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Ary Barroso portrait Perhaps Brazil's greatest pre-WWII composer, samba legend Ary Barroso is best known for the international hit, "Aquarela do Brasil," (which is often just called "Brazil"). In the 1920s and '30s, Barroso revamped the Brazilian samba, making it more accessible to international audiences, and was one of Carmen Miranda's favorite songwriters. Although his original recordings are hard to come by these days, there are countless versions of "Brazil" done by artists across the world, and many Brazilian tributes, notably a 1980 album by Gal Costa, and several modern "songbooks" on the Lumiar label.

Discography - Best-Ofs

Various Artists "BRESIL: CHORO - SAMBA - FREVO: 1914-1945" (Fremeaux & Associates/France, 1998)
Colossal. Enthralling. Essential. Legendary figures from the dawn of samba such as Pixinguinha, Noel Rosa, Sinho and Ary Barroso may seem distant and antique, but this excellent French compilation brings their music back with resounding immediacy. Two CDs worth of catchy, classy, crazy, playful creativity with an old-timey, jazzy feel. A lot of this would work well alongside old big band tunes, or Django Rinehardt records. HIGHLY recommended. Also check out the similar "BRESIL: SAMBA" collection.

Various Artists "ARY BARROSO - COMPOSITIONS: 1930-1942" (Harlequin, 2000)
Barroso himself didn't make that many records, but his songs were widely recorded by the biggest stars of early Brazilian samba cancao... This is one of the best collections available of that old stuff, mainly because it's one of the few records to collect Barroso's stuff by itself, and not as part of an overview of old Brazilian samba. By the time the disc is over, you'll get a sense of his compositional style, and you'll even notice how some of his certain tricks -- mainly the perky yum-tum-tum rhythm of his big hit, "Brasil," got recycled into several other songs... You'll also have been delighted by the fab performances of some of Brazil's best old-school performers, such as Elisa Coelho, Sylvio Caldas, Odette Amaral, and, of course -- always -- the great Carmen Miranda. Nice disc -- highly recommended!

I haven't heard this disc yet, but all the stuff on Revivendo is really great, so I'd guess this is at least comparable to the Harlequin CD listed above. Probably hard to find in the States, but available through the label's website.

Ary Barroso "Serie Raizes Do Samba" (EMI, 2000)

Ary Barroso "100 Anos" (EMI, 2004)
A cool 2-CD set that highlights Barroso both as a composer and as a performer. The first disc features fourteen classic, golden age recordings of Barroso's best-known songs, sung by the likes of Francisco Alves, Elizeth Cardoso, Carmen Miranda, Angela Maria, and others. Disc Two spotlights Barroso himself, in rare recordings from the late 1950s and early '60s, and this material is what really makes this collection a must-have for fans of old-school samba-cancao. The first few of these tracks have Barroso backed by a big, goofy-sounding orchestra, a modern band playing his old-fashioned songs with too much pep and not enough emotion, complete with the author, plunking away on the piano, sounding a bit corny himself. Fortunately I like corny music, so I stuck it out long enough to hear the later tracks, which are stripped-down solo pieces, just Barroso and his piano, playing his finest songs, often with short spoken introductions, and occasionally with Barroso singing as well, in his plain, playful voice. And, as is often the case, there's just nothing as gratifying or magical as hearing a composer singing their own work. Barroso displays the same kind of wry, ironic that his contemporaries such as Cole Porter, or Frank Loesser, or Harold Arlen showed with they sang their songs, a sly, winking, easygoing charm... These are relaxed performances that somehow bring out nuances that more elaborate, energetic versions often don't have... It's cool stuff, that definitely gets to the heart of his work. Recommended!

Discography - Albums

Ary Barroso & Silvio Caldas "Musica A Ary Barroso, Canta Silvio Caldas" (Radio Records, 1953)
A great set with Ary Barroso backing romantic balladeer Silvio Caldas, sometimes just Barroso on piano, and other times with a pretty swinging little orchestra. This is some of the best work of Caldas' that I've heard -- his heart is really in it... The slow numbers aren't too slushy, and the uptempo stuff is a gas. Recommended!

Ary Barroso "Encontro Com Ary: Um Bate-Papo musical" (Copacabana, 1956)
A mellow live set, with Barroso introducing his compositions, then playing them solo on the piano -- he does sing on a tune or two, but mostly it's just him plunking away on the keyboard. An intimate performance, but the music might seem a bit remote to modern Brazilian music fans.

