INTERVIEWS: Wanderley Impressions
Interview with Claudio Slon,
Drummer--January 10, 2000
Interviewer: B.J. Major
(This interview was obtained
Q. Claudio, I'd like to begin with you telling how you first met Walter while in Brazil and how you initially became acquainted with him--and then later on, how did you find working with him?
A. When I was 16, I started my professional career playing in Brazil with a very good jazz singer and pianist, named Dick Farney. Walter was a very well known performer of brazilian styles, so I never considered playing with him, as I was a jazz drummer. But he thought otherwise, and when my work with the jazz singer was over, Walter invited me to join his trio.
Q. If I could ask a bit more about the days pre-1966 when you and Walter were still in Brazil and recording there, could you tell me something about the popularity of the Trio in your home country and if you were touring at all in Brazil during that time, or making personal appearances--in addition to the albums?
A. The WW trio was very famous for recording songs of young composers like Jobim, Marcos Valle, Joao Donato, and also older ones. Also for dancing purposes, as Walter's rhythm was always very contagious and lent itself in those early recordings to make young people feel like dancing. We made a couple of appearances on big TV shows, and performed in several clubs. The records sold well, and we made a good living.
Q. How did your initial visit to the U.S. for the recording of "Rain Forest" come about and what role did singer Tony Bennett play in helping to make that happen?
A. After working with the trio for almost a year, Walter told me we were invited to come record for Creed Taylor in NY. It seems some fan kept showing our records to Creed, until finally he and Verve records sent recording contracts for us to sign.
Q. Were either you or Walter married at that time? If so, what was the reaction of your families to the news of your coming to the U.S. to record?
A. I was married and we already had a 3 yr. old daughter; but fortunately my wife knew how much I had dreamed about coming to the States to record and work. So she stayed at my parents' house, and after getting settled in Los Angeles, I went back to Brazil, and we all came back to the US as residents, with Verve records as my sponsor. Walter wasn't married, as far as I know.
Q. Did you originally think that any Trio members would be coming to the U.S. to stay?
A. I was the only "jazz player" of the three, always dreaming about eventually coming here. Walter and the bass player were happy to come, but for them it was more for the obvious financial rewards.
Q. How did you get along/find working with the U.S. studio musicians at Verve?
A. On that first "Rain Forest" recording at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in New Jersey, I made some lifelong friends, like Bobby Rosengarden, drummer for the Tonight Show that loved brazilian music so much as to play percussion on the records we made. Trombonist Urbie Green is another, and also Bucky Pizzarelli that played guitar with us on our first recording. I'll never forget my excitement and emotions on those first dates.
Q. Did you and Walter speak both English and Portugese, or were you still learning English when you first arrived here?
A. I was the only one with a good idea of the language, as I went to an American school in Brazil. But Walter learned so fast, he was talking fluently to girls after only one month...
Q. What was your reaction (and Walter's, if you remember) to the initial success of "Rain Forest" in the U.S. once the album was released?
A. Complete disbelief. When the single "Summer Samba" was released, the radio stations started playing it solidly about 4 or 5 times EVERY HOUR! Then after months, they started playing side B, "Call Me". And when the album came out, it sold very well. It was certified Platinum (1 million units sold) after a couple of years.
Q. You have mentioned to me before that after you recorded "A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness", and then "Chegança", you left the Trio to go to New York to record the A&M "Wave" album with Antonio Carlos Jobim as well as Astrud Gilberto's second LP for Verve. Did you have any regrets leaving the WW Trio at that time?
A. None whatsoever. It was the right time for me to move on. I had offers to record with Jobim, Sinatra, Astrud, and to perform and record with other Brazilian artist, like Edu Lobo, Marcos Valle, Sergio Mendes-Brazil '66, etc.
Q. When did you personally make the decision to stay and live in the U.S.?
A. About ten minutes after arriving!
Q. I get the impression from the few photos I've seen that Walter was basically a very shy person. Would you say that is correct, and if not, how would you characterize his personality?
