Wednesday, August 28, 2013

R.I.P.: Luiz Claudio "Sandalia Dela"

R.I.P.: Luiz Claudio de Castro
(born March 22, 1935 in Curvelo, Minas Gerais, Brazil;
died August 28, 2013 in Guaratinguetá, São Paulo, Brazil)

Regarded as a "singers' singer", one of the most beautiful voices in the history of Brazilian music, Luiz Claudio de Castro passed away a few hours ago in the small city of Guaratinguetá (the land of São Frei Galvão, the first Brazilian Saint, in the State of São Paulo), where he lived for the past three years, after he decided to move from Rio de Janeiro and retire from the professinal career. He is survived by Heloisa Helena, his wife for more than 50 years.

Luiz Claudio, also an acoustic guitarist and great composer ("Deixa A Nega Gingar" aka "Sandalia Dela" received many recordings by such artists as Elza Soares, Elizeth Cardoso, Ithamara Koorax and Duke Pearson with Flora Purim), recorded many albums for the Columbia, RCA, Musidisc and Odeon labels. His legendary rendition of "Este Seu Olhar," done for Columbia in 1958, was arranged by Antonio Carlos Jobim and featured João Gilberto on the guitar. Moacir Santos, Paulo Moura, Wagner Tiso and J.T. Meirelles also appeared on his albums.

Although he devoted most of his life to romantic songs, applying his warm tone and velvet-like voice to Brazilian ballads, cantigas, toadas, modinhas and folk-oriented songs from his native Minas Gerais, Luiz Claudio's most popular composition all over the world is a simple & pretty sambalanço (or "samba-jazz" or "bossa-jazz", you name it) titled "Deixa A Nega Gingar," written in April 1962 and recorded in Brazil by Toni Vestane, Waltel Branco, Elizeth Cardoso, Elza Soares, Celso Murilo, Orlann Divo (aka Orlandivo), and Claudio himself for RCA (with an arrangement by trombonist Astor Silva). In recent years, the song was recorded by Ithamara Koorax, Clara Moreno and Clémentine.
Curiously, this song became a cult hit in the jazz world after Flora Purim recorded "Deixa A Nega Gingar" in 1969 on Duke Pearson's "How Insensitive" LP for Blue Note. Actually, Flora was the one who suggested Pearson to include it on the album. But she didn't remember Luiz Claudio's name neither the correct song title, and it was released under the title "Sandalia Dela" with no mention to the composer. The radio DJs fell in love with the song which started to receive instant airplay all over the USA. But nobody knew the author's name and many thought it was a Brazilian folk song of public domain. 
At that same year (1969), Flora sang "Sandalia Dela" (sorry, "Deixa A Nega Gingar") during an European tour with Stan Getz, and a Paris concert was eventually released as an unofficial album titled "Major Generale." Once again under a wrong title and with no credits to Luiz Claudio. Both albums were reissued on CD, but Claudio remained uncredited. And there's also the fantastic video on youtube (link above) of Getz & Flora -- plus Stanley Cowell, Miroslav Vitous and Ben Riley -- performing "Sandalia Dela."
Not to mention that, previously, another disaster had happened back in 1963, when Bola Sete recorded it under the title "Mambossa" (for the "Bola Sete, Vince Guaraldi and Friends" LP), and Claudio's name was omitted (what a curse!)
The oddest thing is that Luiz Claudio only became aware of all this craziness when we talked in March 2000, when I was supervising and writing the liner notes for a CD reissue of Bola/Guaraldi's album for Fantasy Records. "I never received one cent for any of these recordings in the USA," Claudio stated. After the CD release, since I corrected the info about "Mambossa," Bola Sete's widow (who probably never had heard about Claudio) tried to sue Fantasy Records. But, fortunately, Luiz Claudio provided us with all the documents that proved that he was the real composer.
In Brazil, Claudio built a beautiful career that started in 1949 as a member of the vocal group Trovadores do Luar, in Belo Horizonte. Moving to Rio de Janeiro, he did his first solo recording (a 78rpm) for the Sinter label in 1952. Three years later, he signed with Columbia and started to receive many awards, becoming a star on live radio shows.
More awards followed in radio and magazine contests, and he jumped to RCA in 1960, and later recorded only one album for the small Musidisc label in 1966, "Luiz Claudio Entre Nós," with his old music teacher Moacir Santos as special guest (an item reissued on CD by the UK label What Music in 2004) on two of his compositions: "Coisa Nº 10" (later covered by Sivuca on "Live at the Village Gate" for Vanguard in 1975) and "Jequié" (recorded by Airto in 1972 during the "Free" sessions for CTI, and later included as bonus track on the 2003 CD reissue of that album). Other musicians on "Entre Nós" included Wagner Tiso, Paulo Moura and Durval Ferreira.
But it was at the Odeon label (lately known as EMI-Odeon and now part of the Universal Music Group), that he recorded (from 1968 to 1979) the most beautiful albums (all out-of-print, of course...) of his entire career, perfecting a subtleness that can be heard on such precious items as "Intimidade," "Cantiga," "Reportagem" and "Viola de Bolso." During the 70s, many tracks from those albums received heavy airplay at JB-AM, the best radio station in Brazil around that time, thanks to the sensitivity of such people as Luiz Carlos Saroldi and Simon Khoury, who were among the biggest fans of Claudio's artistry alongside Luiz Bonfá, Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto, Gaya and Stellinha Egg.
During his Odeon years, he worked with such arrangers and musicians as Marcos de Castro, Ubirajara Cabral, Eduardo Souto Neto, Paulo Moura, Antonio Adolfo, Wagner Tiso & the Som Imaginário group, Lindolpho Gaya (aka Maestro Gaya), J.T. Meirelles, Chiquito Braga, Luizão Maia, Wilson das Neves, Alberto Arantes and many others. After his deal with Odeon ended, he still released a special LP/book project, "Minas Sempre-Viva" in 1983.
Another highly recommended CD is the compilation "Este Seu Olhar," released by the Revivendo label in 2005. Producer Leon Barg managed to license 18 gems from the Columbia, RCA and Odeon vaults, starting with the title track composed & arranged by Antonio Carlos Jobim, with João Gilberto (uncredited!) on acoustic guitar. There are also two wondrous Luiz Claudio's songs after poems by Guimarães Rosa ("O Galo Cantou Na Serra") and his friend & admirer Carlos Drummond de Andrade ("Viola de Bolso").
Other highlights include Tito Madi's waltz "Quero-Te Assim" (recorded in 1957 for Columbia), João Chaves' "Amo-Te Muito" (that he learned from his friend Stellinha Egg), Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" (with Portuguese lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes) and Caetano Veloso's "Onde Eu Nasci Passa Um Rio." I only regret that his sublime version of Luiz Bonfa/Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Correnteza" (Claudio was the first one to record it in 1973) wasn't included on that compilation.
His last concert was at the CCBB Auditorium (Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil) on August 12, 2000, sharing the stage with his friend & idol, Tito Madi. In his very last years, Luiz Claudio (an architect who also loved to paint) did some exhibitions of his work as a painter. Some of his work can be seen on this site:
Rest in Peace. We'll continue savouring your music.

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