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Walter Wanderley: Sideman Sessions

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Brazilian organist Walter Wanderley was a Tony Bennett discovery. On one of Tony's South American tours in the early 1960s, he heard Wanderley backing a singer in a hotel and was taken with Wanderley's arrangements, jazz-tinged chord voicings and staccato solos. Tony brought back a bunch of Wanderley's Brazilian albums and gave them to Verve producer Creed Taylor. In 1966, Creed sent contracts to Wanderley and his trio to record. That year, Wanderley moved to San Francisco and recorded Rain Forest for Creed in New York along with A Certain Smile, a Certain Sadness with Astrud Gilberto. Summer Samba and The Girl From Ipanema, two singles, were big hits.

Wanderley often teamed with vocalists. Here's Brazilian singer Luiz Henrique (above left) backed by Wanderley on Cabaret, the main theme for the Broadway musical that had just opened in 1966. The video clip includes fabulous home movies of Wanderley (in orange) and Henrique in New York's Central Park in the fall of 1966 with rented Raleigh three-speeds. There's also footage of Henrique in Chicago in the winter near the Happy Medium club, where The Mad Show, a revue based on Mad magazine, was playing...



Many more albums for Creed would follow. Before Wanderley came to the States, he had a strong career as an arranger-accompanist for leading Brazilian vocalists in Rio de Janeiro. Here are five examples:

Here's singer Isaura Garcia with Wanderley in 1960. The two were married at the time...



Here's Alda Perdigão with Wanderley in 1960...



Here's singer Francisco Egydio backed by Wanderley in 1961...



Here's Neyde Fraga with Wanderley in 1964...



Here's Jota Domingos with Wanderley in 1965...



Bonus: Here's a track from a Wanderley album from 1962 that Tony Bennett certainly brought back to the U.S. for Creed...



And here's Wanderley himself in the early 1970s, in one of the only live videos of the organist, with drummer Victor M. Dig the three stacked folding chairs Wanderley is sitting on so he can get his feet comfortably on the peddles...



Walter Wanderley died in 1986 at age 54.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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