October 2020

You may not recognize him or even know his name yet, Arnaldo DeSouteiro is one of the most successful music producers. Chances are, you have listened to the music he has either produced or composed.

Born in Rio De Janeiro, Arnaldo was captivated by Brazilian culture and dedicated his life to promote it beyond its borders.

From Joao Gilberto to Yana Purim, the list of artists produced by Arnaldo is long. 

Producer of music but also TV shows, Arnaldo is a musician, a journalist, an historian of Brazilian pop and jazz, he founded “Jazz Station Records”. 

We wanted to know more about his fascinating career.

Music Partner: What triggered this passion for music and entertainment?

Arnaldo De Souteiro: My parents were music lovers. Actually, all my family. My mother, Delza Agricola, was a classical pianist, composer and conductor. In fact, she was the first female conductor (of symphony orchestras) in Brazil. We are talking about 1957… so you can imagine the violent prejudice she suffered at that time… But she was active as a classical pianist since her teens, and recorded her first 78rpm solo piano record in 1946, when she was 22 years old. A lot of appearances on radio and, later, TV shows followed. Delza also had her own classical music radio show. She used to perform one piece and do comments between the movements. All was done live, of course. There could be no mistakes. She used to say that it was very stressful. Anyway she loved it and wrote over 40 works of all kinds: solo piano pieces, symphonic poems, string quartets, pieces for bassoon, French horn, violin and cello, lots of material. My mother died in 1985, at age 51. I was only 22, so it was a hard and painful experience.

My father, Walter Souteiro, was an amateur jazz pianist who introduced me to the music of George Shearing, Art Tatum, Hazel Scott, and his favorite pianist, Teddy Wilson. He also had the complete collection of accordion master Art Van Damme. My mother loved jazz, specially the big bands of the Swing Era: Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Harry James, Tommy Dorsey. And she used to sing standards from the Great American Songbook and play bossa nova on acoustic guitar. I grew up on this “boiler”, with no musical prejudice, no boundaries for the appreciation of good music. Both my parents loved Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald too!

My aunt, Elge Agricola, was also a classical pianist and a painter. My grandfather, Ernani Agricola, a famous doctor in Brazil, played cello and flute, and introduced me to the Puccini operas. That was really amazing. I was exposed to all this music at a very young age, and by 1967, when I was four years old, I attended a concert by classical pianist Magda Tagliaferro and was already “selecting” the records that I wanted my family to buy for me. There’s a documentary series, on YouTube, filmed by director Bernardo Costa for the Coisas da Musica Productions, on which I tell all these things from my childhood in detail, but it’s in Portuguese only with no legends, unfortunately.

During my childhood my favorites were Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, Mahler, Weber, Paganini, Grieg, Tchaikovsky. Later I developed a special love for the Impressionists - Debussy, Ravel and Fauré. Plus everything recorded by pianist Guiomar Novaes, who was the first Brazilian artist to record at the Rudy Van Gelder Studios. Then, in the early 70s I started to buy jazz albums, specially Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Weather Report, John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu, I mean, all the so-called jazz-rock stuff. Then I fell in love with Corea’s “Light As A Feather” album with Return To Forever, and most of all, with Deodato’s “Prelude” album, because Deodato’s version of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” was a huge radio hit all over the world, and Brazil was no exception. That was my discovery of the CTI fusion sound, which conquered my heart. I started to buy all albums by Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, Hubert Laws, George Benson. I was fascinated by Benson’s “White Rabbit”, superbly arranged by Don Sebesky, and featuring Herbie Hancock, Jay Berliner and Airto.

In February 1975, when I was still 11 yo, my father made possible for me to meet Deodato in person. That was a turning point in my life. That year I also met João Donato, Luiz Bonfá, a fabulous arranger named Gaya and his wife, a brilliant Brazilian folk singer, Stellinha Egg. Gaya opened my head even more. He invited me to attend recording sessions he was arranging as well as to concerts he conducted for such Brazilian pop superstars like Chico Buarque and Maria Bethania. Then he introduced me to Joao Gilberto because they were rehearsing a concert. It’s an endless story.

MP: You wrote music articles for magazines as a teenager, what was your ambition then?