A. You are very observing. Yes, Walter was an extremely shy person, and that got in the way of his reaching higher fame, fortune, and recognition.
Q. To your knowledge, does Walter still have family members in Brazil?
A. I believe he has a daughter.
Q. Is there anything else of interest you would like our readers to know about Walter or his work?
A. Only that what now can be easily labeled by some as "lounge" music, at the time it was recorded [it] showcased the talent of a great player and artist that made his mark in the music world, and will never be forgotten. I know I will never forget him.
Thank you, Claudio for the interview!
All my best to you and your readers, and thank you for the interest.
Interviewer's Note: For those
who are curious, Claudio is the one who is wearing glasses on both
the "Chegança" and "A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness" Verve
Claudio also had this to say about working with Walter in this excerpt that is quoted from his full interview with disc jockey Cenir on KUVO-FM Radio, Denver. This 2 hour interview is transcribed in full on The Official Claudio Slon Website.
DJ: And tell me, how did it begin, the beginning of your musical life? How old you were, where did you play and where did it start?
CS: Ok. I was born in Argentina; my parents are from Argentina. They are classical musicians, both of them. So I started studying and practicing drums and playing classical music. Then, thank God we moved to Brazil; the music in Argentina is nice, but it's tango and the music in Brazil is much more rich rhythm-wise. And then I studied, still playing the drums. I played with jazz groups; the first professional job that I had was with (maybe you're too young for this)...a guy called Dick Farney?
DJ: Know him?! Yes, I do. [laughter]
CS: And he was like, a very famous singer and also a jazz pianist. So I studied with him--and also, I didn't play a lot of Brazilian music until I joined Walter Wanderley's Trio, which is a trio that we were in when we came to New York to record for Verve and Creed Taylor producing. And that was the beginning of the U.S./International career for me. Before that, it was like, just playing jazz and some (not too much) Brazilian music.
DJ: How old were you when you started?
CS: I started when I was 16, when I got my first job I was a minor, so my father had to go to the nightclub and take the court's representative to grant me permission to work in a place that serves alcohol, then the judge looked around and said "oh yes, this is a respectable place". So he gave me permission to play there. Little did he know that I was going to turn the place into a non-respectable place!
DJ: [laughter] Oh, that's wonderful. How did it start? Did you start with drums?
CS: Yes. I started with drums, but I studied piano, then stopped because it was too difficult, of course. I was very young (10 yrs. old) and my parents wanted me to play a "legitimate" instrument. And then I studied with my grandmother who was a classical piano teacher, but then I changed to drums. And then I started banging, you know, like everybody does. Like everyone does in Brazil! Here [in the U.S.] they go to school and they learn the RIGHT way. We just played. And then I started and my father said "are you sure you want to play THAT instrument?" because he is a concert master, so music for him is much more serious. Then he said, "well, at least join the symphony orchestra and play percussion for me, for my sake, so I can introduce you as 'this is my son and he plays classical music'". Then I said, "ok", so I lasted a year and a half playing classical percussion, but then I couldn't do it anymore so I said "that's it, I'm going to play jazz". And then I got a regular [drum] set.
DJ: I'm glad you did. We are all glad that you did! So, do you play other instruments? Piano?
CS: Piano was the beginning, but I never used it. I played drums and then now I [also] play a little percussion.
DJ: I know, because I heard you. Claudio Slon plays at Vartan Jazz every Saturday with the Pau Brasil Band and with any famous artist that comes to town. And I heard you doing the Pandeiro with the drum set. It's amazing.
CS: Thank you.
DJ: So, let's see. I know how you came to the United States, that you came with Walter Wanderley. When was that?
CS: That was 1965. Actually, our hit "Summer Samba" was right after "The Girl from Ipanema" (which was your opening number, your theme song), we came in right after that and we recorded an album and it went to Billboard number 3 out of the Billboard top five and then we recorded with Astrud Gilberto and then you know, we recorded another album called "Chegança", then after that I left the group and I started my recording career with Jobim and all the other guys. Then Walter moved to L.A. I stayed in New York a few more months, then I moved to L.A. also.
