Luiz Bonfa - Solo in Rio 1959
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Luiz Bonfá
Solo in Rio 1959
Smithsonian Folkways

cd cover Luiz Bonfá (1922-2001), trained as a classical guitarist, became a regular on Brazil's Radio Nacional in the latter 1940s, and began traveling in the 1950s to work in the United States, where a chance meeting with singer Mary Martin led to a touring contract. But Bonfá's real break came when his "Manhã de Carnaval" theme and "Samba de Orfeu" became emblematic of Marcel Camus's prize-winning Black Orpheus (1959), the film and soundtrack that brought samba and especially bossa nova to enthusiastic international audiences. The bossa nova vogue was not Bonfá's doing alone, of course; indeed, his traditional, samba-inspired sound was somewhat eclipsed by his more musically forward-looking contemporaries, guitarists Baden Powell, João Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and lyricist-poet-playwright Vinícius de Moraes (whose play Orfeu da Conceição inspired Black Orpheus). But Bonfá's contributions to Brazilian music and acoustic guitar endure.

Traveling Latin America and the Caribbean with a portable Nagra in 1959, producer Emory Cook went to Rio de Janeiro specifically to find Bonfá, and this remarkable recording was the result. Now reissued by Smithsonian, the CD version adds 14 previously unreleased tracks from the original session, an intimate, bare-bones solo effort comprising over 70 minutes of some of Bonfá's most sublime work. Guitarist and writer Anthony Weller's notes are a carefully documented tribute to the artist, underscoring this title's uniqueness among the 50-odd, mostly out-of-print Bonfá recordings and providing an elucidating track-by-track review, together with a selected discography and bibliography. Of particular note are the previously unissued vignettes, such as the subtly expressive, droll, self-effacing "A Brazilian in New York," and various morsels improvised on the spot that testify to Bonfá's extraordinary ability to capture a fleeting mood in song, all logged at a seminal moment in his artistic development. - Michael Stone

CD available from cdRoots

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