ADS: I started to write by “accident”. I used to ask my parents to purchase for me DownBeat, Billboard, CashBox, Record World, Jazz Hot… I wanted to read everything about music. The hundreds of classical music books from my mother’s collection were not enough. And my family was middle-class, they were not rich. My grandfather, my grandmother and my aunts helped a lot purchasing the records and the magazines. Then one day I had the idea to give a call to the phone number that appeared in a stamp on the back cover of all the important magazines purchased on the newstands. That’s how I met a guy named Wilson Falcão, who had been a composer for Carmen Miranda in the 40s. Mr. Falcão was the owner of that distributing company and became very impressed with my interest. I asked if I could purchase directly from him in order to get a discount. He agreed and, actually, gave me lots of mags for free. Then someone from the sales department of Billboard asked him to recommend a Brazilian correspondent to them. He asked me if I was interested. Of course I accepted but I couldn’t appear because I was only 14 years old, there would be no credibility. But anyway that was good for me to practice and make some money. Furthermore, that was an easy task. I didn’t have to review any concerts or albums, I only needed to write short news. Things like: “Brazilian classical pianist Guiomar Novaes has died,” “George Duke is recording a new album in Rio”. I remember those were two of the first news they published.

Due to my job at Billboard I was interviewed on the only jazz TV show in Rio, presented by Paulo Santos. That led me to be invited to write a jazz column on the daily newspaper Tribuna da Imprensa, and the rest is history. I was 15! I kept that column from 1979 to 2009, I think, till the newspaper closed. In the meantime I wrote for other newspapers and magazines in Brazil and abroad, did dozens of liner notes, and hundreds of press-releases for almost all the labels in Brazil. At 20, in 1983, I started my own jazz radio show at TUPI-FM radio station. At 22, I became a TV host at Manchete TV network, presenting a show for which I interviewed people like Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Bennett, Chuck Mangione, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim etc. In the beginning I was hired only as interviewer, but on the second program I was also editing, on the third I became a consultant, on the fourth show I was assisting the director…

MP: You have established residence in both Rio and Los Angeles. When did you come to the U.S and why?

ADS: I started to travel abroad in my teens. I wanted to see my jazz idols performing. Some of them were living in LA (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, Airto & Flora), but most of them were in NY (Ron Carter, Steve Gadd, Tania Maria etc). It was a dream come true to go to the Blue Note-NY and see Gadd, Eddie Gomez, Phil Woods, Joe Sample, Nancy Wilson, Louie Bellson, all those legends. However I never thought about living in NY. The “beautiful attitude of the sunshine people of California” was what attracted me. But my first “international jobs” were in NY, around 1985, 1987: producing recording sessions at Deodato’s Duplex Sound Studio, directing Luiz Bonfa’s concerts at Fat Tuesday’s, supervising CTI reissues for CBS, lots of work.

MP: You have multiple hats, producer, journalist, composer, arranger, educator, record label executive, to mention a few, what do you enjoy the most?

ADS: I started to produce in 1980. My first album of original material (not a reissue or compilation) was Yana Purim’s debut album for RCA. I still love studio work, but it’s not profitable anymore to work as a producer. What I enjoy most now is to work as arranger and musical director for live concerts, mostly jazz and bossa nova concerts. That’s a very creative task and you get an immediate feedback when people love the show. I have worked for over 20 years with Joao Gilberto and Luiz Bonfa, I have been working with Joao Donato for 40 years, it’s very rewarding. Occasionally I’m invited to work as screenplay writer for TV music specials. I did the last concert that Antonio Carlos Jobim and Joao Gilberto performed together, in 1992. That’s priceless.

Anyway, I had many moments of pure joy as a producer. The pleasure to work in the studio with your idols is amazing. I’ll never forget those sessions with Ron Carter, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Alphonso Johnson, Lew Soloff, Sadao Watanabe. I also learned a lot from them, from their experience as session players. And I also loved to produce or supervise CD reissues, especially the ones from the CTI/Kudu and RCA catalogues. I was able to bring back to life albums that I had listened during my childhood! That involved a lot of emotion… I’ll never forget the day I received the original master tapes of Eumir Deodato’s first solo album, “Inutil Paisagem”, recorded in 1964 when he was 22 years old. I produced that CD reissue in 1999 as a co-production between my JSR label and Universal Music, that distributed the CD all over the world. It was a big responsibility to have such historic records in your hands, literally.

