Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Record Debut of Laurindo Almeida

Laurindo Almeida
Choro, samba and other popular music genres of Brazil often seem to be categorized as 'Latin', when you browse through career profiles of artists in various sources available at the web or in short articles in printed books designated to give an overview of the musical background of a certain artist. This procedure seems to be the norm regarding musicians having their main career in jazz or popular music in the USA, however, the word 'Latin' does not state the tradition of the various musical sources supposed to be contained in the concept - in short, the 'Latin'-word is unclear and without a precise meaning, making the word easy to use by journalistst and writers appealing to a public more interested in the colour of the underwear of the artist than the musical background.

I was reminded of this, when I tried to look up information in English about the early career of Laurindo Almeida (1917-1995), the well-known Brazilian guitarist having his main career in the USA. In the general comprehension, Almeida is known as a 'Latin' guitar player, who had his breakthrough in the USA late 1940s as a member of Stan Kenton's big band, later in the 1950s he would be the first to inspire jazzmusicans to be interested in Brazilian music styles through a co-operation with Bud Shank, with whom Almeida made some now famous recordings in 1951,introducing 'jazz samba' to an American public. When Almeida moved permanently to the USA mid-1950s, his career spanned both jazz, classical and popular music - his work as a composer, arranger and guitarist during his American career is impressive, he made more than 800 compositions and participated in a great number of recordings - info about this chapter of his career is easily found in articles written in English. Anyway, here I like to put some focus on his early career in Brazil by pointing to his first recording under his own name, made 1938.

Laurindo Almeida (1917-1995)
Laurindo de Almeida was born 1917 in a small town in the state of São Paulo as a member of a large musical family. His father held an occupation as a railroad worker, but spent his leisure time as an amateur musician participating in serestas (- in English: serenade sessions). His mother was an amateur pianist, who taught Laurindo the basics of music, and a sister taught him to play the guitar in secret, an instrument he was attracted to already as a kid. At the age of 12 he would accompany his father and brothers in the serestas, by 15 he moved to São Paulo to seek his fortune as a musician and to take part in the political riots of the city. In 1932, he met and got aquainted with Garoto (Anibal Augusto Sardinha) while staying at a hospital, and they would later become partners, when Laurindo moved to Rio de Jainero and in 1936 joined as a staff musician at Rádio Mayrink Veiga. Garoto and Laurindo worked together as studio musicians accompanying various popular artist of the time, i.e. Carmen Miranda, and they also recorded together as a duo accompanying other vocalists and instrumentalists.

Laurindo Almeida and Garoto in Rádio Mayrink Veiga studio, c.1936-37
(photo courtesy by Jorge Carvalho de Mello)
Together with guitarist Gastón Bueno Lobo and Garoto Laurindo had success with programs at Rádio Mayrink Veiga performing as Conjunto Hawaiano for some time, displaying a string ensemble influenced by the Hawaiian way of playing the (slide) guitar, probably inspired by the experience of Gastón Bueno Lobo, who had had success playing the Hawaiian slide guitar with Oscar Alemán in Argentina and Europe some years earlier in the Les Loups duo. In 1938, Laurindo and GB Lobo had a co-work as composers of the choro Inspiracão, which was recorded for Odeon on a 78 rpm with GB Lobo playing the lead on Hawaiian guitar accompanied by Laurindo on guitar and Tute, seven string guitar. 

The flip-side of this record (Odeon, 11649-A) contains the first recorded solo by Laurindo Almeida under his own name of his composition Saudade que passa, a waltz that reflects the tradition of choro as the background of Laurindo Almeida's musical language.

The inspiration from choro is also very significant in Almeida's later work, here's an example of a solo version of his composition Braziliance to end this intro to Almeida's mostly unknown record debut in Brazil - enjoy!


Laurindo Almeida is a well known Brazilian guitarist who had his main career in USA both as a composer, jazz guitarist and as a performer of classical guitar music. However, in general reference literature in English there is generally not much information about his early career in Brazil. This entry sets focus on his debut recording under his own name made 1938 in Brazil.

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