a concert was in 1976 at Carnegie Hall), and it only adds to the specialness of this collection, which contains electrifying samples of his creative heyday. 

Arnaldo DeSouteiro

(“Keyboard” magazine - USA)

December, 1988