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Nelson Cavaquinho portrait Nelson Cavaquinho (1911-1986) was one of the classic samba songwriters of the 1930s and beyond, a member of the Mangueira samba school, he was a contemporary of Cartola and a frequent collaborator with composer Guilherme de Brito... Like many early sambistas, Cavaquinho's was known as a songwriter rather than as a star; his first album was not recorded until the 1970s, and while he composed numerous samba standards, he only made a handful of records. Here's a quick look at his work.


Nelson Cavaquinho "Depoimento Do Poeta" (Discos Castelinho, 1970)
A stripped-down, unpretentious set of traditional acoustic samba music, sung by Mangueira samba-school elder, Nelson Cavaquinho, in a lightly croaky old-man voice, but with great authority and a seductively relaxed vibe. Occasionally he'll stop in the middle of a performance to chat with the musicians, but mostly he steadily works his way through a delicious set of songs, all of them co-written by Cavaquinho, along with other traditionalist sambistas, such as Guilherme de Brito. Great flute accompaniment, along with solid, unflashy percussion. Nice stuff, deeply and profoundly authentic. (Reissued on CD as the Mestres De MPB album.)

Nelson Cavaquinho "Nelson Cavaquinho" (RCA, 1972)
The second album by samba songwriter Nelson Cavaquinho, a member of the samba velha guarda, or old guard, who had been writing hit songs for decades before this record came out. Its nice, fairly stark, acoustic samba music, framing Cavaquinho's slightly croaky vocals. The small-scale vocal chorus, which is often a bit shrill and off-key, may wear thin, but on the whole this is classic, thoroughly engrossing material from one of those great Rio sambistas. Recommended!

Nelson Cavaquinho "Nelson Cavaquinho" (EMI-Odeon, 1973)

Nelson Cavaquinho "As Flores Em Vida" (Eldorado, 1985)
Geezerly samba at its finest. Cavaquinho's final album features guest appearances from several big-name stars, including many who are connected to the samba escolas, including Joao Bosco, Chico Buarque and his sister Cristina, Beth Carvalho, the estimable Paulinho Da Viola and Toquinho... Cavaquinho's voice is even more fragile and elderly-sounding than before, and that's fine by me: with the solid backing of a dazzling acoustic band, the fragility of his voice underscores the respect for tradition and continuity in the roots-samba scene. Plus, the music is just beautiful -- this is a great record. (By the way, does anyone know if the "Bebel" listed as a performer on the album's final track is, in fact, Bebel Gilberto? Just wondering.)

Nelson Cavaquinho "Mestres De MPB" (Warner, 1989)
This appears to be a straight reissue of the 1970 album, Depoimento Do Poeta.

Nelson Cavaquinho "Colecao Talento" (EMI, 2004)
A reissue of the 1973 album, Nelson Cavaquinho, with all the same tracks, but in a different order.


Leny Andrade "Luz Negra" (Velas, 1995)
A tribute by Braz-jazz vocalist Leny Andrade...


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