BRAZIL: Prelude - Deodato
Updated: Feb 10
Released in the 70s, these adaptations of classical music pieces from centuries ago have an almost futuristic quality to them, making this a truly timeless record
Classical jazz fusion is perhaps a harder genre than most to get right. Any adaptations of original scores of music need to find the balance between adding to them or improving them in some way, whilst also keeping the essence of the original in order to preserve the character of the piece that made it successful in the first place. Furthermore, any new compositions written have to balance complication instrumentation from both genres. This is a difficult feat to say the least, but to popularise this music makes the achievement even greater as both classical music and jazz are niche genres that do not typically appeal to the mass market. This is why on paper it might seem so astounding that the Brazilian keyboardist’s opening track went to number two in the pop charts in the US.
“....Deodato’s funky rhythms bring the German Composer’s work from the late romantic era to have an almost futuristic sound which holds up very well in the 21st century.”
Yet, listen to the song Also Sprach Zarathustra and one can immediately understand why this adaptation of Richard Strauss’ most famous piece took off in the way it did. Deodato’s funky rhythms bring the German composer’s work from the late romantic era to have an almost futuristic sound which holds up very well in the 21st century. John Tropea proves from this first track that he is great on the guitar but he takes this to another level in the next track which proves that Deodato is not just a one hit wonder, but rather an accomplished composer himself. Spirit Of Summer, one of the songs he wrote, contains an amazing string section with a beautiful solo that could be described as almost fado or flamenco-esque. The whole album contains a Latin twinge to it, but the solo on this track is the most overt example Latin jazz on the whole record. This is no coincidence. Deodato himself started off his career playing in bossa nova bands.
The next track is another written by the man himself. Carly & Carole is a perfect attempt at elevator music. It is easy to imagine canapés being handed out at the start of a swanky summer party on a rooftop terrace amidst the backdrop of this song. The track reminded me a lot of the music of Todd Terje, and it would not be a surprise were I to be told that the DJ took inspiration from the likes of Deodato.
After three songs, we find ourselves already at the halfway point of the album in which Deodato decides to revamp other tracks. He kicks off with the rather superbly named Baubles, Bangles And Beards which it has to be said is an excellent name for a song. The reason why it is called this is because the original track comes from a scene from the musical Kismet in which one of the protagonists, Marsinah, was being pursued by merchants with baubles as well as bangles, and considering it is set in Baghdad it would not be a tremendous surprise to assume they were also approaching her with their beards. The way in which Deodato makes the Broadway musical songwriters Robert Wright and George Forrest’s work more exciting is the immense guitar licks on display. As the song is not as well-known as the aforementioned Thus Sprach Zarathustra, Deodato seemingly has more leeway to play around with the music.
However, he then, once again, tries his hand at adapting a more famous classical tune from Claude Debussy. Whilst he did not select the slow yet absolutely beautiful Clair de Lune which the French composer is most famed for he did pick a prominent tune which classical music fans will certainly be au fait with. Deodato’s Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun is a jazzy version of the symphonic poem Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. The highlights of Deodato’s version definitely come from Hubert Laws’ flute solo at the start of the track which the original is probably best known for, before Marvin Stamm’s incredible trumpet solo in which his musical talent simply leaves the listener in awe.
Deodato demonstrates his eclectic mastery throughout and arguably does so nowhere quite as well as the final track which he co-wrote with Panamanian percussive extraordinaire Billy Cobham, who played with both Miles Davis and then with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The track is so funky that it could easily slip nicely into the back catalogue of Rick James, George Clinton, or Sly and the Family Stone as an instrumental piece. This album is full of musical skill and innovation of the highest order. If you take even a remote interest in either jazz or classical music you should check this record out, if only to hear what good fusion music can sound like.