Eumir Deodato

Born in Rio, Eumir Deodato got his first break at age 17 when he arranged and conducted a 28-piece orchestra. He ultimately became one of the city’s most active arrangers and pianists, recording for Milton Nascimento, Elis Regina and Antonio Carlos Jobim. In 1968, Deodato moved to NYC, working with Luiz Bonfa and scoring the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. His reputation was further strengthened by pop arrangements for Frank Sinatra, Roberta Flack and Kool & The Gang. In a rare talk at the 2005 Red Bull Music Academy, Rio’s legendary arranger underlines the importance of faking it ’til you make it. His main message? Keep it simple.

Hosted by Torsten Schmidt Audio Only Version Transcript:


Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve heard many a rumor and maybe one or the other little anecdote by drunken people in the club about the rehearsals that’s been going on in the last two days. Before we go into what’s going to happen tomorrow and how it made us restructure the day, I guess it’s just fair if we rise up and pay a tribute to our guest today, Eumir Deodato.



Thank you.


The man is from Italian/Brazilian descent, and you can tell a charmer if he charms a whole room full of people even when his wife is next to him. There you’ve got a real pro. You should have seen him how he worked those musicians who were probably a little stiff on Saturday, and yesterday they melted like butter. I think some of the music that he played, I mean, we’re talking not just numbers, we’re talking almost 500 LPs here. It’s not just like your average Kompakt record, it’s some of the most heart-touching music that you can possibly find. And there’s things amongst there, like Roberta Flack’s Quiet Fire, the first Kool & the Gang albums, countless things on CTI, a lot of things that he recorded in Brazil back then.

He’s worked with so many people. He just handed over this list and when you look at it, you just want to cry. Everyone is on there, from Milton Nascimento to... But enough of the flattering before you all get uncomfortable [Eumir Deodato fake cries]. Do you want a hanky?


You know why I’m crying? The bank account does not reflect this, see? That’s why I’m crying [laughter]. So, I have a good reason to cry, just being tenacious, and there’s another word for it - tenacious and... I’m just being confused between Chinese and Portuguese, I don’t know. Well, the reason is, this is all I’ve done, even in the worst times, is music. I set my things, and nobody in my family was into music. It just happened. One of my main problems or virtues is that I never ever said, “No.” Even when I had no idea what we’re talking about. I said, “Of course.” And then I found out what it is that they want, and then I say, “If can do it.”

Most of the times I could do it, starting with my very first job in Brazil when I was 17-years old. I was asked by a friend of mine if I could I be the arranger for this whole project, the whole record. I said, “Of course, no problem. When do we start?”

And then I started thinking about arranging. What is an arrangement? I honestly had no idea. I was still in school, and in Brazil they have a course that you have to take. It’s mandatory called Canto Orfeonico. It’s to learn the Brazilian anthems and to be able to sing them. That’s what it was all about, but they had this little book which had some instruments in there. Just an example, they had a violin, they had a french horn, they had trumpet, trombone, not many instruments. Not enough for me to get started, but me not knowing what an arrangement was. I much less knew what a score was. I had no idea.

So, in those days I had a piano but I was still playing accordion. And I had to wait for lunch to be served and everybody cleaned their table, and I put the individual parts on the table, not knowing that a score is exactly that. You don’t have to do that. You write each instrument adjacent to each other, but that’s the only way I knew how to do it. And after many problems that seemed unsolvable, for instance, I couldn’t find a French horn player ... and in Brazil, it’s very popular in the firemen bands, those euphoniums. They have different sizes. So, I used one of them as a french horn, and it worked. I mean, for a while it worked, it was not something so elaborate they couldn’t do the job. In those days we used to have mostly 78rpm records, the very old ones. They sound quality was so awful I couldn’t distinguish a cello from a cow. It was all the same to me. So I assumed that a string orchestra is some violins That I could hear because they really can be squeaky, and a tenor and a bass clarinet, that was my string orchestra on this record.

But the record got done. It was a spoof on the ongoing bossa nova movement in those days, where the leaders were Jobim, Joao Gilberto. Astrud Gilberto wasn’t even known then. It was just a girl that Joao Gilberto hadn’t met yet. After that I became known as the [makes pathetic gesture] miracle arranger. “Oh, Deodato!” - like that. And so, Jobim wrote the notes for the record, saying because ‘deo dato’ means ‘God-given’, and he wrote, “Look at how many things god has given Deodato.” And god has given me many things except money. Everything -- health, good food, good family, good people, but not money. I mean, sometimes he does, but when he does give me money, he also gives me an appetite to spend it. So it works out the same, it’s a flat deal.

But that was my first job and then after that in Rio, where the whole bossa nova movement - I think you can’t call it movement, there was no such thing, it was just a bunch of people getting together all the time. We called it a bossa nova reunion. “Come on, let’s go tonight to this guys house or that guys house,” and you get to choose, like, “Why don’t we go to their house ‘cause they usually serve scotch?” OK, so we go to that one and there you found Edu Lobo, you find Jobim, you find all the big names, except Joao Gilberto. He was always a ‘no-no’ for anything. He just works when he needs to. The last concert that he did in Tokyo, by the way, it was a historic concert because in the middle of the concert, he said on the microphone, “I feel so tired. Do you mind if I take a nap?” And he did. And everybody goes like, “Shhh.” And after 15 minutes he got up and continued the concert. And they were all like, “Oh my God. He’s the best.” I’m beginning to think I could do the same thing [laughter]. But because I have a nine-piece band, I guess if I take a nap, they all want to take a nap. And I’m not sure whether they can all wake up at the same time, so I gave up on that idea, so we just play.

But basically, then after that it was always a career of arranging or playing. But playing to a much lesser degree because, as an arranger, I have to get this mysterious process called creativity. No one knows how it works. I wrote some of my best songs in a cab going to the studio. On a napkin, or in the case of Carly And Carole, there’s a theme I needed to do. For instance, 2001/Also Sprach Zarathustra, which became my biggest hit, that was no arrangement. I just wrote some notes on a piece of paper without any chords because there were really no chords, and I worked it out with the guys. And the first rehearsal we did happened to be recorded. And I said, “Are you joking? This is not good.” Creed Taylor, who was the producer, said, “This is great!” And I said, “No, no, no. My solo is not working.” He said, “Don’t worry about your solo.” “No, no, it’s too long. I’d like to do another one.” So, they let me do another one, but they used the original track. And the track was ten and a half minutes long. And I said, “Yeah, right. It’s gonna be a big hit, sure. He he. Ten and a half minutes? A classical radio station [might play it].”

But someone in California found a way of cutting it down to four and a half [minutes], and I didn’t even know that. I was in Brazil and Airto Moreira, the percussion player, was a good friend of mine as well, and he’s calling me, “I hear your record is on the charts.” I said, “Yeah, yeah, sure. [No.] 110?” He said, “No. 80!” “OK, ha ha, don’t bother me. I go to the beach, see you later.” And then he called me again, “It’s in the top 30!” I said, “OK, that’s interesting.” “Oh, it’s top 10!” I said, “Top 10? Maybe I should go.”

I went back to New York just to find out that, yes, it was top 10. So they wanted to set up some tours. And I always liked playing. That one hour that you’re playing is great, but what comes before and what comes after is another story. It’s the promoters. It’s the problems, it’s the money that that, “Oh, you know, it rained and we had the money outside and it all melted.”

You hear all kinds of stories, all kinds of stories, and in the long run, you don’t get paid. That is a specific problem with music people. Not us, but them. The ones who pay, who make money off of the music business, whether you’re a DJ, an arranger or whether you’re a performer. There’s really nothing you can do, it’s a historical thing. It has happened. And now that the music business is really going through some serious situations, it is even worse. I had a studio for about 18 years in New York in the Tribeca area, very nice area. I was stupid enough to sell it at a low price, just to see the price triple two more years after that. You think after that accident [on 9/11] it would go down. No. It went up.

But in those days, I would produce, and I had a nice place which was designed by Alan Firestein. And the guy used to build recording equipment, very intelligent guy. I think he never took a shower. He had a motorcycle, no car, just his helmet. It used to be white, kind of creamy, and he designed from scratch... I lost track of what I was talking originally. Anybody remembers?


