6 Famous Bossa Nova Jazz Musicians

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Laurindo Almeida

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Groundbreaking guitarist who fused classical, jazz and Latin styles. Widely known for having created the elementa “jazz samba” style of bossa nova through his early recordings with Bud Shank. Has done over 100 recordings over 5 decades and is one of the first artists to receive Grammy Awards for both classical and jazz recordings. Died of leukemia in 1995.

Key Recordings: Brazilliance, Volumes 1 and 2 (with Bud Shank)

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Luis Bonfa

Brazilian-born self-taught guitarist who eventually studied with Isaias Savio as a teenager. Gained early attention in his early 20s through appearances on the the government-owned Radio Nacional. A contemporary of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, Bonfa joined them in composing music for de Moraes Portuguese version of Black Orpheus, for which he penned the classic “Manha de Carnical.” He performed frequently with the likes of Quincy Jones, George Benson and Stan Getz. Bonfa died in 2001 at 78 years old.

Key Recording: Soundtrack to Black Orpheus

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Oscar Castro-Neves

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Guitarist, arranger, composer and key figure in the development of bossa nova. Had a Brazilian hit record at age 16 (Chora Tua Tristeza) and played the famous Carnegie Hall bossa concert at 22. Toured frequently with Stan Getz and Sergio Mendes, with whose Brasil ‘66 ensemble he played on “Fool On The Hill” and “Stillness.” Castro-Neves also orchestrated a number of film soundtracks before passing away in Los Angeles in 2013.

Key Recordings: Big Band Bossa Nova and The Rhythm and Sounds of Bossa Nova

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Stan Getz

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Philadelphia-born saxophonist and composer who was a key figure in popularizing Bossa Nova music in the United States. Influenced by Lester Young, an alumni of Woody Herman’s big band, Getz fused bebop, cool jazz and third stream jazz into his own distinctive style. Recorded three bossa nova albums before teaming with guitarist Joao Gilberto to record Getz/Gilberto, the most famous and biggest selling bossa nova record of all time. Getz performed well into the late 80s before dying of liver cancer at age 64.

Key Recording: Jazz Samba (with Charlie Byrd) and Getz/Gilberto (with Joao Gilberto)

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Antonio Carlos Jobim

A key composer of bossa nova music, Jobim is a nature hero and an icon of Brazilian music. Co-wrote music to Black Orpheus with Vincius de Moraes. Most famous compositions are “The Girl From Ipanema” and “Corcovado,” both of which appeared on the famous Getz/Gilberto album. Also known for his trademark solo style, which focused on single notes and patent simplicity. Collaborated with Joao and Astrud Gilberto, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Stan Getz, among others. Among the many bossa nova artists who’ve recorded his compositions are Sergio Mendes, Flora Purim and Gail Costa. Jobim died in New York in 1994 due to complications during cancer.

Key Recording: Wave 

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Baden Powell de Aquino

Brazilian guitarist whose list of compositions for the instrument such as “Abração em Madrid,” “Braziliense,” “Canto de Ossanha,” “Samba Triste” and “Xangô” are considered among the most important pieces in the bossa nova songbook. Played in a number of bands before becoming famous when singer Billy Blanco put lyrics to his song, ‘Samba Triste” in 1959. Became known as an instrumentalist and composer in the early 60s when he began working with Vinicius de Moraes. Relocated to Europe in 1968, where he worked and become most famous until returning to Brazil in the 1990s. Died in Rio in 2000 from complications caused by diabetes.

Key Recordings: Monteiro de Souza e Sua Orquestra Apresentando Baden Powell e Seu Violão, Tristeza On Guitar and Solitude On Guitar