Ary Barroso & Dorival Caymmi "Ary Caymmi E Dorival Barroso" (Odeon, 1958)
A delightful and joyous collaboration between two of the earliest (and best) samba cancao composers. Each covers the other's material -- Barroso's piano playing is bouncy and playful; likewise, Caymmi seems envigorated by the project, and less stolid than usual. This is a standout effort for both artists and a real treat for listeners, since Barroso didn't perform that frequently on record, and Caymmi was often much more sedate than this when left to his own devices. This is one of those fortuitously magical albums where two master musicians spur one another on to even greater heights. Recommended!

Ary Barroso & Dorival Caymmi "Recordings: 1953-1958" (Black Round Records, 2009)
This digital-only release alternates between each artist... Nice stuff, from the old days.

Ary Barroso & Sylvio Caldas "Recordings: 1953-1955" (Black Round Records, 2009)
This digital-only release includes an EP by singer Sylvio Caldas, covering several of Barroso's songs, as well as some of Barroso's own recordings. Same material as the album above, as well as the Encontro Ary Barroso album, I think.

Tributes & Related Records

Carmen Miranda "Carmen Miranda: The Brazilian Recordings" (Harlequin, 1993)
Carmen Miranda "Carmen Miranda: 1930-1945" (Harlequin, 1997)
Carmen Miranda "The Lady In The Tutti-Frutti Hat" (Harlequin, 1999)

All three of these CDs are heavy on Barroso material -- not surprising, since Carmen Miranda was his best-known interpreter. Classic material from the early 1930s through the mid-'40s... buoyant, perky, irresistible and highly, highly recommended!

Gal Costa "Aquarela Do Brasil" (Verve/Polygram, 1980)
A classy (and classic) tribute. In general, it is the smooth ballad which rules here. Gal's voice is sweet and fluid, and the soft-pop arrangements are mostly understated, even on the quartet of disco-flavored samba numbers which bookend the album. Might be too florid for many listeners -- I'm on the fence about this one-- but this is considered one of Costa's best records.

Garoto "Revive Em Alta Fidelidade Ary Barroso" (Odeon, 1957) (10" LP)
A syrupy orchestral album in which the guitar of choro legend Garoto guitar is present, but hardly dominant. Indeed, he is frequently buried beneath lush, overripe string arrangements and general cheesiness -- his part was recorded in 1953, two years before his untimely death in 1955, and was completed posthumously, with the orchestral parts added later on by bandleader, Leo Peracchi. In the second half of the album the guitar emerges a little more clearly, but this is more of a mood music album than a lost choro gem. (Note: these tracks were later re-released on the 1966 Elenco album, Aloysio de Oliveira Apresenta Garoto & Luiz Bonfa, which has also been released on CD.)

Rosa Passos & Lula Galvao "Letra E Musica: Ary Barroso" (Lumiar, 2002)

Trio Surdina & Leo Perrachi "Ary Barroso" (Musidisc, 1953)
A 10" LP, with Side One by Trio Surdina, with Leo Peracchi and his orchestra... This features the original Trio lineup -- Garoto, Chiquinho Do Acordeon and Fafa Lemos -- with Leo Perrachi singing on a couple of tunes. Great stuff. Very corny, but in a delightful, nostalgia-filled way.

Various Artists "ARY BARROSO SONGBOOK v.1" (Lumiar, 1994)

Various Artists "ARY BARROSO SONGBOOK v.2" (Lumiar, 1994)
Includes Tim Maia, Os Cariocas, Carlos Lyra, Joao Bosco, Edu Lobo, Tom Jobim, and Leny Andrade.

Various Artists "ARY BARROSO SONGBOOK v.3" (Lumiar, 1994)
Includes Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa & Luiz Brasil, Luiz Melodia, Johnny Alf, Sergio Ricardo, Joao Bosco, Pery Ribeiro, and Beth Carvalho.

Various Artists "NOSSA HOMANAGEM: 100 ANOS, v. 1-3" (Revivendo, 2004)

Various Artists "NOSSA HOMANAGEM: 100 ANOS, v. 4-6" (Revivendo, 2004)


  • Daniella Thompson & Ricardo Paoletti's Ary Barroso page features song lyrics, a comprehensive discography, plenty of archival and biographical material and a link to a fine Carmen Miranda-related page... Good information on one of the old-timer giants!

  • Brazzil Magazine has a good, fact-heavy online article about Barroso that was originally printed in 1997. As ever, a fine source of information!

  • Lumiar Records specializes in "song book" compilations, showcasing the music of various Brazilian artists, including the multi-disc Barroso series listed above... They do mail order and also have a pretty cool site. (In English and Portuguese.)

  • Samba and Bossa Nova Chords and Lyrics -- these free-to-post GeoCities pages have a nasty tendency to disappear overnight, but this one is pretty cool, so you might wanna check it out. Lyrics and tabs to dozens of songs by Ary Barroso, Dorival Caymmi, Jobim, Caetano Veloso, and others.

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