Eumir Deodato, the master arranger

Brasil Observer - Mar 17 2017

(Leia em Português)


Brazilian musician speaks to Brasil Observer before coming to London for two performances at Ronnie Scott’s


By Gabriela Lobianco

Born in Rio de Janeiro and educated in the United States, Eumir Deodato is a versatile composer, arranger and instrumentalist who perform almost every year at Ronnie Scott’s, renowned jazz club in the British capital.

In spite of a well-rounded resume, with more than 500 albums between arrangements and compositions, besides a Grammy on the shelf, Eumir is very shy and talks about his trajectory quite simply. “I always perform at Ronnie Scott’s with its own orchestra. I prefer to perform outdoors, but especially now, in the winter, I end up surrendering to the clubs,” he said in an exclusive conversation via Skype with the Brasil Observer.

This year’s concert includes Dom Glover on trumpet, Dave Williamson on trombone, Ben Castle on baritone saxophone and flute, Ronan McCullagh on guitar, Andrew McKinney on bass, Pat Illingworth on drums and Snowboy on percussion. According to Deodato, this is a simple show, but well rehearsed and thought, with a mixture of jazz and throbbing rhythms. He adds that the audience that normally reveres him is mixed between foreigners and Brazilians, not just immigrants but travellers. “Despite the crisis, right?” he teased. And he shies away from commenting on serious issues such as the situation of immigrants in the United States or Brexit. “I have not followed these issues very much”.



Self-taught, Eumir Deodato began his career aged 12 playing the accordion. He then devoted himself to studies in piano, orchestra arrangements and regency. He became famous in 1973 with the album Prelude, which he recorded live at Madison Square Garden in New York. Especially with the track “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, world-wide known as the theme of the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”, by Stanley Kubrick. It was the first of numerous soundtracks for which he worked in Hollywood, such as Lewis Gilbert’s “The Adventurers”, with the American actress Candice Bergen in the cast, or even his composition “Spirit of the Summer”, which ended part of the soundtrack of “The Exorcist”.

Eumir is also remembered for having worked in the 1960s with renowned Brazilian Popular Music artists such as Antônio Carlos Jobim, César Camargo Mariano, Baden Powell, Chico Buarque, Elis Regina and Vinícius de Moraes. There were countless collaborations that led to others. This is the case of the song “Travessia”, by Milton Nascimento, which in 2017 turns 50, which ended up making possible partnerships with artists of the calibre of Icelandic Björk. “It’s true, I met her because of the arrangement [of the music] I made for the Festival [of Brazilian Music in 1967, TV Globo]. It’s spectacular, we worked in a studio in Spain with excellent musicians, like the Portuguese drummer Luís Jardim,” he recalls.


In addition, Eumir participated in the musical movement that emerged in the 1960s in Brazil’s State of Minas Gerais and culminated in the album Clube Da Esquina, which turns 45 in 2017. The movement merged Bossa Nova innovations and Jazz, Folk and Rock elements – with great influence of the Beatles – as well as erudite and Hispanic folk music. Milton Nascimento and the Borges brothers (Marilton, Márcio and Lô) led the club, of which Eumir was also part. “I took part in the album but did the things I already knew Milton had done. He gave me the song and I made the arrangement, only one of strings that became very beautiful. The rest of the album was made in Rio and I then went back to New York.”

When asked about the success of this emblematic album, Eumir says he does not have much responsibility for its success. “There are very beautiful things made by Lô Borges, the rest of the group that worked with Milton at that time and still work with him.” And reveals that he has no contact with these musicians and artists: “I have not heard from Milton Nascimento for many years now. Is he well?” he asks.



After Prelude sold millions of copies, settling for third place on Billboard, Eumir Deodato’s career took off. At the same album, he added bossa nova style to “Afternoon of a Faun” by Claude Debussy. After that, he worked with several established artists: he was arranger of Frank Sinatra, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Kool and The Gang, among many others.

Anyone who can attend Ronnie Scott’s this month to enjoy the sound of Eumir Deodato will not regret it.