A different responsibility was to coordinate the promo strategies for albums I have not produced. If I failed I would feel like I was ruining the work done by other people. But when I succeeded that was a very pleasant sensation. And I’m proud to have coordinated promo campaigns of some Grammy winning albums, as well as to have been “the man behind music” in the international careers of such acts as Azymuth and Ithamara Koorax. I miss that thrill. Actually I miss many thrilling things, different, “alternative” things that I also loved to do. For ex: for 13 years (from 1985 to 1998) I was responsible for the entertainment-in-flight audio and video programs for Brazil’s biggest air company, Varig Airlines. We got many international awards. All channels were selected by myself: opera, classical music, jazz, pop, rock, r&b, even Japanese music and Chinese music! Sometimes I felt better in my home studio, doing that Varig job, than producing a recording session, because I didn’t depend of anyone else, everything was under my control.

MP: You have scored soundtracks for the movie and the television industry, how did it come about?

ADS: In Brazil we have the famous “novelas”, a kind of soap operas. They are hugely popular. So they used to release soundtracks of those novelas, and I used to produce tracks for those albums. Sometimes the selections were fantastic, sometimes not so great. But for a novela titled Celebridade, in 2003, I produced a wonderful recording by singer Ithamara Koorax of a hidden gem written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, titled “Absolute Lee”.  That was a top-class soundtrack which also featured Diana Krall, Michael Bublé etc. Now it’s all gone. A soundtrack CD used to sell at least 500,000 copies! Sometimes one million copies! Now there’s not even a physical CD release… A very interesting case was a song titled “O Passarinho”, that I co-wrote (with Gazzara and Ithamara Koorax) for a very popular Italian reality show, “La Pupa E Il Sechione”, in 2006. The song became a huge radio hit, was included in many compilations all over Europe and then became a dancefloor hit, receiving several remixes by such DJs as Tom Novy in Germany.

A much missed friend, jazz giant Dave Brubeck invited me to write lyrics to some of his songs. One of them: "Broadway Bossa Nova" became a pop hit in Japan, recorded with a hip hop arrangement by Ithamara Koorax in 1998. Dave Brubeck loved that recording.

MP: You have directed some TV Specials dedicated to the artists you love and not only from Brazil, Miles Davis, or Diana Krall. How different is working for television?

ADS: I supervised and wrote screenplays. You need to “introduce”, to explain to the average listener a most sophisticated kind of music. Editing is essential. Sometimes you need to cut off a solo. In the beginning it hurts. But then I understood that was essential to make the TV broadcast possible. My TV show was not on cable, it was on a network channel. All movie directors should have a real musical producer working for them, but unfortunately it doesn’t happen. The result is that I’ve watched recent musical documentaries that are terrible, full of mistakes, a festival of fake news. For two decades I gave so many interviews appearing in movies, that I became a “documentary actor”, but now I refuse most of the invitations because I was being included on projects that were not well produced. You talk about Claus Ogerman and the director later adds a photo by Klaus Wunderlich. It really happened!

MP: You have been associated with Creed Taylor, the founder of CTI jazz label. How this association came about?

ADS: It’s a very curious story. Actually I was recommended to King Records, CTI’s distributor in Japan, by record producer Orrin Keepnews. That was in the early 80s, when they got the rights for the CTI catalog due to a lawsuit. King got the rights for Japan, CBS (now Sony) got the rights for USA and Europe over everything CTI had released between 1970 and 1979. Eventually, Creed later once again made a deal with King for new products, but during a certain period he simply disappeared. That’s how I began to work on compilations of the CTI albums. A real dream come true, because as I already told you, I grew up listening to CTI. Creed Taylor really is my all-time favorite producer, not only due to CTI, but also for what he did previously on Verve and other labels. Without him, the Bossa Nova craze would not have existed. Then, many years later I met Creed in person. We had lunch in NY and he congratulated me for the CTI reissues and compilations I had supervised. Then we had a meeting at CTI. That was in October 1990, when he was resurrecting the label. I was invited to help him in some new projects. One day we were at the SIR Studios during a rehearsal for an all-star CTI band called Chroma, and he introduced me to many of the musicians by saying “This is Arnaldo, from Brazil. He knows my work better than I do!” I also remember a day that Mike Stern was rehearsing Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez”. Creed and I were seated side by side. Then he whispered to me: “Villa-Lobos!” He thought that Heitor Villa-Lobos, Brazil’s greatest classical composer, had written “Aranjuez”. But that was by Spanish composer Rodrigo.  During some seconds, I didn’t know how to react. If I didn’t say nothing just to not make him uncomfortable, he would later find out that it was a Villa-Lobos work and consider me a fool. If I had guts to correct him, he could be angry and shy. But after a few seconds I finally said: “No, this is by Joaquin Rodrigo, the centerpiece of that famous Jim Hall ‘Concierto’ album you produced”. He was surprised and replied: “Oh, but I did some Villa-Lobos, right?” I said: “Yes, Jackie & Roy recorded Bachianas Brasileiras on the ‘Time & Love’ album.” Creed murmured: “Amazing” and then remained in silence during the rest of the rehearsal.

