I Threw Everything Away: An Interview with Arthur Verocai

By 04 August, 2011

Arthur Verocai was one of Brazilian music’s true hidden secrets. For decades, the Brazilian arranger and composer was barely remembered in his own country. Then he found out that his first record – ignored by both critics and the public when it was released – had become cult in Europe and the US. This was the beginning of Verocai’s comeback.

At that point an original vinyl copy of his debut record cost about £2,000. Thanks to all the renewed interest, the album, simply titled Arthur Verocai, was released again on CD and vinyl by Luv N’ Haight Records in 2003. After that, he was contacted by two American photographers/film-makers (B+ and Coleman of Mochilla) who had taken a shine to the record and wanted him to perform it in full in Los Angeles.

A full orchestra was arranged and in 2009 Verocai performed his album in LA, with the added bonus that the concert would be recorded and become part of a DVD called Timeless (that also featured Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke and the late US rapper J. Dilla). See below for video footage of this concert. Since then, the maestro has arranged albums for a number of Brazilian musicians and is currently preparing a new CD.

In 1972, Verocai was arranging LPs for popular artists such as Elis Regina, Jorge Ben and Ivan Lins, among many others. Then he decided to make his own record. “The record company let me do I what I wanted”, he says. When the album finally came out, nothing happened. Not even the critics liked it? “No one said anything about it”, he remembers. Verocai was so upset that he decided to stop arranging and started only working for advertising companies. “I was disapointed, because I realised it wasn’t possible to do what I wanted, the arrangements I liked – I didn’t want to do arrangements that would be changed by the record companies. I was very into making that record. So I thought: I’m in the wrong place.”

Many years later though, he decided to come back, and released the CD Saudade Demais in 2002. People didn’t pay much attention to this album, but it was at that time that things started to change for Verocai. “(Brazilian producer) Kassin was friends with my son (the musician Ricardo Verocai) and sometimes he used to visit me. Once he came and said in Europe people were saying good things about my record. My friend (José Roberto) Betrami, from Azymuth (keyboards), also told me that. When I released that other record in 2002, this American label (Luv N’ Haight) linked to a young audience – hip hop DJs, soul, funk – asked me if they could release my 1972 album again and eventually it was released in 2003″, he remembers.

The concert for the Timeless DVD was the turning point. “It was really impressive how they enjoyed the concert in LA. I had never performed the 1972 album live before. It was amazing, a total success. Finally being acknowledged made me really happy. Actually, it was a mix of feelings. The fact that I wasn’t recognised at the time I released the album, had made me become really sad back then – I was a very sought-after guy and threw everything away – and now to see everything happening again, it has a strong effect on your ego. You even kind of regret it too”, he admits. “It was also great how the musicians were so happy playing the concert, everyone was loving what they were doing. It gave me strengh to think of releasing a new record.”

He is still working on the music for this new album, but he started to get invites for other musicians again: he did arrangements for recent albums of Ana Carolina, Marcelo Jeneci (his first album, one of the most acclaimed names of the new generation of musicians from São Paulo) and Thaís Gulin (current Chico Buarque’s girlfriend). DJ Nuts, also Brazilian, released in 2010 the CD Arthur Verocai Mix. “It’s a CD with old things I’d done, music recorded by Elis Regina, Ivan Lins, Leny Andrade, among many others, even stuff I didn’t remember I’d done, many things that he researched”, explains Verocai.

The Timeless DVD was released in 2010, but it was finally shown in Brazil this year, in movie theaters in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. After that, in April Verocai was invited to do the same concert in São Paulo – and was again acclaimed by the audience.

“This concert also helped to project my name. I invited Danilo Caymmi to sing a song there and he was impressed with how happy the crowd was”, he says. Next month, he’ll perform it in Olinda (Pernambuco); in October in Amsterdam, and in November he’ll perform a different show he has been composing in Joinville (Santa Catarina), a concert for guitar and string quartet for the project O Violão Brasileiro de Arthur Verocai. Now he wants to take the Timeless concert to Rio de Janeiro, where he lives. We hope he can take it everywhere.

Arthur Verocai was reissued by Luv N’ Haight and is available at Amazon.

Timeless was released by Mochilla and is available from their site as a box set or in a simpler DVD version at Amazon.

A new album of Verocai material, Encore was released in 2007 by Far Out Recordings and is also available at Amazon.

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