Well, that was a little rundown on things that had been going on. I think we figured that you started out - apart from all these various things that you touched upon - you started out in Rio de Janeiro, which is quite a musical town. The people that you’ve been working with, what was the climate like when you started out? I mean, you’re 17, full of energy, you are quite good-looking. You must have had a lot of fun there, right?


Yes. Strangely enough, my situation was strange because me being an arranger, I also wrote some songs, but the competition for showing songs [was heavy].

The whole idea of those reunions, these get-togethers of bossa nova, was to show songs. So, everybody would come and show their songs. They were the kings. Jobim is the king. He walks in and everyone goes, “Antonio, Antonio!” So, he could show whatever songs he wanted anytime because he had already the hits - “Girl From Ipanema”, which was on a Joao Gilberto record. He had all those other songs that we all know now. And I was just an arranger, basically. So I never had a chance to even get to the piano. No one would even notice me. And this kind of thing stays in your head for some strange process that’ll make you do things. I believe in that. I would go because I had to go, but I was never really honored.

And for some strange reason, I just moved on and on. I went to the States and there were tons of musicians. When I went to the States, there was Marcos Valle, Walter Wanderley, Astrud Gilberto, you name it. So many artists, and I was never the guy to be calling people, not to this day. They usually find out what I had done, and if they really want me to do something for them or with them, then I always will be available.

But my whole idea … to me the number one thing is quality. The first thing I think is quality. I don’t care what you do. I think it should be very good, and it should be very different. That will call the attention of other people, “Hey man, that’s great. What is that?” And I believe in that firmly, just by looking here [looks on his list with production/arranging credits].

I got a call once, I was already living in New York for many years. I’ve been to New York for a long time, but I get calls for things that I did a long time ago, not knowing that that thing would eventually some day catch the eye of somebody, which was the case with Björk.

I worked with Björk for about four years. I did a bunch of stuff for her. Why? From a stupid little arrangement that I did for Milton Nascimento for the Rio de Janeiro International Music Festival. She found the record. The record never really came out in Brazil or the States. It came out in France. She got that record in France. I didn’t even know that record. “Can I hear...?” She played me the record (mimicks holding a phone). I said, “Yeah, I did that.” So you never know. But the quality is there, I can guarantee you that.

The festival was a strange situation. Every year, they have a price for the best arrangement, and I used to get that because everyone came to me from the first job that I did, and I used to sell that ‘cause I can’t do that many anyways, so I used to sell to some of the best writers. So I ended up doing Jobim’s songs, I ended up doing Chico Buarque De Hollanda, the Brazilian lyric writer, ended up doing the arrangements for Milton Nascimento, ended up doing the arrangements for Luiz Bonfa. I ended up doing the arrangements for some of the most known personalities and artists in Brazil at that time.

I even had one song that I wrote called “Dia De Verao,” which translated would be ‘a day in the summer’, which I eventually called “Spirit of Summer”. And because 2001: Space Odyssey was doing so good and I had to decide what song to put on the other side, I said, “Ha ha ha, put my song on there.”

And that’s what I did, I put my song on the other side, and it became one of the most bought songs on a single. A lot of people know this song just from the B-side. When they get tired of listening to [Space Odyssey] 2001,” they would turn it around and they would listen to “Spirit Of Summer” and they would go out and do whatever they got to do. I don’t think they could listen twice to it, but this is basically what went on, now that you mentioned Brazil. And then, after all that work in New York, I eventually got to work with Creed Taylor for different projects. Creed Taylor had a handle on a lot of big people - Wes Montgomery, for instance.

I remember how I got to meet Creed Taylor. Astrud Gilberto being a Brazilian, and she had known about me before she came to the States. She called me to do some arrangements for her on a record where there were just two arrangers involved. It was me and Don Sebesky, who was an excellent arranger. She wanted me to do five songs, and for some bizarre circumstances, Don Sebesky got late in recording the charts and I was given three hours to do five charts. And I mean everything: vocals, strings, horns, rhythm section, bass, drums, percussion. And I said, “I’m not sure whether I can do this,” but I didn’t tell anybody that. I just went inside, and I always, always check for notes. And, if possible, each section at a time ‘cause you don’t want to have a surprise of a bad copy note or even yourself, instead of writing an F it comes out as a G. So I always would check the notes and studied that. And after that, I went song by song, boom, boom, boom, done.

Creed Taylor, who’s no dummy, said, “Wow!” He was impressed too. So he called me for a meeting in his office, maybe two weeks later. I went to his office, and he was doing very, very well. Creed Taylor who started working with Stan Getz originally, Joao Gilberto, he produced that. He did Astrud Gilberto “Girl from Ipanema.” He was a well-known guy. He was working for Verve Records originally and then he started working for A&M Records. He was hired by Alpert and Moss, the two main guys at A&M. He was the most sought-after producer for Brazilian music and bossa nova, but he works in a strange way. He picks his artists, he has a very good ear for good musicians and good artists.

There are so many stories .. I think when I get old, I write a book about everything, very interesting stories. Such as why Astrud Gilberto is singing the record? Astrud Gilberto was not even known as a singer. I mean, she could sing, but she was not known as a singer. Joao Gilberto always refused to speak English. He can understand it, he’s been many years in the States, but he does not want to talk. So, no matter what you say, he will not say anything in English. He always said, “That’s a stupid language.” But, here’s a situation: they’re in the studio and it’s Stan Getz on this great track. And Norman Gimbel, a lyric writer, who also wrote “Killing Me Softly” among other things, many hits, and he’s there. He is a pushy guy and he goes, “What’s up with the song?” Joao Gilberto said: “No.” “What are we going to do?”

So they discussed, and Astrud Gilberto was the daughter of an English teacher. He was a German guy as a matter of fact. They lived in Salvador de Bahia and he was an English teacher and so she spoke perfect English. Almost perfect English, enough to sing “Girl From Ipanema.” She had a cute voice, she doesn’t do vibrato, she has this straight thing that was copied to this day. She is one of those persons, she does not realize the influence she had. She really doesn’t. She could be working right now. Instead, she decided to retire a few years back in Philadelphia complaining about her throat arthritis. There’s no throat arthritis, she can sing, but she says no.

I got upset with her, I had a fight with her on the internet [audience laughs]. I tell you what happened. Her email back in those days was barcana@blah blah blah, whatever, the provider. And I wanted to send a Christmas message, and she always said, “Don’t give my email to anybody,” which of course I wouldn’t do. But, I had America Online and I had to send a Christmas message to a bunch of people. It was a lot of people, so I said, “Gee, why don’t I put their names here [in cc]?”

I know a way of hiding it, which is double parenthesis on each side. But I put single parentheses, so it was useless. So that came up, and she called me up furious. I said, “Who the hell in the world is going to know that ‘barcana’ is Astrud Gilberto? Give me a break.” “Oh, you shouldn’t have done that.” “No, I shouldn’t have done that, and I tell you what. I’m not going to do it again because I’m taking your email out of my list. So this way there can be no problems ever again.”

And that was it. She couldn’t understand, but that’s the way it is. She’s funky with stuff like that. But trying to trace back where I was going. I was going to say that my meeting with Creed Taylor, he called me and said, “I want you to do a project for us.” I said, “Sure, of course. What is it?” And at that exact moment, there was a big hit by one of his guys, a song called “Windy”. It was a big hit and they pushed it to death. It was No. 5 on the pop charts, and it was Wes Montgomery.

So he told me, “I want you to do the whole record for Wes Montgomery.” I said, “You’re insane. This guy is writing is on the charts. I wouldn’t know what to do with him. He’s so good, he’s great. I mean, he’s got a hit. Why me? I didn’t do anything wrong.” “No, you can do it. I saw what you did.” “Yes, but it’s still a different story. It’s too much responsibility.” And honestly, it was. I mean, I loved to do it, but sometimes you have to be realistic. You just can’t say, “OK” and then mess up the whole thing and then be blamed.

Everybody says, “Oh, that guy messed up that record. No thank you.” They do that. It’s too many people around. They want to eliminate as many as possible. So I said yes that I’d do a couple of tracks. So I minimized my participation up to the point that I could not feel guilty in case something bad happened to the record. Nothing bad happened, but it was not as a big seller as the previous record. And from then on, I started to work with Creed Taylor and did many, many records for him. Some Astrud Gilberto records that came out real great.

