Upon his return to Rio in 1968 following an extended American tour, Marcos Valle began to record with a new confidence. His music also took on a more percussive and rock feel as Brazilian music changed and developed over the decades. But he also retained his knack for passionate ballads and spirited songs with catchy melodies.
In Part 3 of my three-part interview with Valle, the legendary singer-songwriter talks about his mentor Antonio Carlos Jobim, his rediscovery by young European and American club-goers in the '90s and why he sometimes wishes for rain:
JazzWax: So many people in America know your melodies but your name is still not as well known here as Antonio Carlos Jobim’s or Joao Gilberto’s. Looking back, do you wish you had moved to America?
Marcos Valle: If I could go back in time, with the experience and confidence that I have today, I would have stayed longer in the U.S. beyond 1968. But back then, I was young and shy. The best thing for me then was to be in Rio.
JW: Were you accepted by Jobim, Gilberto and other first-generation bossa nova artists?
MV: Jobim [pictured] was very nice to me. He had invited me to his home in Ipanema in 1962. At the time, Milton Miranda of Odeon records wanted Jobim to write the arrangements for my first album. I had just signed a five-year contract with the label, and Milton was over at Jobim’s house. Jobim had heard my songs and liked them very much. At his home, he said to his son Paulo, “Listen to the beautiful songs this young boy has written."
JW: What happened next?
MV: Jobim asked if I had written out the songs. I told him I hadn’t. He asked me why not. I said I didn’t think I could. But Jobim knew that I had studied classical and that I was able to read music. He asked Milton Miranda to leave and had me stay.
MV: Jobim insisted on seeing me write my first song in his house. When Milton left, Jobim took me upstairs to his son’s room. He brought me music paper, a pencil and an eraser. Every so often he would come by and take a look at what I had written out, at times correcting me. And so I was able to do it . I never will forget that.
JW: Did you stay in touch with Jobim?
MV: Oh, of course. Later, when Summer Samba became a big hit in the U.S., Jobim [pictured] told me what steps to take to capitalize on it. He was also my neighbor in Leblon, Brazil, where I lived with my family. He moved to the house just in front of ours. Sometimes we would call each other and ask, "Is your piano tuned?" Then we would choose the one that was in better condition and cross the street to play it.
JW: Did he hear Summer Samba?
MV: Yes, I rehearsed it with him at his house, with Jobim at the piano and me on guitar. We were going to record an album of my songs but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. He died in 1994. I still love him and miss him today.
JW: How long have you known Wanda Sa, who is appearing with you at Birdland this week?
MV: We started at virtually the same time in the early ‘60s. We would go the same clubs to play and sing. She’s very beautiful and sensual, with a whispering voice. She recorded her first record in 1963, as did I. Hers was released just a little before mine. She also recorded a song of mine called E Vem O Sol.
JW: She was off the scene for a while, yes?
MV: Yes. After she married songwriter Edu Lobo, she stopped singing for a long time. Years later, after she was divorced, she returned to recording again. Since then, she has been my guest in shows that I have done in Europe, Australia, Singapore and Brazil. Wanda is an excellent singer and a good friend. She also plays an excellent guitar.
JW: How did you and your music change in the ‘70s, '80s and '90s?
MV: I have had many influences. My style is a combination of Baião, traditional samba, jazz, pop, bossa nova, r&b and rock. Bossa nova was dominant in my early records. But in later recordings, other influences show up. Over time, my experience and maturity gradually gave me more confidence to write my own arrangements and to start producing or co-producing my records. I also enjoy performing live much more now.
JW: Your songs were among the first to be remixed for a more techno feel in the mid-'90s, yes?
MV: Without my knowledge, disc jockeys in the U.K. discovered my music and started playing my old records in the clubs. My record, Samba ’68, was important for this. The deejays would play the original tracks and remix them to give them an audio lift. Gradually, disc jockeys in other countries started to do the same. Suddenly, I had a new, younger audience. Soon I was invited to appear in Europe and found a great young, energetic audience standing and cheering my songs. What a great experience.
JW: And then what?
MV: After my old records were heard, they wanted new ones. The record labels in Europe started talking to me, and I chose FarOut Records, which was just being established by Joe Davis, a young British disc jockey who knew everything about my music . He was introduced to me by my talented friend, the singer known as Joyce.
JW: How does one write Brazilian music? Does it all start with a melody that pulls at the heart?
MV: The inspiration comes from different sources. Something that moves you emotionally, like happiness, sadness, the sun, the slums, the suffering, the surf, love—especially love, because it involves everything. And you need to have love for your own music, to treat it well, as you would treat the person you love. I use one or other of these emotions when I write songs.
JW: Your new album, Estatica, is a dramatic work and highly cinematic in its build, yes?
MV: Estatica shows me exactly as I feel at the moment now. Samba is very important, as is the Baião, which I use in three of the album’s songs. The psychedelic aspect of my music also is there, with the synthesizers as well as the grooves.
JW: What’s next?
MV: A box of my ‘60s and ‘70s records will be released in Brazil by EMI in June. When it comes out, we will have different shows in Brazil promoting the set. After my shows at Birdland this week, we will begin to prepare for these shows. In August I will perform at European festivals, after which I will perform in Moscow, Miami and Montreal. At the end of the year, three records will be released that I recorded in the ‘80s. By then, I probably will be thinking about recording a new CD.
JW: How do you get any work done in a country as beautiful as Brazil?
MV: Some days are indeed very difficult. I confess that when I am working on a new CD, I wish it was raining. But you get used to it. I live close to the beach, so I enjoy walking for an hour a day for exercise. Then I come back. Sometimes jump into the water. With this I am ready to work.
JazzWax tracks: I own 20 of Marcos Valle's albums. Each has a different mood and personality. And each contains melodic surprises and fascinating instrumental arrangements. His earliest recordings (Samba Demais, O Compositor e O Cantor, Braziliance! and Samba '68) are a must.
His most recent release, Estatica, is a terrific mix of bossa beats, electronics and samba. You'll find it at iTunes and here.
Another sensual gem is Eumir Deodato Plays Marcos Valle, featuring Deodato on the organ. The album appears to be out of print. Here's what it looks like if you can find it online or at download sites.
JazzWax clip: Here's Os Dentes Brancos Do Mundo from Mustang cor de Sangue (1969)...
Here's a track from Eumir Deodato Plays Marcos Valle, one of my favorites...
And here's Prefixo from Estatica, Marcos Valle's 2010 release...