Guitarist Laurindo Almeida (1917-1995) had one of the longest and most varied careers of any Brazilian musician -- he moved to the United States in the 1940s to become a member of Stan Kenton's big band, then worked prolifically as a studio musician and solo performer. Almeida recorded jazz, classical, boss nova and what I suppose would now be called "new acoustic" music, before the term existed. Although his career took him pretty far away from the formal confines of "Brazilian music," he certainly had deep roots in his country's culture, and recorded a number of Brazilian-themed albums, including several with saxophonist Bud Shank that are considered among the first jazz-meets-Brazil crossovers. Here's a quick look at his work...
(PS: I am pretty much 100% sure that this discography (cobbled together from various sources) is neither complete nor totally accurate. Any additions or corrections are welcome.)
Stan Kenton "The Chronological Stan Kenton: 1947, v.2" (Classics, 1995)
This edition of the Stan Kenton band features some of guitarist Laurindo Almeida's earliest recorded work, in a lineup that included saxophonist Art Pepper, drummer Shelly Manne, Brazilian as well as Jack Constanzo, Dizzy Gillespie and Flip Philips... Say what you will about Stan Kenton... the man sure had an eye for talent!
Laurindo Almeida "Concert Creations For Guitar " (Capitol, 1950)
A pleasant set of solo classical guitar, with expected dips into the European classics (a bit of Bach) some Spanish/Latin material (a version of "Malaguena," credited to Ernesto Lecuona) and several Almeida originals, including several with more distinctly "Brazilian" themes, such as "Eili-Eili" and "Braziliance," as well as ones working in the Spanish guitar mode. Nice stuff: it's cool to hear how well-developed and modern-sounding his material was, even this early in his career.
Laurindo Almeida "Suenos" (Capitol, 1951)
Laurindo Almeida & Bud Shank "Brazilliance v.1" (Pacific Jazz, 1953)
Hailed as the first great Braz-Jazz crossover, this anticipated many of the relaxed, timeless qualities of Joao Gilberto's original bossa nova recordings, although ultimately it lacked the fluidity of either the early bossa or the seminal '60s Braz-Jazz crossovers. Almeida's guitar playing is gorgeous, though heavily classical-derived, and Shank's cool jazz sax work is appealing, but he had nowhere near the depth of tone and maturity of style that Stan Getz would bring to the table a decade later. Part of it is circumstance: this was a bold and innovative record for the time, yet the West Coast scene was still developing at the the time, and hadn't quite hit on the Brubeckian standards of super-cool that we now look back on so fondly. Part of it, too, is the difficulty of what they were trying to achieve -- no one had tried to meld jazz, choro and samba to this extent before, and while Almeida brought some choice material to the sessions (Pixinguinha, Ary Barroso, Radanes Gnattali... even Luiz Gonzaga), it was inevitable that the character of the compositions would be overshadowed by the disparate tendencies of the players. On the whole, this is a very pleasant, very North American, very West Coast-y album, with a "Brazilian-ness" that may need to be prized out through a bit of active listening.
Laurindo Almeida & Bud Shank "Brazilliance v.2" (Pacific Jazz)
Laurindo Almeida & Bud Shank "Brazilliance v.3" (Pacific Jazz)
Laurindo Almeida "Laurindo Almeida Quartet, v.1" (Pacific Jazz, 1954)
Laurindo Almeida "Laurindo Almeida Quartet, v.2" (Pacific Jazz, 1954)
Laurindo Almeida & Radames Gnattali "Suite Popular Brasileira Para Violao & Piano" (Continental, 1956)
A delightful and fascinating collaboration with Brazilian bandleader and composer Radames Gnattali... This all-too-short set of six songs is very jazzy: Almeida plays electric (!) with echoes of Chet Atkins and Charlie Christian, while Gnattali, free from the confines of his orchestra, loosens up and swings around the keyboard with a delightfully light touch. But the Brazilian-ness is clearly there as well -- the musical themes will be familiar to listeners who have a passing knowledge of samba-cancao or choro, although the music also speaks for itself. This is a sweet, swinging set with two master musicians enjoying each other's company and the musical heritage they share. Recommended!
Laurindo Almeida "Guitar Music Of Latin America" (Capitol, 1956)
Laurindo Almeida "Delightfully Modern" (Jazztone, 1956)
Laurindo Almeida & Ray Turner "Impressoes Do Brasil" (Capitol, 1957)
A somewhat flowery, showy collaboration with pianist Ray Turner; this is often a bit stilted but a good, genuine exploration of Brazilian themes and styles such as the choro. There are also slower sambas, such as Almeida's solo pieces -- "Saudade," "Choro Triste," "Choro Nosso" -- that anticipate the texture and feel of bossa nova; Turner is actually only on board for the first three songs, but he really gets into it, and captures the spirit of the music. The rest is pure Almeida, which is great, since this is one of his rootsier early albums. Worth checking out!