If you look at the list, there’s one record specifically that I did, which was Astrud Gilberto and Stanley Turrentine. There’s a great record that I did for Stanley Turrentine called “Salt Song”, also very good. So my suggestion is that, if anyone wants to research into it, I tried to simplify everything on my website, which is, nothing major. But everything there is kind of simplified, including a great site that I linked, which is from a Japanese kid, who has almost every record that I did or participated in in history. And there are records that I don’t even remember I did, and he has it.

If you type in “Deodato mania,” you will find the site. It’s an interesting thing. But on my site, you can find all the stuff that I brought here, all the artists that I worked with or for and also movies, but I’ve never been big at the movies ‘cause I would have to move to California. And as much as I like California, I don’t know if I can stay there too long. Where everybody is everything and nobody is nothing and that kind of stuff. It kind of bugs me a little bit, you know? “Oh man, let’s do it.” “When?” “I’ll call you.” “Sure.” [laughs in contempt] I guess a lot of people in here know about this, right?


You said earlier on when you started out as an arranger, you had absolutely no idea what it is that an arranger does, and I guess that goes for a lot of us. What did you learn from a book like that [hands over a book]?


Best book ever written.


How did you find out about it in the first place?


I didn’t. Luiz Bonfa, the guitar player - and many people don’t know who Luiz Bonfa is … Luiz Bonfa is an amazing guitar player, acoustic, Brazilian guy. He is the guy that wrote most of the songs for the movie, which made Jobim famous for his songs also, called Black Orpheus by a French guy, Camus, who shot the movie in Brazil. It’s a very interesting story. If anybody can get their hands on it, they’ll like it.

It’s about the poverty in Brazil but done in a nice way, not like City Of God, nothing like that. And Luiz Bonfa wrote, among other songs, “Manha de Carnival,” that everybody knows. It’s his biggest hit to date [sings and demonstrates on the piano]. That’s his biggest song and another one... [continues to play the piano] I think everyone knows that too, right?

He’s a nice guy, we got along very well. His girlfriend was also a singer, and she introduced me to him and we got to know each other for many, many years. We did a lot of work together. We even did a soundtrack in Sao Paulo for a movie called [plays piano melody to remind him] Gentle Rain. I have a copy of it not too long ago and watched the movie and said, “Oh, my God. I didn’t know I could do those things.” As times go by, you change. Sometimes, you’re in a very vibrant time and you write things that then, later on, you don’t think you could not have written, but you did. Sometimes, you do great things when you’re young. Sometimes, you do stupid things when you’re young. As long as you understand where you’re going. So, Luiz Bonfa is another case where I lost track what I was saying. You asked a specific question and I was zig-zagging around.


But the problem is with every fifth word you say, you could go, “Who is Luiz Bonfa?” “Tell us about the Milton Nascimento record,” and so on.


Absolutely. I think it is very good to know how Brazilian music developed if that’s an interesting thing to talk about. Because it was not like ‘boom’: bossa nova, Jobim, Joao Gilberto. No, it’s not like that. It’s a lot of work behind it.

But with Luiz Bonfa, I know there’s something specifically related to Luiz Bonfa, and I try to remember what it was. Anyway, we worked together for many years, as well as after he didn’t want to stay in the States. A very interesting thing about some of the Brazilian people. They really have trouble understanding why having to go to work in the morning is more important than to go to the beach fishing. They don’t understand. Brazilians prefer to go fishing in the morning only because in the morning it’s easier to catch fish.

That’s what he did. He went back to Brazil, and he had tons of calls to do movie scores, to do concerts, appearances, clubs. He did not want to do them. He just wanted to go fishing. Jobim is a different kind of story. I worked with Jobim for about 15 years. The first solid work I did for him was writing the soundtrack for “Girl From Ipanema”. It was done by a Brazilian guy in Brazil and I wrote an arrangement for “Girl From Ipanema,” which became his favorite, which is being played to this day. In the time of his death at his concerts, he played that arrangement.

I gave that arrangement personally to his son who sometimes does concerts, too, he is a guitar player. And his son is an amazing keyboard player. He’s a kid. He plays very well. Daniel Jobim. And Jobim’s problem was more like, he is a hard worker. Jobim a systematic worker, but his thing was he wakes up in the morning, he does not go to the beach, goes to the piano, but everybody has a catch. After the piano, he goes to this restaurant, and he eats steaks and drinks a beer and scotch until he cannot get up. And then it becomes a problem because we’ll see the journalists or the interviewers.

Already there’s an attitude of fighting there ‘cause in Brazil, he was always criticized for being so successful. I always had a fight with him. I said, “Why are you wasting your time to go there to justify your success? That’s pretty sick. I think it’s useless.” Anyway, I remember a movie that we did in London called The Adventurers by Lewis Gilbert, the guy who did Alfie originally and who did a couple of 007 movies.

The problem there was no problem. He had to write just five songs and he couldn’t. He got stuck on the third one ‘cause he didn’t like the movie. I didn’t like the movie either, but we had to do it. And I kept on staying on his back, “We got to work.” But instead, he preferred to go to Kings Road and drink a warm beer and [eat] sausages and look.

In those days, the girls had mini skirts, and it was kind of his thing, sitting there, drinking, looking around. So, time went by, the company kept calling, saying, “What’s going on?” I said: “I don’t know. I know we’re working on it.” “Oh yeah, when is it going to be done?” There was a big guy, a mogul, from Paramount Pictures with a cigar. I forgot his name. He came personally to see what was going on. I was given an apartment in a nice area and he was given another flat in another area. The guy went to his flat and we made a presentation to the guy. [smiles] “OK, it’s coming along.” But it wasn’t. And so, after another couple of weeks, they came to me and said, “Listen, Deodato, we got to finish this. The movie has been ready for a while. We’ve just got to put the music to it.”

It was a two-and-a-half hour movie. Pretty stupid with battles and guns. So not only I had to work with him on his songs. I also had to score the movie. I had to put music to that - people killing each other. I said, “How do you put music into this?” But I had to, so I went outside. In those days, there weren’t any computers to be used, but they used to sell a black book. What a black book is … let’s say you have a tempo, that’s the main thing where you start. You have a tempo and it tells you at 32.2 seconds is bar #11, beat #3. That’s when the guy puts the knife through the throat of the other guy. So, I have to write some bloody sounds in there, which I did by using a trombone and created that weird noise that made people puke without, of course, hurting Jobim’s feelings because that’s not what he wanted to do. He just wanted to drink beer and eat sausages, and look at girls, and maybe write a song or two. That’s what he was sent to.

I said, “OK, do your thing. Don’t forget we still have two more songs to go.” “OK, don’t worry about it.” Some of these songs became well known after the years. We recorded them in New York under different names, songs like [plays Antonio Carlos Jobim - “Insensatez” on the piano]

Antonio Carlos Jobim – “Insensatez”

(music: Antonio Carlos Jobim - “Insensatez”)


Nobody knows that song is from a movie. It is from a movie. Another one. [plays Antonio Carlos Jobim – “Children’s Games” on the piano].

Antonio Carlos Jobim – “Children's Games”

(music: Antonio Carlos Jobim – “Children’s Games”)


In the movie, it’s called “Childrens Games,” and he changed it to “Chovenda Na Roseira,” which in Portuguese means “raining on the rose trees.”

The thing is, he bought a house outside of Rio about three hours from there. My father had a little house there too, which is a farm area. And he started writing songs based on that. It was a great motivation for him to write songs about these things. And he used to write about the fact that you could get nothing done in that area ‘cause the people are so poor and nobody cares. There are no regular roads. It’s all mud, and the car would get stuck. And that’s where he wrote “Aguas De Marco,”, which goes like [plays Antonio Carlos Jobim - “Aguas De Marco” on the piano].

Antonio Carlos Jobim & Elis Regina – “Águas De Março (Waters Of March)”

(music: Antonio Carlos Jobim - “Aguas De Marco”)

“Aguas De Marco,” it means “waters in March’ that means “rain in March.” I mean, it really pours in March. And it’s the water, it’s the rain, it’s the roads, it’s the storm, it’s the holes [in the streets], that’s what that song is all about. So he became very famous, but again, these are things I bet 99.5% of the people don’t know where they come from and what they mean.

