Walter Wanderley






Batucada is the saturated-effervescent colorful successor to organist Walter Wanderley's (1932–1986) Exotica opus Rain Forest from 1966. Glowing in a cavalcade of pigments, Batucada is recorded in Hollywood in May and June of 1967, released in the same year on Verve Records, spans 12 tracks – among them a whopping six compositions written specifically for this album – and offers both an esprit and particularly unique textures which, despite the Latin origin of the material, are coated in Space-Age stardust, energetic rhythms and a positively crisp kind of a rose-tinted look. Batucada bursts at the seams due to its catchy melodies and euphonious strata.


Walter Wanderley's gargantuan organ cascades are skillfully accentuated by guitarist and main songwriter Marcos Valle, percussionist Lu Lu Ferreira, drummers Dom Um Romão and Paulinho Romão, vocalists Claudio Miranda and Talya Ferro as well as bassists Jose Marina and Sebastião Neto. The vocals only appear on three tracks, but this time I wish they would be featured more frequently, for they are not your typically fiery chants; instead, they are draped in hall effects and emanate an effulgent luminosity that meshes astonishingly well with the blissful nuts and bolts of the arrangements. The title of the LP is no arbitrary aphorism but mirrors its style: Batucada is an Africanized substyle of Samba and generally even more upbeat and uplifting than its already flamboyant parent. Wanderley's album only draws from the percussion instruments and the tempo, as he otherwise tends to transfigure the idea of Batucada and remains in a sphere of its own, for ginormous walls of organ washes are by tendency non-applicable in a more faithful nod to the genre. Although the year of its release prevents Batucada from truly belonging to the circle of clear cut Exotica releases, I deem its depicted moods and carefree physiognomy close enough to let it pass as a Bachelor Pad-infused Exotica-traversed Space-Age ruby which deserves a detailed dissection.


Phil Zeller's On The South Side Of Chicago smashes the dreams of a tropical cut right at the beginning of the album, but only due to its title and on the pixels of your device, not amid the soundscape itself, for Wanderley transforms the big band classic into a well-oiled organ-kindled machinery which launches in medias res, with the pristine organ droplets already spiraling, astutely underlined by Marcos Valle's golden acoustic guitar rhythms and the plinking as well as frizzling percussion layers. A certain metropolitan aura cannot be entirely killed off, but this is just the beginning anyway, as O Barquinho by Ronaldo Bôscoli and Roberto Menescal injects a glaring dreaminess through its earthen downtempo groove, the warmly oscillating legato organ washes in adjacency to the polymorphous specks and electric piano blebs. Shuttling between Lounge and jungle rivers in technicolor, O Barquinho feels delicately streamlined and creates a flow of carefreeness that is incredibly intense.


While the eponymous Batucada by Marcos and Paul Sérgio Valle features Samba drums, caixas, hi-hats and guiros among echoey organ shards of joy, electric piano lights and an almost unnoticeable guitar frame, Arnold Goland's and Jack Gold's It Hurts To Say Goodbye is one of the rare duds because of its melancholic melody and the rather pastel-colored gloom on the organ; even the segues submerge into nostalgia, only the chocalho shakers and the final major triad tower above the lands of melancholia. Marcos Valle's own Os Grilos aka The Crickets Sing For Anamaria is an entirely different critter that may first reside in the same realms of gloom, but soon opens up with the help of shape-shifting organ runlets which are either loungey-smooth or over the top and iridescent. The plasticity of the percussion boosts the energy level further.


Side A closes with João Donato's and João Gilberto's Minha Saudade, a decidedly Copa Cabana-inducing beach ditty ennobled by Claudio Miranda's threefold vocal layers which are incredibly smooth and soothing. Valle's acoustic guitar is chock-full of that famous Brazilian spirit, Wanderley's organ tittles jump around the aural beach, but always distribute the right amount of effervescence, never being too much over the top. Even though Minha Saudade is loaded with several tones in minor as well, it does not even come close to painting a sepia-tinted landscape rather than a paradisiac field charged with a laid-back aura.


