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09/25/11

Eumir Deodato
The Crossing
Amherst Records

As most baby-boomer jazz fans will recall, Brazilian pianist, producer and arranger Eumir Deodato, billed by only his surname, created quite a stir in the early 1970s when his LPs Prelude and Deodato 2 helped define the sultry, sharp vibe of CTI Records. One particular track on Prelude, Deodato’s funky recasting of Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” became a hit, won a Grammy and is now an enduring cultural footnote. Deodato hasn’t released new music in a long time, and The Crossing appears to be an attempt to gain some 21st-century relevance. The results are mixed.

Beginning the CD with two songs featuring Al Jarreau is understandable. But “Double Face” is a blatant stab at airplay, which would be a good move if the song were any good; it’s too coy, and the wordplay (“Double feature/double creature/that’ll teach ya”) is too corny. Better is “I Want You More,” a cool, leisurely stroll where Jarreau’s histrionics are tempered by the seductive come-ons of Dora Nicolosi of Novecento.

The best songs on this CD recall the Deodato of old: the electric-piano wanderings, the soft strings, the extended jams—all perfect for background music at a space-age bachelor pad. It’s those vintage inflections that make this disc worthwhile—say, percussionist Airto Moreira joining in on “Border Line,” and John Tropea laying down ’70s-style electric guitar lines on “Night Passage” and the standard “Summertime.”

Originally published in October 2011
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