Jobim always had a problem with the translation of his lyrics. He got so fanaticized about it… there was this hatred of the translations. Same case with many, many artists. I give you an example, Ivan Lins, if some people know him, he had a beautiful song because he broke up with his wife. They separated, and he wrote a song about starting it all over again. [sings in Portuguese and translates] “Count only on myself and not to have anybody there to help me, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

So what happens? He gives the song to Quincy Jones’ company and they write a song called “On A Desert Island”. I don’t remember the lyrics, but it’s probably about fishing and turtles.


What was the political reason for a lot of the bossa nova lyrics being so “the bird that is up there”?


You see, there’s not much you can do about those rhythmic phrasings that you can get in Portuguese. In Portuguese, you can get it. In English, it’s almost impossible. And Jobim used to fight that. He had a big fight with Norman Gimbel. I remember, we did a second Sinatra record together where I did the arrangements for the big orchestra because that’s what it was supposed to be. He had worked on some lyrics and some words for the repertoire.

There’s a phrase in Portuguese that he says, “Tua Beleza e um avian.” What he’s trying to say there is comparing this woman’s beauty to the beauty of building an airplane, like a Boeing 747. But in English, it doesn’t sound right, but he did it. It says [sings], “Your beauty is an airplane.” And Sinatra did it. But then, after that, I think he had the same situation of where he got tired of the United States. He had to go back to Brazil to take care of a bunch of things.

He got divorced and he married this other woman, which turned out to be unfortunately way worse than his [first] wife. But I guess that happens all the time. She was a photographer, and I guess he liked her photographs. And then, eventually, he started doing concerts. We separated because Jobim was very firm on his thing, and it was very difficult for him, as well as Luiz Bonfa, to accept a hit or success for me. “I did that, he was just my arranger. And he is now recording my songs? Oh my God! Cut him off,” [gestures cut throat] which was very sad for me, but I got to go, I got to do what I got to do. I can’t be, “Yes, sir. Yes, sir.” Forget about it.

And so I moved ahead and they moved ahead. Bonfa went back fishing and Jobim went on the road with his new wife and his son, too. He had some minor problems, but he was continually drinking - especially beer. And beer, you know what that does to you. It makes your belly big. He had a problem with it in Rio, and instead of taking care of it. It was a minor thing. He came here to New York to take care of it and somehow they operated him. It was no big deal, but then he had a cardiac arrest, and he passed out in New York. He could have lived a few more years at least, but that happens. You got to go when you got to go, what you want to do? No more music, I guess. “Arrangements from paradise,” there is no such thing.


“Arrangements from paradise.” What actually is an arrangement because I see a lot of question marks here [in the audience]?


I jokingly said, “An arrangement is when you meet a girl in a restaurant and you say, ‘Well, can we make an arrangement? You come to my place and I cook you some food.’ That’s an arrangement, too.” But a musical arrangement is when you have a song or theme, a melody, and you can visualize it in different ways depending on what it is for.

There’s a lot of variables that you have to really carefully calculate. Is it for a record? Is it for a 100-piece orchestra or for a trio? Is there going to be singing? So, once you have all that in place, what you do is let your imagination run, let your ideas flow. Don’t fight. Just let it happen. You come up with ideas, and you can write it down and you find out that sometimes, you’re in the shower and boom!

The idea for “2001” came when I was already falling asleep. You know, that period in which you’re really not sure if you’re fully asleep or not, and I had this little Northern Brazilian theme, which is [plays Intro to Deodato - “2001” on the piano].

Deodato – “Also Sprach Zarathustra (Theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey)”

(music: Deodato - Also Sprach Zarathustra [Theme from 2001 A Space Odyssey]”)

That is what we call a ‘baium’ and it comes from the North of Brazil, where the influences are many, but one of the main influences was a Dutch influence. They have a scale that [demonstrates on piano]. That is Dutch. Nobody understands why. Yes, the Dutch occupied the North of Brazil for a while. Not occupied, but they were there or whatever they were doing there. But they left that as their legacy.

If you listen to Airto’s music, he got nothing to do with Northern Brazil, he is from Southern Brazil, but he’s so great. He can absorb all these styles and all these phrasings. I’m not that sure if you know that song you probably know because it was a big thing in Europe, the Airtos song. He had a dance hit there, very long piece, but I think it had those phrases.

So, you get ideas. I usually start with a map of the song. I mean, you have to have the minimum so you have to find out what it is that you have to obey, let’s say an A-A-B-A. At least you got find out what you have to have to present that. If somebody sends you a demo with voice and guitar, it usually has a little intro, or a long intro -- whatever it is, you’ve got to see what you got, and from there, you make your decisions. “What are you going to do with the intro? By the time you start singing everybody went home already. So why don’t we make it shorter?” “OK, we make it shorter.” So you make it shorter. I see songs that have so many parts, it’s pathetic.

That’s what Kool & The Gang used to come with their songs that had six or seven sections. “What are we going to do here? Give me the song and we can make ten songs out of that song.” Because there were so many different parts that were not even related.


So you did three albums out of that first sketch?


One of the first songs I worked on with them was “Ladies Night”, and it had so many different parts. They came to me because they liked the album called Love Island I had on Warner Brothers. We had a big meeting, and I thought I couldn’t do anything [for them], and I told them, “I can’t help you. It’s too much.” They had a concept already, they wanted to do a record called Street Opera. “OK, what is it? Let me hear it. I don’t know by names. They can give me many names, but I would like to hear it to see what it is.” So they showed me some of the pieces and I said, “I don’t know what to do with this. Sorry.”

I was in the middle of finishing another album which was another phase in this. One of my phases that I was trying to get into dance music. Bass drum going ‘boom, boom, boom’. I even used to do them to the point of exhaustion trying to redo bass drums. “Whistle Bump” was one of those songs. There was this small-time producer, nothing big, but he made me do bass drums by foot, by tapping to have that continuous bass drum thing on the disco version. I might even have that, I don’t know if anyone has that version.

I got so paranoid with Kool & The Gang when I finally decided to produce them, I started timing every bar [gestures operating a stop watch] to precision. I got a nice stop watch and marked every [single bar]. You’d be amazed of how much they can differ. I learned so much by doing that, and I found that the drummer was trying to make some little fills [demonstrates drum playing], they were just cutting the time. So, I started very carefully telling him, “Listen, we’re having a problem here with the microphones in the toms. Can we take the toms out now and just let you do the snare, the bass drum and the hi-hat and do the toms later?” “Are you sure?” I said, “Yeah, yeah.”

OK, so I took it out. It already got a little better and he goes [demonstrates the drummer playing a steady beat], but then he got into the following [demonstrates drummer playing a fill with an accent on the cymbals]. “The cymbals, I forgot the cymbals.” So I say, “Listen, you know what’s happening? The cymbals are distorting. Have you got other cymbals?” “No, that’s what I use all the time.” I said, “I don’t know, maybe it’s the microphone or something. Can you not play the cymbals?”

Basically, he accepted, and I managed to get a few bars exactly the same. But then things were getting complicated because what Kool & The Gang used to do is, they had people playing different instruments. They bass player would be playing the keyboards. I said, “Aren’t you supposed to play the bass?” “Oh no, that’s how we do it on the road.” I said, “Ah, interesting. Can you not do it here?” “Yeah, OK [puts his thumb up]. Great.” So what I would do, I would take four bars maybe, copy it many times. In those days, we used DBX noise reduction to avoid the tape hiss. The 24-track, two-inch reel tape - it’s prone to do that. Not anymore, but in those days, we used to do that. So I would copy four tracks for just drums and then copy it through the whole thing on a fresh tape to avoid the slices. In those days it was [cut and paste the tape manually] and that is not stable. Those tapes can stretch.