Side B opens with another tune by Marcos Valle: É Preciso Cantar is a wonderful artifact of Space-Age timbres and mostly about easygoing yet exciting adventures. The organs orbit around thin atmospheres and sudden polyphonies, the piano notes in higher regions seem like fresh breezes, the drone of the organ floats like a river, the percussion is bright and strong. This great tune is even outshone by Peggy Lee's and John Pisano's So What's New? which presents a heretofore unheard range of organ-based surfaces and patterns that resemble glass-like structures, dissonant hiccups and pre-Rave tonalities par excellence, and let me not forget the superb Wave by Antonio Carlos Jobim with Talya Ferro's crystal clear and cozy vocals. Wanderley and Vallos use their organ and guitar to accentuate the elysian aura, not to create it in the first place. Wave constantly appears on many an Exotica-related LP, but this version is something special.


Afterwards, Marvos Valle returns with a unique cut called Ainda Mais Lindo, another Lounge-loving apparition of phantasmagoric organ winds, a glinting glissando and refreshing hi-hat frostiness, whereas Ela E Carioca by Ray Gilbert, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes is the moony hammock-friendly downbeat tune with a duet by Claudio Miranda and Talya Ferro who sing both the Portuguese and English lyrics. The instrumentation is silkier and more reduced in order to let the vocalists shine all the better. Jequibau by Carlos Pereiro and Mario Albanese then puts the gurgling-dripping cuica drums into the limelight, with their bubbling sound being easily perceptible even when Wanderley's polylayered organ erections flow through the acoustic guitar-accompanied Lounge lands. This closing cut underwhelms a tad, for it does not end the album with an exhilarative bang rather than another – admittedly greatly – mellow example of Wanderley's interpretation of the Batucada substyle.


Despite its tiny flaws, Batucada is a great organ-fueled Space-Age/Exotica hybrid. It is, I believe, much closer to these genres than to the original incarnations of its Latin material. Its flaws do not even need to be perceived that way; consider the utter coherence and stringency, for instance, which might bore certain listeners a tiny bit, especially so since the variety is indeed lower than on the emerald-green predecessor Rain Forest. Mind you, Batucada remains a joyride notwithstanding, especially so for those who favor uptempo or even rapid-firing rhythms. Batucada is oftentimes so smoking fast in comparison to other Exotica albums that once Wanderley and his band venture into midtempo climes, it so happens that this material is then perceived as slow as molasses. Cried, Cried and The Girl From Ipanema off Rain Forest come to mind tempo-wise, so if one knows these renditions, Batucada will offer much joy. The bassists are the only instrumentalists whose impact is amiss, since their serpentines are incessantly swallowed by the incredibly catchy organ textures and susurrant acoustic guitar chords. This could potentially be yet another flaw, but it depends on the perception of each listener.


A much more positive impression is left by the vocalists Claudio Miranda and Talya Ferro who, despite their appearances on only three songs, improve their structures very much, the reason being their non-clichéd, somewhat modern endeavor. No Latin chants are unchained, no melodrama is presented, every line is delivered smoothly yet in a meaningful, heartfelt way. The reduction of the organ layers is a nice change of pace in these pieces. Fans of Walter Wanderley know this album anyway, but those who just reduce his genius to Rain Forest and think that this is the end of the exotic line should pre-listen to the material of Batucada and see whether they can relate to it. I am sure they can! Since it is chock-full of organ goodness and has been re-issued on CD and digital download versions, an investigation should be worth anyone's while. Rain Forest remains the more varied work, but the energetic tempo range of Batucada during most of its runtime should please Bachelor Pad fans, Exotica followers and Space-Age astronauts equally. 


Exotica Review 221: Walter Wanderley – Batucada (1967). Originally published on Jun. 1, 2013 at