Eumir Deodato & Jazz Sinfônica
In São Paulo

By Martin Longley

Does Eumir Deodato spend his year travelling the globe, hooking up with the biggest orchestras he can find? This man is known to most as the purveyor of 1973's funked-up re-reading of the 2001: A Space Odyssey theme. That's Also Sprach Zarathustra, composed by Richard Strauss. In recent years, he's reached a completely new audience by working with Björk.

Last August, Deodato climaxed the closing night of The Big Chill weekender, appearing in front of The Heritage Orchestra, but now he's here in São Paulo, with the city's resident Jazz Sinfonica, quite possibly an even bigger beast. Like the Heritagers, their concept of jazz includes the possibility of massed string sections, lending a lush orchestral plumpness to the proceedings.

As part of my citywide tour of venues created by inspirational architect Oscar Niemeyer, I've just ambled ten minutes down the avenue from where I'm currently residing, to his Memorial Da América Latina complex, which includes a library, a theatre, a winding bridge and a big bloody hand. More of Niemeyer's trademark organic bumps and curves. Every edifice is pregnant. The theatre itself lies within a building that's like a huge apple strudel, and it's the home of the Jazz Sinfonica, where they get to play gigs at least once a month, usually behind visiting composers or bands.

Well, back to Deodato, who's here for two nights. Born in Rio De Janeiro, he's spent most of his professional life living in the US of A. Speaking of the 1970s, he's robed in a gloriously white safari suit, of the sort also favoured by Karlheinz Stockhausen, looking a speck of his actual age, which is into the early sixties. A mop-top tops his boyish grin, and his keyboard style hasn't changed either. Eumir's electric piano sounds have now come back into fashion...

He toys with an acoustic piano for a while, but ultimately he's an amplified kind of a guy, balancing well with the rousing clash of the Sinfonica. His keys are well up in the mix, equal with the spiralling spangle of his electric guitar sideman. The repertoire is not that adventurous, including Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue and Tom Jobim's Girl From Ipanema, though delivered via his own arrangements, and therefore funkified into something quite different than what's normally expected. Deodato's slot flies by, but the pieces are extended, giving the impression that he's not hanging around much. Impossible to avoid saying this, but Eumir's version of Also Sprach Zarathustra is the evening's high point, the Sinfonica ably providing the epic string-scythings that this mammoth work demands.
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