Eventually, I got a few tracks like that. I mentioned “Ladies Night.” That was one of the first tracks that I really would work like that. We had a steady five-minute track and that’s all I needed. “Now let’s go to the bass.” Bass is Kool, the short guy, one of the brothers [demonstrates distorted bass]. I said, “What the hell is going on?” He hits the open low string all the time, no matter what key. It’s a C-minor key, and the bass player is playing a C-minor song and hitting the natural E on the bass. I said, “Oh my god!” The end result was that I had to sit there and put my thumb on that string and still be loose enough so that he can move around a little bit. It was the most pathetic thing, which happened to the guitar player too. It was the weirdest thing, but it worked.

But this is not even arranging. All the Kool & The Gang arrangements were done as we went along. This was mostly a production sideline thing. This was part of the production. It had to be right. And eventually, there were ideas as they come, many people have many ideas. Some of the guys have wrong ideas, some of the guys got good ideas. All in all the record came out and it was a success. And then everybody went, “That’s a coincidence.” I said, “OK.” You never win, never win. “It’s a coincidence. OK, let’s get another coincidence.” So we worked, worked, worked. We got “Celebration” and that was no coincidence.


Can you probably use one of these songs, ‘cause I guess most people would know them, to show us what different parts answer which parts and how you would actually write an arrangement?


For instance [plays piano: verse melody Kool & The Gang - “Ladies Night”], and then you have [plays bridge] and then there’s another part [plays chorus]. They will know that song.


How do you decide which elements go where and how do you assign the different parts to the guitar or the bass player and the open string to the vocals and all that?


The structure. You do a map of the original, get rid of what you don’t want and say, “That would be nice if we could repeat that section.” Put it on and listen. These days, it’s nothing. There are so many different systems Pro Tools, Digital Performer. There’s a new one that’s taking over because it’s better on the PC than on the Macintosh. There are all kinds of systems running around and you have to experiment with them. You have to be the judge.

These days, repetition is way more acceptable than what it used to be. These days, you live by repetition. One pattern, and you repeat it to death and it’s cool. It was not then. You would not even dare to do something like that ‘cause they wouldn’t even bother to play the record except on the dance floor. But that’s the way it was done. The sections had to work individually, of course, and then with others and what’s following.

If you notice, if you look at Kool & the Gang’s material, this was the first song that we did and; therefore, there are more parts than normal. There are maybe five parts in that song, or even six, when normally you got only three parts. But that’s basically it.


So, as simple as ‘one, two, three’. But, if you take the book, for example, where you say you learned a lot from it, there’s so much more in it. Can you probably tell us what you learned by reading something like this book and what you still use by doing something like the “Hi-Tech Jazz” thing that you did for the Underground Resistance guys [for tomorrow’s [ArRange] concert?




The track that you do tomorrow, the Hi-Tech Jazz track.


Sorry, yes, yes, yes. When you guys called me, I was under the impression that I wasn’t exactly sure what this whole thing was all about. It’s about DJs and arrangers and that to me was pretty much a situation where you play the mix that you have, and I play the orchestra on top of it. That was my understanding of it, and it seemed to work because at home, without even seeing the orchestra play it, I could use my little module and feel, yes, that’s going to work out very nice with the track.

On the other hand, there was another thing that I learned the last moment that I could use one of the tracks that will be played by themselves, which is cool, but it’s a different thing which is not necessarily better or worse. I would miss the pumping of the bass and the bass drum, which you can only achieve by using the mix that you have. If you do a mix, you take your time to put the sound that you want on the bass and the bass drum and that’s what you don’t have on some stage somewhere. It’s never ever going to sound the same. You can’t get a bass drum to sound like a record, like a mix. Impossible.

But, fortunately, everything worked out very well … and I also could have done “2001,” that would have been a blast with the big orchestra, but I didn’t even think about it. I don’t even know if it was on the list. Instead, I decided to do “Pavane For A Dead Princess,” which is a very beautiful piece -- very quiet, very peaceful, and I used that to break the pace a little bit and then go back to a much higher thing which is one of the incredible mixes from the guys from Detroit, Mike Banks and the gang.

They worked out so well, and I love that track. It’s very important when you do love a track that you really put your heart into it and you go out and do a great job on top of. Maybe you can do a great job, but you can do a greater job because you really like the track. That’s basically it. I think we’re going to have fun, and to my surprise, I heard that they’re going to do one of my obscure songs that I did. Because I needed something to finish an album that I was doing for Warner Brothers, I believe - or was it MCA? - called “Keep It In The Family”, which was a take off of “We Are Family,” even if it has a completely different groove. [sings] “Keep it in the family,” it was something that was sung by the daughter of Ray Barretto, the conga player of New York, a fantastic singer. But, she again, like many others, decided to dedicate her time to a housewife career, and that’s fine.


But how do you actually work with it? I mean, obviously, first, you listen to the original piece. And then how did you add the other parts to it?


In the physical process of doing the arrangement. First, you lay down the tracks doing a little simple notation of the map. Just a little thing where you say “drums” [mimics writing with pen], and then you make sure that you know for how many bars, it’s very important to know because you’d be surprised. Sometimes, it sounds continuous, and it’s not. Sometimes, it’s five bars and then comes a fill and then comes another section, which is eight bars. Things like that. And then you decide what to do with that piece of paper. You start writing material. You write down ideas.

If you like a piece at the end, put it at the beginning. It’s very similar to when you’re DJing or making mixes, it’s similar to use these principles. In my case, after that, I have to prepare the music paper. I go on the computer. I use a little old program because I haven’t had a chance to even set up my little space since I moved last year. I didn’t even find the time to set up my little [studio]. I sold my studio.

I had a professional studio in New York called Duplex Sound, which was three floors. It was nice and everything, but I had to sell it because I moved out of New York, and it would take me an hour and a half just to get to the studio every day.

The guy that was working for me that I left to take care of the studio. Every time I missed something, I said, “Where is my Pool Tech’s?” “Oh, one of the amps at the bottom of the rack burned, so it’s in the shop.” “In which shop?” “I don’t know, a shop in Jersey.” “You have the number?” “No, it’s here somewhere.”

I let it roll, but then one day I decided to call. I said, “Do you have my Pool Tech’s ready?” “What Pool Tech’s?” I mean, two Pool Tech’s, I paid good money for them. “Oh, we don’t have no Pool Tech’s from you.” I said: “Are you joking me?” “No, no Pool Tech’s.” And I confronted him. He says, “Oh, I don’t know, I gave it to them.” And what it was is that I had a feeling that he was doing heavy drugs. I think the Pool Tech’s were just gone. They were just gone, plus a lot of other stuff. And I told him, “You can’t continue ‘cause I’m going to sell this place anyway.” And I got very disgusted. The doorman of the building told me, “The guy that worked in your studio left in a white van, said he was going to California.” I said, “No kidding!” Never have heard of him ever since.


[smiles nonchalantly] Can we probably take it back to the keyboard and...?


[laughs] Once you get rid of these kinds of people, the work becomes much easier. Then, once you map the song and you decide which parts you’re going to repeat, then in my particular case, I put it on my computer blank. Blank pages, you build blank pages, and I give sections different names, for instance, verse, I call ‘V1’, ‘V2’, V3’. In the case of a long verse, I call it ‘V1A’, ‘V1B’. Sometimes verses have 24 bars. Normally, it’s eight; if it’s 16 I call it ‘V1A / V1B’ and if it’s 24, ‘V1A / V1B / V1C’. Then, it changes. It usually goes into a chorus ‘Chorus 1’, ‘Chorus 2’ - simple stuff.

Don’t complicate it because it doesn’t need to be and if it looks complicated, change it. Make sure that you have simplified everything. The intro usually repeats somewhere in the song, so I call the first eight bars - if possible - I call ‘Intro 1’, ‘Intro 2’, ‘Intro 3’. Now, if it comes back somewhere in the song, I call it ‘4’ or ‘5’ or ‘6’. When there’s a section that comes in, which is completely different than everything else, I call it ‘B’. Same situation. If it’s a long section, I call it ‘B1’ or ‘B2’, ‘B3’. Now, if you’re running to a section that you have to call ‘C’, then you should start thinking about what’s going on because there’s not much memory in people’s ears for music to remember too many sections. So, you say, “OK, ‘C’ and that’s it.” Then, if it comes to a ‘D’, you know you’re in trouble or you might as well give up and choose something else.