DJ: And you've lived in L.A. since you moved there?
CS: Yes, I lived in L.A. for 32 years.
DJ: And let me tell you, that Claudio's discography is very impressive. It's beautiful; we have here that you recorded with Tom Jobim, with Sinatra, with Joe Pass, Dori Caymmi, Edu Lobo, etc. We are going to try to play one tune of each one of them because they are all wonderful. So let's do that; we are going to play one song from this album with Walter Wanderley - the beginning of the United States era, right?
CS: That's right.
DJ: This is "Chegança". There is an interview here in the album [liner notes] with you and let's see, this was released by Scamp, right?
CS: Yes, it was a compilation of our best songs.
DJ: And, here I am going to read what you said. You said to the interviewer here that "when we did Chegança (Chegança is the name of the song I am going to play next), we took over. We said to Creed, we are going to play more aggressive." And this is the Claudio I see here, at Vartan Jazz, really. So, you have two sides: you play that soft beautiful bossa nova style and you play aggressively, too. So I'm going to play this (I love this). It seems that Creed did not want that way?
CS: He wanted us to keep the same style as the beginning, in the first album--which was very soft, and it was a success. And I'm sure everybody made money, so they wanted us to keep the same sound. Then, we felt that it was time for us to show that Brazilian music can be aggressive like, with an inference of jazz and it doesn't have to be "elevator music".
DJ: So let me play Chegança, and you [audience] pay close attention to what he does with the drums in this song. It's really beautiful. Let me play that and we will return to talk.
SONG: [Walter Wanderley Trio, "Chegança" from Chegança]
DJ: Who else was playing there, Claudio?
CS: Bobby Rosengarden, a very good friend, was playing percussion. José Marino was the bass player who came from São Paulo with Walter and myself and we were the Walter Wanderley Trio.
DJ: How was Walter?
CS: Very talented and very, very good with arrangements. I remember that there was a famous jazz organ player and arranger, Clare Fischer, and when we arrived, we were playing in L.A. and Clare was sitting next to Walter and paying attention to all the sounds and everything and he told me "my God, I heard this guy's albums for ages and finally to be able to look at him and see how he does it..." So, you know it was very impressive because he was famous in Brazil [Clare Fischer] as a jazz player, so he was very very good. He died some years ago.
Interview with Bobby
Rosengarden, Percussionist--February 10, 2000
Interviewer: B.J. Major
(This interview was transcribed from a
telephone recording tape.)
B.J.: Mr. Rosengarden, I'm trying to find out more about what Walter Wanderley was like to work with personally. Can you tell me about that?
B.R.: That I could tell you in very few words. He really didn't have a language problem. He spoke enough English (though it was broken, of course). He made his wants known very easily; if [the music] was too loud, too soft, etc., whatever it was--he was able to convey that to you. We always got along fine because I've always been a "Brazil nut" and have always been interested in Brazilian music. I previously worked with Luis Bonfa and did several albums with him; I was also one of the few in New York who had actually been to Brazil myself. Many years ago I took my children (who are now grown men with their own children) to Carnival, and it was the best experience of their lives! They still talk about it because they are both musicians (one plays trumpet and the other is a drummer). After we had that experience, Walter then came to the U.S. and I did a lot of work with him.
B.J.: I have all the albums that Walter recorded in the U.S., of which you are on several. But it's been hard to find someone to talk about what it was like to work with Walter personally.
B.R.: You know something? It's really very simple. You obviously have great regard for him; I do, too. My mother was a pianist, so we always had music around the house. I was doing a lot of commercial recording in New York right before I worked with Walter. Walter was a good guy. He was not mean, he was not petty. The only thing he took seriously was his music; it meant a great deal to him. He loved what he did, he knew how to do it. And that's all that mattered. He was generous; there was never an argument about time, about recording--I mean, if we needed another half an hour, we did it. I knew what he meant; it sounds oversimplified, but it's not. I cannot tell you, I learned SO much from him. He spoke English well enough to make jokes--which is very difficult! Portugese is not an easy language. Also, I have a huge collection of early Brazilian music, going on back to the Carmen Miranda days.
