Vinyl re-mastering of 70’s West Coast Jazz is compelling!

Eumir Deodato – Deodato 2 – CTI Records CTI 6029 (1973)/Speakers Corner Records (2014) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 35:39 ****1/2:

Brazilian composer, arranger, producer and instrumentalist Eumir Deodato de Almeida has established a unique musical career. His merging of styles include jazz, rock, pop, rhythm & blues, classical, bossa nova and other latin-based genres has shaped his musical legacy. After starting on accordion, Deodato took piano instruction and studied orchestration, conducting and arranging before playing with bossa nova bands in the early 60’s. He eventually formed his own band. He has produced and arranged for over 500 tracks, including Kool & The gang, K.D. Lang, Bjork and Christophe.

Deodato’s breakthrough came at CTI Records. There he was an in-demand producer and arranger. He arranged the epic Antonio Carlos Jobim release, Stone Flower but the public became aware of this musical visionary from his CTI debut, Prelude.On that album, the unlikely jazz arranged “Also Sprach Zarathustra” rose to #2 on the U.S. pop charts and won a Grammy in 1974. The Richard Strauss composition had resurfaced in the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The extended, funky jazz arrangement reflected the fluid musical styles of the era and the expansive production at CTI. Deodato has continued to record, breathing new life into American treasures like “Rhapsody In Blue”, “Moonlight Serenade” and “The Theme from Peter Gunn”. He has also recorded various original compositions as well as popular covers.

Speakers Corner has released a re-mastered audiophile vinyl of Deodato 2. With complex, musically accessible arrangements and funked up jazz, this album exemplifies the core of Deodato. Side A opens with an iconic rock standard, “Nights In White Satin”. Originally recorded by the Moody Blues on their classically arranged 1967 Days Of Future Passed, Justin Hayward’s haunting love refrain is considerably re-imagined by Deodato. Starting with a synth line of the bridge, the trademark Fender Rhodes takes over and morphs onto the main theme. There is a dirge-like tempo with horn/woodwind flourishes. Then a rocking transition with nasty wah-wah guitar (John Tropea) ensues. After a synthesizer solo, the overall sound expands and builds out with palpable agility. There is a bluesy guitar and electric piano that sets up a horn-swelling conclusion. With verve and artistry, Deodato covers a Ravel masterpiece, “Pavane For a Dead Princess”. He interprets the distilled procession-like tempo with a spooky one-note intro. The lush string accompaniment is superb and bring eloquence to the achingly lyrical melancholy. A simple piano is a supple complement to the string section. Switching gears dramatically, an original composition, “Skyscrapers” is hard-driving funk with a tight rhythm section and trumpet lead. There is great percussion and some unexpected Latin-infused chord changes. The tempo is relentless and features a jagged electric guitar and synth solo.

Side B is unforgettable. Consisting of two cuts, it is 18 minutes of unbridled Deodato magic. “Super Strut” is as advertised, a jazz rock, dance in the street party with an infectious Fender Rhodes lead and soaring effect-laden guitar. The muscular arrangement is augmented by deft touches like a flute interlude and a horn-based chorus. Deodato rocks out on two extended solos and Tropea shines on a long scratchy guitar solo. The repeat of the horn chorus is catchy and the hint of blues imagery is stellar. It seems entirely appropriate that Deodato selected “Rhapsody In Blue” as an impactful finale. Gershwin pioneered the fusion of classical and jazz structures in this iconic composition. Deodato wastes no time launching into Fender grooves at the onset. The grandiosity of the main title theme is translated by the agile counterpoint of brass and strings. The cinematic swirling resonance is punctuated with crescendos and Ramsey-Lewis coolness via E.D. on electric piano. Flute shadings, congas and “finger-popping” bass all combine in a mosaic of electronic textures. Deodato’s prowess on the Fender is evident and the sprightly, glowing ambiance resonates. The snippet of acoustic piano  from the original arrangement is a subtle and evocative homage.

Working with Rudy Van Gelder’s source engineering is always a plus. This vinyl re-mastering is polished and is captured with rich tonal agility and finesse. The warmness of the strings and electric piano are exquisitely juxtaposed with the crispness of the horns and sharpness of the electric guitar. The stereo separation is flawless. The gatefold has a high-quality glossy finish. Vinyl aficionados will be thrilled with Deodato 2.         

Side A: Nights In White Satin; Pavane For A Dead Princess; Skyscrapers
Side B: Super Strut; Rhapsody In Blue

Eumir Deodato – keyboards; Stanley Clark – bass; John Giulino – bass; Billy Cobham – drums; Rick Marotta – drums; John Tropea – guitar; Burt Collins – trumpet; John Faddis – trumpet, flugelhorn; Victor Paz – trumpet; Alan Rubin – trumpet, flugelhorn; Joe Shepley – trumpet; Marvin Stamm – trumpet, flugelhorn; Wayne Andre – trombone; Garnett Brown – trombone; Tony Stud – bass trombone; Jim Buffington – french horn; Brooks Tillotson – french horn; Joe Temperley – baritone saxophone; Jerry Dodgion – flute; Hubert Laws – flute; George Marge – flute Romeo Penque – flute; Alvin Brehm – Arco bass; Russell Savakus – Arco bass; Alfred Brown – viola; Emanuel Vardi – viola; Charles McCracken – cello; George Ricci – cello; Alan Shulman – cello with violins (Harry Cykman; Max ellen; Paul Gershman; Harry Glickman; Emanuel Green; Harold Kohan; Harry Lookofsky; Joe Malin; David Nadien; Gene Orloff; Elliot Rohstoff; Irving Spice

—Robbie Gerson