So, are you working on the actual score or do you use the keyboard all the time?


Whichever song you’re going to work with, whichever track you’re going to work with, the main thing that you have to do is to map it very carefully, and, of course, because these days you have so many tools to work with these things, you can leave out the sections. If you have section ‘D’ and section ‘E’ or interlude, this and that, just leave it out. Go with the flow, don’t let it die. Do your breaks whenever you have to. Your breaks that’s something you should do yourself. Of course, you can use the break that’s already on the record, but does it make sense? Or you can do that, too, I guess if you don’t have much time.

But do the sections as they come and name them very carefully. Make sure when there’s a verse that repeats, you know it’s a verse that repeats. So when you look at your map without hearing anything, you can see visually what is what and what is repeating where. If there are too many verses, “Oh my god, 16 verses. That’s too much,” then reduce. Do your little cuts and repeat the chorus or repeat the part that you consider the most important. But they know anyway [points to audience], they do this every day.

The people that are doing the mixes are incredible. There’s so much interesting work coming out these days. So that’s where the arrangement meets the DJ, where you prepare your tracks the same way that an arranger would up to a certain point. As I said, up to a certain point, they don’t need lead sheets or music paper. They don’t have to do that. Their work is in a way more logical than the arranger because the arranger still has to put everything down. I prefer to work by hand with a pencil because, if I change my mind later on, I go erase it, and if there’s time, I put it on the computer and then print out the parts. That’s the most logical way.

For me, the problem with the whole process is that there are so many great programs out there such as - forget about Finale - Sibelius. Sibelius is supposed to be a great program. When you work with a program that recognizes roughly, even though you still have to fix everything but recognizes printed music, so you could get printed music from 1910 and put it in there in a scanner and it will, supposedly, recognize it. But it doesn’t work that way. Same thing recognizing written text. It doesn’t always work, but it helps.

I use an old program called Mosaic from Mark Of The Unicorn, which went onto becoming one of the biggest of equipment. Their digital recorder, their mixer, everything, their MIDI interface, everything. I still use Digital Performer, even though I’m not doing much these days. In my studio in New York when I started doing the first records on computer, it was all Macintosh. They were some of the first Macintosh sequencers, where the resolution was 72 grids per beat. That was one of the older programs, and then Digital Performer started. It was not 72 grids; it was something like 720 grids per beat. What a grid is, let’s say, if you play a gliss[ando] on the piano, it’s very fast, but this computer will put it on a certain place because there are 720 spaces for each note to go to. If that note doesn’t have a place to go, it disappears. That’s what happened in the old computers, in the old programs. But today you can do so much, it’s amazing. It bugs my mind, you know, one of the oldest dreams.

I remember we had to sync vocals, background vocals by hand. We had to punch the Studer and pray that it would go and how far will it go? ‘Cause it starts losing sync with the machines. Machines aren’t necessarily [makes a straight line] like that. Nowadays with digital, the digital doesn’t run, it’s there already. It’s all recorded on chips, so there’s no possibility of missing anything. My god, this is the dream. I always dreamed there’s going to be a day where I can record something and put it on the computer and play. And it’s here now. You don’t understand. This came from nothing. My first work in Brazil was mono, one track. Not stereo, one track, and it was great. We said: “How can this be possible?” For me to understand the concept of tape with the powder inside - it took decades for me to understand that.

Now, when it started getting so fast, the technology is getting so fast and we now have all these facilities, but you got to understand where it comes from. The more you understand about that, the better you’re going to get at what you’re doing. Because then you can see that there are basically no limitations. At a time when there used to be a lot of limitations. You couldn’t do just anything you want and take a piece of a song, put it here instantly, there was no such a thing. I produced a record by Chuck Mangione where every solo was a disaster. I had to go and chop the tape. Solo number #17: “Ah, there’s this one note that he always messes up, let’s get that note from there.” It’s a little slice of tape and put it on the master wheel.

But anyway, we could be here for ten hours and I wouldn’t get tired of talking about stuff. It’s a great thing. Music’s a great thing and I really respect everybody’s work - if it’s good, of course [laughter]. So it’s important to do good work all the time and not trust your own judgment sometimes. Get some friend or someone whom you trust to judge together with you. That’s all I can say [turns to Torsten, the interviewer]. Go ahead.


What’s the thing when you’re still in that map stage and you got all the technology of the world at your fingertips, but nevertheless, once you take it to the players, you add the human element to it? How much of the work is done where, and how do you make people work with the music you wrote and how do you make them understand it?


Yes, you’re right. No matter how much technology you have, you still have the human judgment and the taste. You find that taste changes with time. In the ‘80s, there was one certain click. In the ‘90s, it’s a different click, whereas 2000 is a different click. 2000, I think, is very confusing because we now look at a recycling music, which is OK. It’s a great idea when you take a piece and transform it and make it fresh. I get delighted when I see some of these mixes from stuff that was done a long time ago, and now it sounds fresh and new. I think that’s where it comes, some things you add, you take some things, you repeat some things and it sounds fresh, but it still has that same ingredient that you had on the original piece.


But you did more or less the same thing just using an orchestra. I mean, you did pieces by Gershwin and Richard Strauss, Ravel and all these people.


The difference there is, when you take a piece by Gershwin, let’s say “Rhapsody In Blue”, you add things to it that were never there in the song. That’s the only way you can get a little bit of royalties out of it. That was done with 2001 when I had to go to a 9 o’clock in the morning meeting at ASCAP in New York. I was told to bring an arrangement, just like this one here [pulls out arrangement sheet].

My lawyer was there. He is a big guy, very impressive, and he told me to mark with red all the sections that I did. They were my contribution to the piece, and then I went to the beginning of the table and went like that [unfolds arrangement sheet] over the whole table and we explained to the people and they were very impressed. Result? 75% of all the performance rights [puts arrangement sheet back into his bag]. That’s what pays my beef every month.


Can you probably keep those sheets out and use them as an example of what you use with different voices and how you put them in juxtaposition and all of that. Show us what you do there.


Well, most of it is a lot of pauses. It happens when I like the stuff, and I think it’s not necessary to interfere with it. For instance, a little section here. Something like this [shows arrangement sheet to Torsten]?


Something like this.


OK, I used strings and some horn accents and a couple of little lines that I added to it even though I didn’t need to. A lot of it has to do [with] feeling bad for the players because they’re sitting there with nothing to do, so I write some notes for them. So that they feel that they’re part of the whole thing [audience chuckles]. I’m serious. You don’t want the musicians being upset and make noises [hits the table] during the performance. So, they go home and say, “Yeah, that line sounded great.”

Now, as far as the strings, the strings is a very effective group of people. String players, violins, violas, cellos and in this particular case, we also have basses. That’s great because they give you a color. How can I put it? If you have something you like but you want to make it more dramatic, you add some strings. You can even use a module and it will give you a thickness in the dimension because with strings you can do a lot of stuff. You can spread them, phase them a little bit and make it true stereo, and there’s a lot of effects. It takes you and it goes inside of you. Strings always do that. This is the pad I’m talking about. With lines, too, the lines are always emotional. Violin lines are very emotional; they can always be used to your advantage. And again, you can take this [points to the keyboard], which is also a controller module.

My favorite is the Multifade. I like that a lot, the Yamaha Multifade. It’s reasonably priced and has tons and tons of sounds and has already preset grooves that you can even use for your own purpose. Just tweak it here and there, change it a little bit and you have a record right there. You don’t even have to bother looking for whatever. Yeah, sometimes you got no time, what are you going to do? You got no time to go to the bank to deposit your checks, that’s always a problem some people have [laughter]. I don’t have that problem, but some people do [puts back arrangement sheet].


Why are you putting it away again? You still haven’t shown us what it is, for example, with the strings that you do. How do you break down a string part, for example? The different parts of the strings working with each other.


