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Walter Wanderley

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Recife, Brazil (1932 – 1986)

A Brazilian organist/composer who stumbled upon a gold mine in the 1960s, Walter Wanderley has been resurrected posthumously in the 1990s, a purveyor of lounge music for a young generation. Yet his sound on the organ, generated by a crisp, lightweight, staccato attack, can be mistaken for no one else’s - and his choice of material showed much good taste, particularly when exploring his countrymen’ s songs. Although his most popular records contained only a minimum of melodic jazz improvisation, he could stretch out when he wanted to.

Wanderley started playing the piano at age 5, taking a year of theory at 12, and well before he was out of his teens, he moved to São Paulo and got a recording contract. Juxtaposing American hits and Afro-Cuban dance music, he built a following in Brazil during the 1950s, and by the early-’60s, he was immersed in the emerging bossa nova field, recording with Joao Gilberto in 1961 and on his own. Encouraged by Tony Bennett, among others, Wanderley finally took off for New York in 1966, where Creed Taylor recorded him for Verve. His first album, Rain Forest, yielded a smooth-sailing Top 30 hit single, “Summer Samba,” peaking at No. 26 and proving that bossa nova was far from a spent force in 1966. Settling in Los Angeles, Wanderley went on to make four more albums for Verve and two for A&M, and other material was issued on World Pacific, Philips, Tower and Canyon.

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