Master of the Art
When hearing the name Baden Powell, people tend to think about the famous British founder of the Boy Scouts association (1908). But in Brazil it often happens that parents name their child after a famous person. On August 6, 1937, in Varre-e-Sai (near Rio de Janeiro) Adelina and Lino de Aquino welcomed the birth of a son. As a Boy Scout enthusiast, father Lino took the opportunity to name his son after Sir Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell (1857-1941). A new, Brazilian Baden Powell was born! However, this Baden Powell de Aquino turned out to be one of Brazil’s most talented and renowned guitarists. His typical Brazilian guitar style with influences from jazz, classical and African music is admired by music lovers all over the world. He’s also known for his work as a composer, with a repertoire of more than 500 compositions.
It soon appeared that the little Baden Powell was musically gifted. When he was only eight years old, he studied guitar with that time famous guitarist Jayme “Meira” Florence (1909-1982). Two years later he won his first guitar contest. At age fourteen he was given special permission by the juvenile court to accept work as a musician for radio and TV stations as well as for Copacabana’s nightclubs. It was in this club circuit that he developed an interest in jazz.Along the road Baden also started to compose. His “Samba Triste” (Sad Samba), for which Billy Blanco wrote the lyrics, was one of his first major successes (1956). Definite recognition came when Baden met the legendary Vinícius de Moraes in 1962. After hearing Baden’s composition “Samba em Prelúdio,” Vinícius was sure that it was a piece of music composed by Chopin. He didn’t want to believe it was Baden’s work. “Chopin didn’t make it because he forgot it,” was his final conclusion… The two became partners in crime for many years. While dominating the music scene during the 1960’s, they decided to import African influences from the Capoeira and Candomblé traditions in their music. The groundbreaking album Os Afro-Sambas de Baden e Vinícius (1966) was received with surprised praise. Also in Europe the talents of the guitarist didn’t stay unnoticed. It was the start of a very busy life for Baden. Unlike most of his musical countrymen who found response in the USA, Baden traveled frequently between Brazil and Europe. After album releases in the two continents and concerts all over the world, Baden Powell took time out living in France and Germany in the 1980’s, after which he returned to Brazil. There he continued working, but his life long uncontrolled drinking and smoking habits started to attack his health. After his religious conversion to Evangelical faith, Baden succeeded to quit with both addictions, but the decision was made too late. At age 63, on September 16, 2000, Baden passed away in Rio de Janeiro’s Clínica Sorocaba hospital after suffering from diabetic and kidney problems.
Lembranças (Memories) was Baden’s last studio work, recorded less than half a year before his death. Against his habit, this album features mainly the works of other composers; from a time that Baden wasn’t even born yet. But the sambas have always been in Baden’s memory, since he grew up listening to them as a youngster. This explains part of the title of this cd. Lembranças also refers to the posthumous release of this cd, for us to remember this exceptional musician. Due to his declining health condition, the dazzling technique Baden was famous for, started to adjust more and more to the benefit of the harmonies. Nevertheless, the right hand that’s responsible for the guitarist’s rhythmic support still sounds like a little miracle.
The album’s opener, “Pastorinhas” (1938), is composed by two of Brazil’s most famous samba composers, Noel Rosa (1910-1937) and “Braguinha” João de Barro (1907-2006). The song, a marcha-rancho (slow samba march) was a huge hit during the 1938 carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro. The song was actually written and recorded in 1934 as “Linda Pequena.” Unfortunately it didn’t gain much success. Four years later Braguinha made a few changes in the composition, renamed the song and participated with it in a carnival song contest, with success! In this rendition Baden decided to ask percussionist Fred Prince and flutist Teco Cardoso to help underline the samba feeling during a few fragments. “Inquietação” is one of most loved compositions by Ary Barroso (1903-1964). He wrote the samba in 1935 and gained success with it when it was used for a historical important movie from Humberto Mauro, “Favela dos Meus Amores” (My Beloved Slum). This was one of Brazil’s first movies with sound. Although the images of the movie are gone, the music is still popular. With “Molambo” Baden remembers his first guitar teacher Jayme “Meira” Florence, who wrote the song in 1953 with Augusto Mesquita. As a samba-canção (samba song) this song is one of the heralds of the bossa nova era. “Falei e Disse” was written in 1969 by Baden and one of his most famous musical partners, Paulo César Pinheiro.
After the death of João de Barro (December 24, 2006), Dorival Caymmi (born in 1914 in Salvador, Bahia) is one of the longest living great composers. He is among the most interpreted musicians. The samba “Dora,” with accents from Brazil’s north eastern region (samba-frevo) dates back from 1945. In this rendition Baden refers to another Caymmi composition, “O Mar.” “Linda Flor (Ai, Ioiô),” composed in 1929 by Henrique Vogeler (1888-1949), with lyrics from Marques Porto and Luiz Peixoto, is often referred to as the very first samba-canção (samba song). The samba-canção’s emphasis is on the melody lines instead of the rhythm, as in the “plain” samba. “Maria” is another composition by the earlier mentioned Ary Barroso, in partnership with Luiz Peixoto (1889-1973). This samba-canção was written in 1932. This rendition also has fragments from two other compositions: “Arrependimento,” by Cristóvão de Alencar and Sílvio Caldas, and “Por Causa Desta Cabocla,” by Ary Barroso and Luiz Peixoto. On “Minha Palhoça” we hear the voice of Baden Powell. This samba was written in 1935 by one of Rio’s famous carnival music composers J Cascata (1912-1961), Álvaro Nunes’ pen name. “Branca” (1918) is a sentimental waltz composed by Zequinha de Abreu (1880-1935). The song was inspired by romantic feelings for Branca Barreto, the daughter of the head of a railway station in Santa Rita do Passa Quatro (state of São Paulo), where the composer lived. “Mágoas de Caboclo” (1935) is another composition by J Cascata, this time in partnership with Leonel Azevedo (1905-1980). The singing duo had their own radio show Hora Sertaneja, for which they composed songs. This is one of the tunes they introduced during their show. Leonel Azevedo retired from music after J Cascata passed away in 1962.
Baden closes the album with a composition of his in collaboration with his most famous musical partner Vinícius de Moraes (1913-1980). Baden pays tribute to the remembrance of De Moraes with one of their most famous and most beautiful compositions, “O Astronauta” (1962). Needless to say that this album gives a wonderful view of what this legendary guitarist stands for. Timeless Brazilian music!
Trama TESN/114-2 (2000)/DRG Brazil 31619 (2007)
- Pastorinhas (João de Barro – Noel Rosa)
- Inquietação (Ary Barroso)
- Molambo (Jayme Florence – Augusto Mesquita)
- Falei e Disse (Baden Powell – Paulo César Pinheiro)
- Dora (Dorival Caymmi)
- Linda Flor (Ai, Ioiô) (Henrique Vogeler – Marques Porto – Luiz Peixoto)
- Maria (Ary Barroso – Luiz Peixoto)
- Minha Palhoça (J Cascata)
- Branca (Zequinha de Abreu)
- Mágoas de Caboclo (J Cascata – Leonel Azevedo)
- O Astronauta (Baden Powell – Vinícius de Moraes)