It’s simple, really simple. You got to decide which part of the song you want to emphasize and you add the strings to that section. You don’t add the strings all the time ‘cause that’s boring. You just find a section and you add the strings. There are many ways you can record these strings. If you have enough tracks, you can do them separately. If you have one chord, you can split them into two or three different parts so you can mix them up because you can always put some parts up and down. You can always do a lot of stuff like that. I think it beats just playing the chord straight. There’s a lot of people that just do that, they don’t have the time to separate. But someone can come and play the string and say, “Great. Now, let’s do this again but with separate sections.” So this way you can emphasize a cello section, for instance. Unless you can split your keyboard and know exactly which range, how far you want to go in a certain area which I think is silly because you’re better off using one pad for cellos, one pad for violas and maybe two pads for violins and you have four tracks and you can play around with it. If you do any high violins, that’s going to be totally separate. Don’t even try to put high violins together with the other strings because if you’re going to raise it, it’s going to raise everything else as well.

And that’s what you don’t want to do. You want to be able to control every single section. For the high violins, take two tracks to double up, so a total of six tracks. Again, the trick is, when you use a module it’s one thing when I do it with the orchestra, it’s different.

A lot of people forget that in the old days there were no microphones, so symphony orchestras and string orchestras had to sound good as they were. There was nobody in the mixer. That’s how people wrote. You cannot write a flute solo under a tuba and trombones harmony because you never are going to hear it. So everything was written separately in order to be heard. That’s why there are so many doublings in symphony music. The flute, the oboe, coronet and English horn, and then the French horns - there are usually four so they can be heard. It’s not because they want to write a chord for the french horns. They have to be heard depending, of course, on the room.

There are some great rooms, like Carnegie Hall is a great room and some horrible rooms like Avery Fisher Hall. It doesn’t sound as good, you can’t hear everybody. But the stereo has to be done within the strings too and that’s how I write the strings. I write the strings inter-collided. It’s a little difficult to explain but it’s not necessarily that because I have one note on the piano and if it falls in the viola range that I’m going to write it for viola. I won’t probably.

I will make sure that the cello is going into the violin domain and the violas go into the cellos domain and vice versa. I use violins to the extreme. I like to use the lower strings because it sounds good. I like to use soli on one string only that is such a distinct sound, so different. You don’t have a violin player jumping the strings as normally they’re taught to do, but they’re also taught to play on one string and nothing beats that. It’s such a beautiful sound. There are many tricks.

Again, this is a good book, the Mancini book back in action again. I loaned mine to a friend of mine in Brazil, never saw it back again. So they came back, and I bought one. And I’m not trying to sell books, but this is a good book to have. The other book I highly suggest is Rimsky-Korsakov - Principles Of] Orchestration. It’s a little more serious, but it’s also very simple to understand. Some other books are a waste of time. I mean, they’re good but very complicated. This, I recommend highly.


Still, I really want to be curious and specific about it because most of us struggle hard enough to understand how to add to a chord by making it a major 7th or something like that. But let’s say you take the chords or theme of something like “Hi-Tech Jazz”. How do you actually go on about adding different parts and what are you looking for when you first hear it? How do you work out what works with what? Could you explain what you did in that case specifically?


Sure. On “Hi-Tech Jazz,” it’s an incredible -- you guys are going to hear it -- it’s an incredible progression which repeats, but doesn’t repeat. And when you look at it carefully, they’re all different enough. It’s like using an A major 7th chord -- something like this [demonstrates on the piano] and using this bass or using this bass [demonstrates on the piano] and then the change goes and it’s different. A major chord means one thing. A minor chord means another thing. Minor chords are more dramatic, a little sadness to it and major chords are usually brighter.

In this particular case, the song repeats many times, but it’s not the same thing. They change the verse lick and then they change the basslines here, and there just enough to make it sound different every time. What would I do with that, put the strings everywhere? No. I leave some sections by themselves, so I divided my strings into higher strings and lower strings. Now, the lower strings, I decided sometimes not to use the bass notes, so you just have a mid-range chord that can work with any bass note.

And sometimes, because it repeats so many times, by the time it does the third time, I probably have it playing without the bass or with the bass depending on what the pattern is. The violins, I chose to write chords sometimes, and I chose to write lines sometimes, so there is a variation there. New lines that I dared to add to the piece - not that it needed it. It didn’t, but I thought maybe to bridge things.

So, by hearing those lines, you give the whole piece a sense of existence. You say, “Oh, it’s not just a groove track. There are melodies, there are violins, there are French horns.” I used the French horns too. And then, there’s melody of the saxophone, which I’ve doubled with the flute, but that’s something else just in case we needed a reinforcement.


How much can the human ear or the psyche of a listener handle? They say that you can’t listen to more than three different things going on at once.


In the case of a Michael Jackson record, you can’t listen to more than one and that’s his voice [chuckles]. They put everything else down [laughs], and that’s the way they mix the record. You know there’s a fantastic musician playing on that record, but you don’t hear them. “Hey, that’s too loud, put the piano down. I want to hear my voice.” It’s usually three things you can absorb clearly with your ears. More than that, unless you make the ear shift to a certain thing. Usually, people concentrate on the groove, which means drums, percussion or whatever, bassline sometimes with the harmony following and the lead. That’s basically it. More than that, it could be impossible to distinguish unless you make it so loud, but when you start to make it too loud, it becomes a distraction and people change the radio station, so you don’t want that to happen.


How do you use all the other voices? Are they like little signs of, “Hello ear, now you want to concentrate on this thing?” How do you think of that when you’re writing the stuff and mapping it out for the different parts?


I use the same principle because the harmonies will blend with whatever is there. In this particular case, if you look at it, there’s a lot more parts that I’m adding to something that already exists by itself, it doesn’t need anything. But I’m going to do that anyway, so I added lines because the lines will overpower the track. So, instead of concentrating just on the beat or the harmonies or the bassline, you have something to grab, like a little string line. I didn’t want to become too complicated, so I simplified everything to a minimum. A couple of string lines, a couple of French horns or trombones, but that’s about it. Let it rip. I’m not going to interfere with the groove. The groove is there already.

It’s happening, so let it rip because it’s OK. “Whistle Bump” is something like that because it’s all groove all the time and then there’s a bridge, which is done by the French horns, and it’s very beautiful. You got all kind of chords, but it worked out that way. It was not done on purpose. The whole thing about that song is that it was done at the last moment in the studio if I’m not mistaken.


You never went to a conservatory. You are self-taught. Did you learn everything by yourself more or less and by doing things?


Unfortunately, in Brazil, there’s no such thing. You either have to learn or you don’t learn. In my case, I had to do it by myself. The conservatory will teach you traditional harmony, traditional counterpoint and it takes five years. I couldn’t wait, I was young and I wanted to do things. I didn’t want to wait for that kind of stuff, so I never went.

The way I learned to arrange, believe it or not, was by playing in a group. I played in a little band. It had one clarinet, one guitar, one bass, drums, percussion, piano and I played the accordion. I learned just by asking my friends. The clarinet is B-flat, I didn’t know that concept, I just wrote him concert lines, and I was trying to duplicate.

There used to be a fantastic accordion player called Art Van Damme. Old guy, as a matter of fact he’s got so many beautiful things, and he was kind of trying to be the George Shearing in the accordion by doing the accordion, vibes and guitar playing the melody in unison. It always was very effective. He did very well-known traditional songs, a great soloist, [he was a] great jazz player. Not many people know about him, which is very surprising. I learned that when I came to the States that he was not such a well-known guy, but if you have the chance to, Art Van Damme, very interesting old stuff.

If you can find it on the internet, get it because that’s a new thing too. Nobody has even touched his stuff. Do some job on it [laughs]. I think you’re going to be happy with it ‘cause it’s very different.

You know, George Shearing played those chords on the piano, block chords [demonstrates on the piano] by doubling the melody and having the vibraphone play that with the guitar, he created a sound, which was not even his by the way. George Shearing is English, there was someone before him who did this, a black player from the South, a pianist that had a group just like that before him and I completely forgot his name.


How important is melancholy for you when you write your music?


Do I get melancholy? No, I become a pain in the ass, that’s all. The process is funny, and I think a lot of people go through that too. It’s very difficult because some things are going in your head and you’re trying to come up with things, and you don’t have it and you get frustrated. The deadline is coming. And what do you do? I used to let things happen at the very last moment. I refuse to agree to that. I mean, come on, I don’t want to be doing arrangements on the plane. I did many times, and now I’m sick of that. It only makes you sick. I did a whole record and half of it I was doing on the plane in Italy. I won’t say half of it because I had a lot of stuff done, but I got to a point where I could not do some of the arrangements, so I farmed it out, which I never did. It was the first time and last.

