Walter Wanderley
From Rio With Love






From Rio With Love is another flamboyant, no-compromise colorful 12-track album by Walter Wanderley (1932–1986), maybe Brazil’s most famous organist. It is released in 1966 on the Tower label. The material is exclusively based on compositions by fellow Brazilian composers, hence living up to its title which becomes less of a meaningless hull and more of a fitting harbinger. I am quite wary of the old saying “once you know one piece, you know ’em all,” but here for once, it is oh so true, firstly in regard to the album’s style, secondly – and especially so – when one compares it to the organist’s other aural landmarks such as the exotic pinnacle Rain Forest (1966) or the tachycardia-causing Batucada (1967) with its breakneck maelstroms of paradisiac colors. 


From Rio With Love, meanwhile, has Walter Wanderley leading a septet and sees his adamantly shuttling organ play skillfully accentuated by guitarist Marcos Valle, percussionist Lu Lu Ferreira, drummers Dom Um Romão and Paulinho Romão, vocalists Claudio Miranda and Talya Ferro as well as bassists José Marina and Sebastião Neto. The Exotica connoisseurs will probably scratch their heads as the album does not even feature one easily recognizable or well-known melody, but this works to Wanderley’s advantage who can unleash and introduce many an ear to typical Brazilian songs… presented in non-clichéd electro-acoustic arrangements. What follows is business as usual, a closer inspection of the album’s enchanting artifacts. And who knows, maybe this is the LP that in hindsight encapsulates Walter Wanderley’s most famous take?


Do you know the sad trombone fanfare? Sure you do! The launch of Walter Wanderley’s album approximates the bittersweet concept of losing a contest in the very last minute via gorgeous organ textures and an alloy of horns; such is the jingle-worthy enchantment of Carlos Lyra‘s and Vinicius de MoraesYou And I (Você E Eu) which ventures on to rhythm guitar-interspersed, click percussion-heavy purified lands of soothingness. The lead guitar has an attack rate and punching slap that is gorgeously interwoven. The following Rio And I (Eu E O Rio) by Luíz Antonio takes the interpersonal bond of togetherness away and moves towards the bustling city, raises the tempo to Batucada levels and fills its dense cowbell thicket with spiraling trumpet turbulences and a polyhedric staccato organ mélange. Marcos Valle's guitar does not gleam as effervescently as in the opener, but the silkened organ blobs make up for it. A paradisiac, easygoing yet forward moving song.


Whereas Vinicius de Moraes’ and Baden Powell de Aquino’s The Flame (Labareda) first showcases a dun ritual with droning kettle drums plus grainy maracas and then immediately moves into tramontane tectonics in technicolor which glide along in close proximity to Brazilian baila labareda lyrics complete with snake charmer allusions, the quirkily bubbling I’ll Be Right Back (Volta Já) by Armando Cavalcanti and Moacyr Falcão turns out to be a joyously frantic and rotatory Samba with golden trumpets, iridescent organs and joyous vocals whose off-key vividness only adds to the free-form impression. On Dorival Caymmi’s I’ve No Place To Live (Eu Não Tenho Onde Morar), Wanderley’s translucent organ is vesiculating wildly in-between the embracing trumpet shards, with Fernando César’s and Leal Brito’s What Do You Know About Me (Que Sabe Você De Mim) featuring cavalcades of organ textures – car horn echopraxia, faux-Oriental movements, fractal serpentines – and unites this delightful patchwork with magnanimous horn helixes and a wondrous euphony. Side A is finished, its afterglow still burning on the listener's retina.


Side B opens with Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars (Corcovado), and it is indeed the very first midtempo critter, still fast enough, but perceived as slow due to the breakneck endemics which reign on the album. The organ is a bit more whitewashed and streamlined most of the time, but the nocturnal-ashen aura is beautifully erected by means of laid-back guitars. It is almost a soothing moonlit mirage. In Life’s Poem (O Poema Da Vida) by A. Brumatti and Roberto Cópia, Wanderley’s band fathoms out the sun-dappled slackery in another comparably slow piece. Latin piano sprinkles are admixed to the scenery, the scenery is illumined by the constant clickery of Lu Lu Ferreira's claves and tonewoods, their reverberation adding plasticity and wideness to the scenery of contentment.


Whereas Let Things Be (Deixa Andar) by composer Jujuba is a vocal-backed uptempo track with another dose of Latinized piano prongs of the saltatory kind, cowbell glitz and vivacious organ-guitar enmeshments, The Same Yellow Rose (A Mesma Rosa Amarela) by Lourenço da Fonseca Barbosa aka Capiba is a favorite of mine due to its proto-Lounge interstices, the enshrinement of soothingness and a more rectilineal approach rather than another depiction of the ever-ebullient intrinsic aura. There is a certain mist in the arrangement, a less jumpy texture cocktail, everything is in favor of mellowness with traces of melancholia. I’ll Only Go With A Woman (Só Vou De Mulher) by Haroldo Barbosa and Luiz Reis is similarly nostalgic and – in hindsight – retrogressively futuristic, but moulds the coziness of The Same Yellow Rose into a faster vocal-backed fluxion with eupeptic tidbits in the shapes of gleaming horns and quasi-hidden marimbas.


The finale is probably the most famous Wanderley production due to its inclusion in the Ultra Lounge series decades later: Baby Took Revenge (A Nêga Se Vingou) by Venâncio and Jorge Costa is a super-glowing, heavily euphonious anthem, with its title leniently chanted by the choir, emended with mountainous guitar movements and a catchy six-note theme on the horns. Wanderley’s car horn organ adds a different horn texture to the scenery, mercilessly gyrating around and scything through the acoustic warmth. And so the final tune is indeed a smarmy element, clearly Pop-oriented, electrically ameliorated and a bachelor pad-compatible Exotica piece par excellence.


From Rio With Love is a prototypical Wanderley artifact with no negative surprise and, if you will, no utterly unexpected stylistic tradeoff. Here we have the rare case of an Exotica-related album that does offer more of the same. Desultory listeners are usually quick at pointing out that the genre itself is based on repetitions, replays and renditions of the same old material. This ever-repeated and essential Moebius loop, oddly enough, does not pester From Rio With Love in the slightest. The opposite is clearly the case, the organist and his fellows present 12 cuts that are unheard of in the book of North American Jazz standards, for obvious reasons. A certain kind of variety is therefore a given, and the heterogenous Space-Age crowd is unlikely to face the majority of the presented material on albums by different artists.


However: what the album gains in song-related variety, it loses from a bird’s eye perspective, as it is utterly stringent and streamlined when compared to Wanderley’s oeuvre. This is no bad thing per se, but even I as a fan of his music would hesitate and think twice about taking part in a hypothetical quiz which could be based on ten-second snippets of various Wanderley takes. I would fail severely if the excerpt would not be a take of a Brazilian gold standard. What sounds negative on the pixels of your reading device turns into an elated boon sound-wise. If you dig the organ-infused monoliths of enchantment, chances are you like all of the organist’s 60’s albums. Sometimes it is great or even consoling that no improvement whatsoever takes place and everything remains the same across and amid all albums. Wanderley has peaked early and saw no room for further improvements, not even for different styles or arrangements thereof. Elation ever, eclecticism never: From Rio With Love is a superb album and greatly compatible with workout schedules or jogging routes. Just don't ask for a particular reason to own it if you already possess his other albums and are no diehard collector, as I cannot give you an educated explication. It is available on vinyl and a digital-only reissue.


Exotica Review 299: Walter Wanderley – From Rio With Love (1966). Originally published on Dec. 28, 2013 at