(Some conversation then ensued with Bobby R. asking B.J. about her own background in music, etc.)
B.J.: How much rehearsal time did you have before you cut an album?
B.R.: What would happen is that there were not other jobs that we were working at that time, so we would just go into a recording studio, and since it was only a Trio (and because other instrumentation was dubbed in later, if needed) it was relatively simple to do and would not require that much rehearsal time.
(Some conversation then ensued about trying to find Walter's bassist Jose Marino for an interview on this site, and Bobby R. looked in Musician Union books for his address/phone number, but could find no listing for him...)
B.R.: I doubt that there is much I can add here, except to say that Walter was one of the nicer men. Walter was definitely happiest when he was playing; recording sessions were fun! We put them together with spit and chewing gum! I have relived a lot of those times over in my mind, they were very enjoyable.
B.J.: I know about the work that you've done yourself, with the television work and the other things--and I realize that you are a terrific musician in your own right. I don't want you to think that I am slighting your talents by only asking you questions about Walter...
B.R.: [Laughter] I don't need my ego stroked (my wife takes care of that). I was in the right place at the right time! I think it is a nice thing you are doing with the website.
B.J.: Thank you very much for your time and information and I will send you a printed copy of the website as you requested!
A very special interview response from Walter Wanderley's grandson!
Received in email on 3/6/00 and translated by Sergio Ximenes
First of all, I want to say you are a piece of my life becose a person who loves my grandfather's work like you is a special person for me, I'm sure.
Unfortunately I didn't know my grandfather in person. He lived far from me, but he frequentely phoned to me and said he loved me and would want me to live with him in the U.S.
But, I never got the chance to go.
With my grandmother, I had a close relationship. I lived with her since I was born until her death when I was 13 years old. She is the most important person in my life.
About the influence of my grandfather and grandmother in my life: it is very strong. I'm an artist but not in the music area, I'm a actor in Brasil. But I think they were decisive in my decision to go in that way.
I don't play any instrument, but I have voice classes because it's what every actor must do. Soon I want to take piano classes, I know I inherited some things from my grandfather.
I'm not the writer of a theatre play about my grandmother's life. The writer is Julio Fischer, a Brazilian tv author. I'm sure it'll be a big success. We'll have great professionals and I'm going to be there like an actor and I had the idea for it. I'll like very much if you could come to the opening, it'll be in August 2000 (I hope). The act has a lot about the relationship between my grandfather and grandmother. I hope someday you could see it.
I want everybody to know how caring it is to have had grandfathers like I had. They were great artists and fighters for their ideals and became great battlers. I think they deserve all appreciation. For it, I'm going to show this theater play about my grandmother's life and the importance of my grandfather.
Barbara, before I finish this interview I want you know how I thank you for your love for my grandfather's work and for your wonderful internet page. My biggest dream is know your country and the places where my grandfather lived.
I want to improve my English. Let's keep in contact.
Rick Garcia Mendonça
Interviewer's note: An interview with Rick's mother (Walter Wanderley's daughter) Monica Wanderley appears at the top of the next page.
Interview with Bruni Sablan, Portrait Artist--March 9, 2000
Interviewer: B.J. Major
(This interview was obtained via email.)
Q. Bruni, I'd like to begin by asking how you came to know Walter Wanderley and how long you knew him up until his death in 1986.
A. I first was introduced to Walter by a fellow musician, Fafa Lemos, a violinist who came to the U.S. way back with the Carmen Miranda group. I knew him well, and was very close for a few years, but did not see him right up to his death. We lost touch somewhere in the '80's or late 70's. I moved to Guam and got married.
Q. I have been told that you worked with Walter as a singer. Could you tell us more about that and for how long you worked in this capacity?