Laurindo Almeida "Flamenco Fire" (Capitol, 1957)
Laurindo Almeida "The Guitar Worlds Of Laurindo Almeida" (Capitol, 1961)
Laurindo Almeida "Reverie For Spanish Guitar" (Capitol, 1962)
Laurindo Almeida & The Bossa Nova All-Stars "Viva Bossa Nova!" (Capitol, 1962)
Laurindo Almeida & The Bossa Nova All-Stars "Ole! Bossa Nova!" (Capitol, 1962)
Laurindo Almeida & The Bossa Nova All-Stars "It's A Bossa Nova World" (Capitol, 1963)
Laurindo Almeida & Stan Getz "Stan Getz With Laurindo Almeida" (Verve, 1963)
Laurindo Almeida & The Modern Jazz Quartet "Collaboration" (Atlantic, 1964)
Laurindo Almeida "Broadway Solo Guitar" (Capitol, 1964)
Laurindo Almeida "Guitar From Ipanema" (Capitol, 1964)
Laurindo Almeida & Sammy Davis, Jr. "Sammy Davis, Jr. Sings, Laurindo Almeida Plays" (Reprise, 1966)
If you were hoping for Sammy to break out with a bossa nova vocals set, well, look again. This is a rather sedate, "classy" vocals set, with Davis slowing things down and taking the swing out of his step, singing only to spare acoustic arrangements. Almeida provides solid, artful accompaniment, but there isn't a glimmer of Brazilian-ness on the entire album, including no songs by Brazilian composers.
Laurindo Almeida & Charlie Byrd "A Man And A Woman" (Capitol, 1967)
Laurindo Almeida & Deltra Eamon "The Art Of Laurindo Almeida" (Orion, 1970)
Laurindo Almeida & Deltra Eamon "Intermezzo" (Orion, 1972)
The LA Four "The L.A. Four Scores!" (Concord Jazz, 1974)
The first album by this long-lived, mellow jazz super-group, with Almeida on guitar, Ray Brown on bass, along with Shelly Manne and Bud Shank.
Laurindo Almeida "Concierto De Aranjuez" (Concord Jazz, 1975)
The LA Four "Going Home" (Polydor, 1977)
The LA Four "Just Friends" (Concord Jazz, 1978)
The LA Four "Watch What Happens" (Concord Jazz, 1978)
Laurindo Almeida "Prelude" (Angel, 1979)
Laurindo Almeida "Chamber Jazz" (Concord Jazz, 1979)
(Produced by Laurindo Almeida)
Almeida returns to his wellsprings for this delicate, charming set of trio pieces, playing several classical pieces (Bach, Chopin, Debussy) along with Brazilian evergreens by Vinicius De Moraes and Carlos Lyra, as well as two compositions by Ernesto Nazareth, one of the foundational modern Brazilian music. The dynamics of this particular trio are interesting, if a bit static -- there's drummer Jeff Hamilton (a longtime collaborator from the LA Four) humbly tapping away, while bassist Bob Magnusson thrums on a fuzzy electric bass... The opening tracks reminded me of early Leo Kottke, although a more conventional mellow jazz vibe soon asserts itself. Overall, a nice, pleasant album, with some sweet, subtle playing.
The LA Four "Live At Montreux -- Summer, 1979" (Concord Jazz, 1979)
Laurindo Almeida "First Concerto For Guitar And Orchestra" (Concord Jazz, 1980)
With the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra...
The LA Four "Zaca" (Concord Jazz, 1980)
Laurindo Almeida "Montage" (Concord Jazz, 1981)
Laurindo Almeida & Charlie Byrd "Brazilian Soul" (Concord Jazz, 1981)
Laurindo Almeida & Bud Shank "Selected Classical Works For Guitar And Flute" (Concord Jazz, 1982)
The LA Four "Executive Suite" (Concord Jazz, 1982)
Laurindo Almeida & Charlie Byrd "Latin Odyssey" (Concord Jazz, 1983)
Laurindo Almeida "Artistry In Rhythm" (Concord Jazz, 1984)
Laurindo Almeida & Charlie Byrd "Tango" (Concord Jazz, 1985)
Laurindo Almeida/Carlos Barbosa-Lima/Charlie Byrd "Music Of The Brazilian Masters" (Concord Jazz, 1989)
Laurindo Almeida "Virtuoso Guitar" (Laserlight, 1990)
Laurindo Almeida "Duets With Spanish Guitar" (EMI-Angel, 1991)
With mezzo soprano Salli Terri and Martin Ruderman on flute...
Laurindo Almeida "Outra Vez" (Concord Jazz, 1991)
Laurindo Almeida "Praise Every Morning" (Mel Bay Publications, 1996)
Laurindo Almeida "Brazilian Reflections" (Mel Bay Publications, 1996)
Laurindo Almeida & The Bossa Nova All-Stars "Best Of" (Curb, 1996)
A brief, budget-line reissue that culls the "best" of three muzak-y albums made in 1962-63 for Capitol Records.
Laurindo Almeida "Heritage Series" (Concord Jazz, 1998)
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