Deodato - Prelude
Richard Strauss never achieved greater heights spiritually in music than he did in “Also Sprach Zarathustra”. He began this work in February 1896 and finished it six months later. In this magnificent work, Strauss, at the age of 32, took his inspiration from the book of a great philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). However, Strauss once declared that he never had the intention to write “philosophical music,” trying only to convey musically “the idea of the development of the human race, from its origin, through the various phases of evolution, religious as well as scientific, up to Nietzsche’s idea of the superman.”
Well, it took over 80 years to transform “Also Sprach Zarathustra” in a mega pop-hit, thanks to the brilliant adaptation of Eumir Deodato. Acting as a true “superman,” the great Brazilian arranger, then 31 years old, made Strauss’ symphonic poem famous all over the world. Actually, in the Spring of 1973, Deodato instantly became a household name with his unique version of the Strauss theme used as the main theme from Stanley Kubrick’s 1969 film “2001: A Space Odissey”.
“Prelude,” Deodato’s debut album as a leader in the USA, followed the worldwide success of the “2001” single (which reached #2 in the Billboard pop chart, below Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly”), climbed to the top of the jazz and pop charts, and became a million seller in America. Deodato got rave reviews and by the end of 1973 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”. The following year, a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental, for “2001”, plus a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, confirmed the monumental acclaim.
“Actually, when Creed Taylor convinced me to record my own version of “2001”, I had already listen to at least over ten pop adaptations of Strauss’ theme,” Deodato explains. “But for me they were all very boring, with no creativity at all. It had always intrigued me how Strauss had developed the melody. I remembered of a tune I had written a long time ago, actually when I was 15, it was a “baião” in C Major that worked against Strauss’ melody pretty well. I took my old tune as a countermelody and, as soon as I put both of them together, I found that I had something interesting to work with.”
Interviewed by Leonard Feather for the April 16, 1973 issue of DownBeat, Deodato provided more details: “That was Creed taylor’s suggestion, among other tunes he had suggested – “Prelude” and some others – I knew the piece already for quite a while. The melody always intrigued me... I had the score of the original Strauss version, and I restructured it. The way he put the chords together it always sounded weak. It doesn’t have the depth, because he was following that traditional orchestra distribution at that time; they didn’t have the facilities – they also didn’t have Rudy Van Gelder! He made the whole difference.”
CTI’s producer Creed Taylor always liked to include classical pieces in his albums, since his days at Verve and at A&M. “Creed also suggested me to include Holst’s “Planets” as well as one of the movements from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”, but both ideas seemed very complicated. However, the idea to adapt Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” worked pretty well, and Creed liked it to the point he decided to use it as the title track for the album,” explains Deodato.
Although unknown to the pop world at the time “2001” exploded in the airwaves, Deodato was far from being a newcomer. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 22, 1942, he started his career during the bossa nova era. The opportunity to move to the USA came in 1967, through master guitarist Luiz Bonfá, who not only paid Deodato’s ticket to NY, as well as he provided him with enough work so as to allow him a minimum income in his first year in the New York City. In June 1967, during a session for Astrud Gilberto’s “Beach Samba” album, 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”. After that, the eclectic Brazilian arranger/keyboardist/composer worked several times for Creed Taylor, on albums led by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Walter Wanderley, Milton Nascimento, Paul Desmond (on whose “Summertime” album Deodato did a rare studio date playing acoustic guitar!), Stanley Turrentine, and as a member of the CTI All Stars group.
Between 1969 and 1972, Deodato also arranged for such industry heavyweights as Frank Sinatra, Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin. So, by the time Creed Taylor offered him the chance to cut his first solo album for CTI, Deodato was already a mature artist. Plus: it was all this diverse experience in varied musical fields that gave him a unique ability to fuse his Brazilian roots with jazz, pop, rock and classical elements. It was the key formula to the “2001” success and what you hear throughout “Prelude”.
“Also Sprach Zarathustra” (2001) – “When I started working on this piece, I found it was in the key of C. That old melody I had written when I was 15 years old, and that I used as a counterpoint, was by coincidence in C too. Then, I asked Ron Carter to bring to the session that bass which has the extra string in C,” tells Deodato. “Everything seemed to fit perfectly and we did a good first take. I insisted to do a second take, but we didn’t achieve the spontaneous feeling of the first one. When releasing the single, Creed shortened the track from nine to five minutes, and boom!”
“Spirit of Summer” – This very beautiful ballad was written by Deodato in 1968 to take part in a Song Contest named the Third International Song Festival, which took place in Rio de Janeiro. Deodato’s first recording appeared on an album he recorded in early 1972 for the London/Odeon label in Brazil, “Percepção”. This studio version for CTI features solos by Jay Berliner (on a Spanish-tinged acoustic guitar phrasing) and Hubert Laws on flute, with Deodato playing acoustic piano and making sumptuous use of the two French horns to introduce the haunting melody. Later on, Deodato did a live version included on the “Deodato/Airto In Concert” album, and the tune was covered by the vocal group The Emotions on their “Sunbeam” album. Since 2005, “Spirit of Summer” has been performed all over the world by Brazilian singer Ithamara Koorax in all her concerts with symphony orchestras.
“Carly & Carole” – Titled in homage to Carly Simon & Carole King, this song had been previously recorded by Deodato on the “Os Catedráticos 73” album, the last one he recorded in Brazil before signing with CTI, but released only after the big success of “2001”. This version recorded at Van Gelder’s studio only with the rhythm section (Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, Ray Barretto) plus Hubert Laws on flute, was also a first-take, featuring one of Deodato’s best solos ever on a Fender Rhodes electric piano.
“Baubles, Bangles and Beads” – Another fantastic track by the legendary team of “operetta” composers Robert Whright & George Forrest, who adapted the melody from a classical piece by Russian composer Alexander Borodin. Frank Sinatra made it a pop standard on the “Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim” album in 1967. Deodato’s arrangement doesn’t make use of the bossa nova beat adopted by Claus Ogerman’s score for Sinatra, opting for a funky-rock-pop treatment based on an infectious beat propelled by Ron Carter (his only track on this bass playing electric bass!) and Billy Cobham. The mellifluous solos are by Deodato and John Tropea.
“Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun” – Inspired by a Malarmé poem, Claude Debussy, the great master of the French Impressionism, wrote this landmark work. Deodato adapted it in a very sophisticated way, mixing acoustic and electric pianos, giving the solo spot to his old friends Marvin Stamm on trumpet and Hubert Laws on flute, as well as featuring Ron Carter’s gorgeous and warm sound on the acoustic bass. The writing for the strings section is also noteworthy, very subtle and effective.
“September 13” – “Well, during the break Billy Cobham was sitting at the drums, doing this nice beat…I told him, “This sounds nice, why don’t we play something to it?” Then I told the bass player and John Tropea the guitarist, “Let’s do something in A Minor…” So I told Rudy to go ahead and record it. I took the tape home and listened to it carefully, the drum breaks, number of bars etc. and came up with the melody. So when you hear it, the drums cue the melody every time. And since we couldn’t come up with any other title, I suggested September 13, the date of the session,” Deodato told DownBeat during that 1973 interview.
Deodato’s version of “2001” has recently found its way into the repertoire of the rock band Phish. For sure, Deodato’s take on Strauss’ will continue to be heard loud and clear across all lands during the new millenium.
(Liner notes originally written on June 24, 2000 for the Japanese CD reissue of “Prelude” in the “CTI Best Collection”; revised on June 26, 2006 for the Japanese 24-Bit Remastering reissue in the “CTI Timeless Collection” series)