A. I was part of the Walter Wanderley group as one of two singers. The other girl was Ana Maria Valle, Marcos Valle's wife at that time. We toured Mexico for three or four weeks, including a big opening at the big arena (I don't remember what they call it) in Mexico City. Present were Joao Gilberto, Stan Getz, Art Blakey, Willi Bobo, and numerous other big names both in Brazilian and American music. The Festival was called the "American/Brazilian Jazz Festival". After that we did lots of studio work, but for some reason none of it got released. Walter was already having troubles with A&M at that time so maybe that had something to do with it. We also worked local clubs in the L..A. area like Shelley Mann's etc... I can't remember the name of them all, we were all pretty crazy back then......
Q. Is it true that you and Walter were very close?
A. Yes. We were very close. We were friends and lovers, and at one time he asked me to marry him and gave me a ring which I kept up until a few years back, when I lent it to my daughter, and accidentally she misplaced it. We just figured it was time to let go of him. We both (my daughter Kristina, and myself felt very strong energy from that ring.) It was palpable. It almost vibrated. She had been going to San Francisco for singing lessons, and we both felt the ring protected her. Actually, she lost it when she stopped going to San Francisco on a steady basis.... I loved Walter. And he loved me. I was almost a kid, and he had other complications, which eventually separated us. I ended up marrying a young Guamanian singer-song writer and moved to Guam, and we had Kristina there. She never met Walter, only through his music.
Q. Do you happen to know if Walter ever travelled back to Brazil to perform and visit family members at any time after he moved to the U.S.?
A. I know that it was his biggest dream to do so, but if I remember correctly, he never did.
Q. How would you characterize what it was like to work for Walter, and how did you find him personally?
A. He was a very strict band leader. especially with the singers. He was very demanding, and expected complete professional dedication from us. Even forgetting lyrics was a big deal. Music was his life. Nothing else mattered much. I didn't really understand that until I became a virtuoso myself, and the obsession and dedication to painting took over my life from the early 80's to now. I was a kid then, and we (Ana Maria and I) really just wanted to have a lot of fun... So Walter and I got into a lot of fights over that. He was also a very very jealous man. He thought I was always flirting with everyone, but I really only had eyes for him. He was a sweet, kind, and totally insecure human being. He was also guilt ridden over his marriage (to the Brazilian singer) and I think they had a daughter in Brazil. There was lots of guilt, lots of insecurity, lots of need for constant reassurance, attention and stuff like that. Also a big drinking problem. BIG. I don't know if you would consider that a "negative" but it is a fact, and all who knew him knew that it was his biggest enemy. It controlled him completely. And I think that eventually killed him, both in the business and in his health. He was also a very sad man. He cried easily. He laughed easily. Very emotional. A being you can never forget. EVER.
Q. Could you tell us about what kinds of things Walter did while he was living in the San Francisco area outside of recording (i.e., did he play a lot of local engagements or mainly tour outside the area, etc.)?
A. Local engagements. Willy Colon (San Francisco percussionist) has lots of info. He played a bar down at the Warf on a steady basis, and also there were concerts in the area. After his death I had a dream visitation from Walter. I had no idea where he had been living or anything, but he showed me down to the Street names. I traced everything in my dream, and found everything he showed me, including the place of his burial mass (Mission Dolores). Also the street where he and Rosa lived, all of it proved right. I know because I picked up the phone and started calling... I have tons of names of people who talked with me, and didn't think I was crazy, if you need them, I'll be glad to share. It was soon after that that I painted his portrait. One more thing... in the dream he told me he would come visit me again.... So this Website blew my mind.
Q. What prompted you to paint Walter's portrait in 1989?
A. The dream visitation.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about your time spent with Walter?
A. Yes. They don't make them like that anymore... WALTER, BIRD, MILES, DIZ, STAN, TOM, WHAT NOW?????????????????????????????????????????????? I was one lucky kid, and those memories illuminate my darkest days... I now can tell the stories through my canvases because I was there, I lived it, I was touched by the magic, and that's what it was MAGIC.
Thank you, Bruni for the interview!
Thank you for asking. Keep up the great work!
Interviewer's note: Bruni's portrait of Walter Wanderley is shown on this same page, here.
page of The Walter Wanderley Pictorial
Discography, click here.