Many years later, in 1997, the same year I produced the “CTI Acid Jazz Grooves” compilation, I began to freelance as a reissue producer and compiler for Verve/Universal, and then I had the chance to work with Creed’s productions of the pre-CTI days. One of my favorites was a Quincy Jones compilation, “Summer In The City”, in 2007, which included several tracks produced by Creed during the A&M days because Universal had acquired A&M.

Some albums that I produced reached the top of the jazz and latin charts in Japan. An album that I did for singer Ithamara Koorax went to #10 in Japan, while a Sinatra album was #11 in 1995, when Sinatra was still alive! Some compilations I produced for Verve (on the “A Trip To Brazil” series) reached #1 in Europe. “Brazilian Horizons” and “CTI Acid Jazz Grooves” were very successful too. That’s very rewarding.

MP: Following you on social media, we know you are taking your role as a voting member of NARAS-GRAMMY seriously. Many think the Grammys have lost a lot of their influences. What is your opinion?

ADS: NARAS remains very powerful. To win a Grammy is the most important recognition an artist can receive. The TV show is still broadcasted worldwide. So, I’m very proud to be a NARAS voting member. However, we have to admit that the fact that an album wins a Grammy doesn’t means it will sell a lot. In the past, sometimes an album was #40 in the charts and, after winning a Grammy, it would jump to #1 instantly. It worked like a catapult!

MP: You were busy in the 1990s with reissues of music on CD format. Since, the way we consume music has drastically change. What is your take on today’s industry and how do you see the future?

ADS: I really don’t know, I don’t feel capable to predict the future. What I know is that, more than ever, music became a visual thing, more than on the MTV heyday. People like to listen to music on YouTube even when there’s no music video, only a still image. They keep watching to a screen that shows only the same image for 4 or 5 minutes! The saddest thing is that no one gets the proper credit. The producer is uncredited, the arranger is uncredited, the musicians are uncredited. Young audiences will know nothing about who made the music (pop, jazz, funk, whatever). They only know the name of the singers, of the leaders. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

People don’t know that sometimes the producer is the “creator” of an album, the person who creates the concept, that sometimes needs to convince the artist to go on that direction. I never worked as employee at a label, I never received a salary. I have always worked as a freelancer and needed to succeed. And later, when I started my own label, JSR, I invested a lot of time and money in many projects. It’s not fair to skip the recognition, it’s not fair to remain uncredited in all digital platforms.

The world has changed dramatically, the music industry has changed completely. So many labels closed, so many catalogues were sold. I used to work a lot for Fantasy Records, they had a wonderful family of labels: Milestone, Pablo, Riverside etc. Suddenly the company was sold to Concord Records in 2005.

MP: With a career covering multiple responsibilities and spanning over 35 years, what are your regrets?

ADS: Actually over 40 years. I started to write in 1978, and to produce in 1980. I have done so many things, it’s like I have lived 157 years, not 57. My house is a museum! No regrets.

MP: What are you currently working on?

ADS: I had many plans for 2020. Specially concerts and tours. I have worked a lot as consultant for music festivals. But everything was cancelled due to the pandemic. The only new invitation that I accepted was to record a podcast series about Brazilian artists that developed their careers abroad: Laurindo Almeida, Luiz Bonfa, João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Dom Um Romão, Claudio Roditi, Eumir Deodato, João Donato, Raul de Souza, Tania Maria, Astrud, Airto Moreira & Flora Purim, Paulinho da Costa, etc. I have been friends with all of them, and have worked with most of them. So, I was asked to add personal anecdotes of stories I lived with them.

I have also written the screenplay for a documentary movie tentatively titled “The LA/Rio Connection” and interviewed 15 Brazilian musicians that lived or worked in Los Angeles: João Donato, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Dori Caymmi, Chico Batera, Marcos Valle etc. I’m not directing neither producing the project, just did the screenplay and conducted the interviews.

MP: Music Partner is disrupting the music licensing industry by sharing its music publishing revenues with producers and filmmakers.  What do you think of their model?

ADS: In one word: Encouraging.