In other words, I asked a friend of mine, a copyist, that was a great arranger to do it. And when I came from wherever I was and came to New York, I just had time to pick up the arrangements, bring blank papers on the flight to Rome and did two and in the hotel I did another one. That kind of stuff. When I saw the arrangements that my copyist did, I had to change it right on the plane. Again, don’t forget, don’t try that at home because you better know by just looking at the arrangement what is going on. You have to be able to read, you have to read a lot of charts, especially classical charts. That will give you some understanding. But it will take years, it’s not a simple thing. It’s always a very interesting experience when you buy the score and listen to the music, classical music.

That’s one thing that’s good about this book [picks up book]. Now they rereleased it with CDs with little examples. Don’t forget, it’s Mancini stuff [sings “Pink Panther Theme”], but it’s cool. It’s alright, it gives you examples. You can see a lot of stuff, how instruments sound, it has a whole section about each individual instrument, what they sound like. I had a job to do for the Brazilian singer Marisa Monte and she had this very interesting formation, which was a bassoon, one violin, one cello and one trumpet. I said, “What the hell do you do with that?”

And when I was in Brazil I saw her, I said, “Why?” “Oh, because I’m going on tour and I’m using these guys ‘cause I did a record that had these instruments in my music.” I said: “OK.” And to come up with ideas for that, forget it. I did it and it was cool, but I don’t know. I prefer my old trick with strings and horns and everything. But when it came out. She was, “Oh my god, it’s so beautiful.” “Yeah? Let me hear it. OK, if she says so, I’m not going to fight her.” In this particular case [picks up book again], how the hell does a bassoon sound? How does it compare to a bass clarinet? They sounds are very similar. So I took this [book], and unfortunately, it was not a great example. It was a cha-cha [sings cha-cha melody]. He used the bassoon in a funny way, but the bassoon is a very powerful instrument too. You can do tons of stuff.

If you’re going to the concert tomorrow, you’re going to see an arrangement by David Matthews. I haven’t seen him in ages, but he did such a great job. He used the bass clarinet and he used the french horns, he did a line that starts from the high and it goes all the way down to the low, that’s difficult to do. And he knows exactly what to do, it’s amazing. He is a very serious professional. Very, very serious. He’s also a sailor, which is good. He can take a boat to where he wants the boat to go.


Unfortunately, we have to go to the harbor pretty quick because we got another boat sailing in that needs to leave at 6.30 already. I think we can’t leave you without getting at least two or three stories of some particular records that you did and also why is that you rerecorded a lot of things that you did in Brazil already in other versions. How does it feel to you nowadays when you listen back to all the different things? Is it like a diary to you? Let’s say, you take something like “Farewell to a Friend”, and you compare to when you recorded it in Brazil and when you did it out here [in the States]. Does it change emotionally in any way?


It’s funny that you mention that. This particular song, I wrote it, I was working in Brazil with Milton Nascimento on something, and then I had to go back to New York. I didn’t have the time to record it. I never recorded it there. It was left to be recorded. So they got a bunch of conductors and they recorded all that stuff. It’s on a record that came out called Percepcao, a Brazilian record, and I did it on a live concert in St.Louis with the St.Louis symphony orchestra, it was an open [air] concert. But other than that, I don’t think I’ve recorded it.


But something like “Skyscrapers”, for example, existed beforehand as well.


“Skyscrapers,” I’m not sure existed before. Maybe it was recorded originally in Brazil [Torsten hands over Brazilian pressing of a record including “Skyscrapers”]. But “Skyscrapers” was done before in New York, so this was recorded in Brazil again without me being there because they wanted to continue the series of Os Catedraticos, which in Portuguese means “the deans,” like from a university. It was illegally released by Irma Records, a series of it. I finally got hold of the contract, which was signed by a friend of mine with a fictitious name saying he was my business manager.

But it served the purpose. A lot of people got this record. I have comments like, “Oh my god, it’s so good.” But this was [recorded] in the ‘60s. This is such a primitive thing. There’s some interesting songs there, but other than that, I don’t know. But I’m not upset. I just want to say that you can get these records. They sell them like regular records and they’re not. There’s a lot of stuff like that. At least I am playing on these records. It’s better than having these records I had absolutely nothing to do with, and it has my name on it. That’s the worst, especially when there’s two guys singing. As there is a record called “Deodato - The Best Of Friends” and there’s two friends of mine singing on it and they also had nothing to do with it. They live upstate New York.

But anyway, I think that some of this stuff is absolutely redoable, I would love to redo it if there’s an opportunity. I haven’t recorded because I have a strange philosophy about doing records. I think most of the time at this point I don’t have anything new to say or to do. Since I do not depend on making new records, my philosophy is that since I decided about four or five years ago to go back playing concerts, which I have been doing, a few, not all the time … for me to do a record, I would need a great idea or expose something real different. As you know, it’s very difficult these days to sell records or to place them in record companies and I refuse to be subject to stupidity. I don’t want to be dealing with all these people telling me, “Oh [makes funny voice], the music is like this, we have something like this.” “Oh, come on.” But, if I have something that is unbelievably great and undeniably usable, then I can go to some companies and say, “This is what I got, and I would like to put it out.” But what can you do? How much more can I do?

My main thing is arranging, I’m an arranger, I’ve always been an arranger ever since I did that first record in Brazil on my mother’s table. This is what I am, this is what I do. I like to arrange, give me arrangements and I’ll be happy. I can play, I have fun playing. It’s just the traveling that kills me and the limitation of budgets for playing. The budgets are very small. Even as DJs, you go play in another country. The budgets are not that great. I know that.

We do it because most of the time we want our name to be exposed. We need exposure, everybody needs exposure and we should do it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But don’t expect to get rich on it unless you get lucky and you have this or that piece that really [takes off], or you get a job somewhere or this and that something that you can make money out of. You continue on your course because it’s a great thing to do. It’s something that makes you happy and that’s it. Digestion goes better, you know?


Can we finally ask you what your involvement in the Clube Da Esquina record by Milton Nascimento and Lo Borges was?


Clube Da Esquina - that’s another situation where I left the arrangements in Brazil and they did it. It was done without me being there. I thought it was great, Clube Da Esquina. The last record that Milton did, I went to Brazil to work with him. It was about two years ago, a record called Pieta, which I highly recommend. It has also a couple of songs which were duets with Maria Rita, who happens to be the daughter of Elis Regina.


And you worked with her as well?


I didn’t work with her. She had already done the vocals rough, and by the time I went back to New York, she went to Rio to finish the vocals. That’s basically what that record is all about, that she wasn’t even known yet. One of the songs that I did call “Tristesse”. It got the Grammy for the best Latin song of the year. In Miami, they had a big ceremony. It’s very, very well known, the Latin Grammy. I was happy with that because it’s a beautiful song. If you have a chance, get the record. It has an Italian name and it’s called Pieta, which means “mercy.” Pieta, a very nice record. Milton is a strange guy, but...


Strange guys do beautiful music now and then.


Beautiful music, yeah. When we have to work, we work because Milton is a guy … I don’t know how to explain it, but I saved him from the what we call the “balaio.” Balaio is a big thing where we would go through all the cassettes, the bad cassettes that we didn’t like for the festival. I was one of the members of the festival. In that particular year, he submitted three songs and I thought I heard something interesting. I went back to the garbage and picked it up and took it home. I learned the songs and I thought they were amazing.

So I went back to the people. There were 11 people, and I showed it to them. I started selling the stuff to them and they agreed to it. They not only accepted Milton but they accepted all his three songs and being that what he was, he asked me to do the arrangements. I don’t know if that was out of courtesy or because I was already doing arrangements before the festival. And that’s where his career started.


Do you still know how to play that song?




I guess that would be a nice way to end this one.

Milton Nascimento – “Bridges (Travessia)”

(music: Milton Nascimento – “Bridges (Travessia)”)


This was the one that was the most popular that he did, but he’s done other things after that. He became a big thing with a big personality.


Well, ladies and gentleman, thank Mr. Eumir Deodato.


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