Brazil’s Most American Crooner
Dick Farney is without doubt a colourful person in the history of Brazilian popular music. His musical choice, a mix of Brazilian and American standards, made him an exceptional crooner.
Born as Farnésio Dutra e Silva (Rio de Janeiro, 1921), he grew up in an environment of classical music. His mother taught him about singing, while his father took care of the first piano lessons. Soon it was clear Farnésio would easily find his way through the world of music. When he was 12 years old, he already appeared on the radio; playing Chopin’s Prelude No. 7. Meanwhile, he developed an interest in North American music: Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and, most of all, his idol Frank Sinatra. To sound more American, he changed his name into Dick Farney. It didn’t take too long either before he had his own radio show on Rádio Mayrink Veiga (“Dick Farney, sua Voz e seu Piano”; his voice and his piano). The very first record he appears on, a 78rpm album, dates from 1939. As the pianist of the Swing Maníacos, who also featured his 15-year-old brother Cyll on drums, he recorded “Song of India” from Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. Between 1941 and 1944 he became very popular as a singer/ pianist in the famous Orquestra de Carlos Machado, performing at Cassino da Urca (Rio de Janeiro). To pursue his dream, Dick felt the urge to travel to New York (1946), where he enjoyed sniffing up the local musical atmosphere. It was the first of many visits to the USA, which earned him impressive contracts with NBC (1947) and a long lasting gig at the famous Peacock Alley Bar at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel (1957). The latter one inspired Dick to sing Brazilian standards in English. Like his biggest success “Copacabana.” He also toured Puerto Rico, The Dominican Republic, Cuba and other Caribbean Islands. People there often thought Dick Farney was American, which says something about his ability to sing the American Songbook. As a crooner, he wondered why there was no samba written for his kind of repertoire. “Por que não existe um samba que a gente possa cantarolar no ouvido da namorada?” (Why isn’t there a samba that can be hummed in the ear of a girlfriend?) And thus Dick Farney’s name can be put on the list of pre-bossa musicians. His way to sing the samba canções can easily be linked to bossa nova.
This album was recorded live in São Paulo, in August 1986; one year before he passed away (August 4, 1987). The recording quality is good, although there’s a sudden end to “Embraceable You.” The band is super. Pianist is Hilton Jorge Valente, also known as Gogô. He turns out to be a wonderful piano player in the good jazz tradition. Beside accompanying Farney, he was also successful with Nana Caymmi, Dóris Monteiro and Lúcio Alves. Now he’s professor at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP). Bassist Gabriel Jorge Bahlis also knows how to play jazz. His walking bass lines are amazingly well chosen. The sound of the bass is nice and clear. He’s a member of the Orquestra Jazz Sinfônica. To complete the trio that musically supports Farney on this concert date, drummer Antônio Pinheiro Filho does a remarkably good job, too.
The opening song is the only one where we hear Dick Farney play the piano. It gives a good idea about his skills. Sometimes he sounds as playful and economical as Count Basie, then as traditional as Dave Brubeck, one of his examples. The song is a very pleasant mix of two classics from both of his worlds. “Copacabana” flows over in the great jazz standard “Perdido.” Dick continues by explaining he always opens his shows with a piece of piano playing and how the following rendition of “Copacabana” actually started his career. There are more of Dick Farney’s landmarks on this album. Like the samba canção “Nick Bar,” composed by Garoto and humorist José Vasconcelos. The song features a bar next to São Paulo’s popular Teatro Brasileiro de Comédias. In that bar artists hang out, having interminable conversations with like-minded souls.
“Aeromoça” (Stewardess) is a pleasant Billy Blanco composition that Dick especially likes to sing, since he was married with an ex-flight attendant. To stop press rumours about the hostile competition between the two vocal stars Dick Farney and Lúcio Alves, they recorded “Tereza da Praia” together. This especially written for them Jobim/ Blanco composition was like a friendly conversation between two men about the same beautiful woman they fell in love with. With Farney and Alves singing so brotherly together, the press started to focus on “Tereza.” Was the song referring to the Tereza whom Jobim was married with at that time? In his book Tirando de Letra, Billy Blanco states that “Tereza da Praia” was about an absolutely fictitious person. The song was a big hit and is performed here with drummer Antônio Pinheiro Filho singing Lúcio Alves’s lines. Farney loved to sing Jobim’s compositions. There are two more on this disc: “Solidão” and one of Jobim’s first compositions “Esse Seu Olhar.”
Of course Farney also refers to the very popular Cassino de Urca concerts. In two medleys, Pot-Pourri da Urca 1 and 2, Farney performs a few of his favourite American classics.
All in all the album gives an entertaining impression of Dick Farney’s repertoire, as well as a pleasant trip back into to lively forties and fifties from Brazil’s big cities Rio and São Paulo.
Inter Records 7895509300019 (2000)
- Medley: Copacabana (João de Barro – Alberto Ribeiro) / Perdido (Tizol – Drake – Lengsfelder)
- Copacabana (João de Barro – Alberto Ribeiro)
- Nick Bar (Garoto – José Vasconcelos)
- Aeromoça (Billy Blanco)
- Medley: Tereza da Praia (Antonio Carlos Jobim – Billy Blanco) / Uma Loura (Hervê Cordovil)
- Pot-Pourri da Urca (Parte 1): I Only Have Eyes For You (Warren – Dubin) / Embraceable You (G.Gershwin)
- Pot-Pourri da Urca (Parte 2): Tea For Two (Vicent Youmans – Irving Caesar) / Night and Day (Cole Porter)
- Medley: A Saudade Mata a Gente (João de Barro – Antonio Almeida) / Esse Seu Olhar (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
- Medley: Alguém Como Tu (José Maria de Abreu – Jair Amorim) / Marina (Dorival Caymmi)
- Noturno em São Paulo (Cido Bianchi – Sergio Lima)
- Ponto Final (José Maria de Abreu – Jair Amorim)
- The Lady Is a Tramp (Lorenz Hart – Richard Rodgers)
- Solidão (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
- All the Way (Van Heusen – S.Cahn)