Oct 04 2006

Luiz Bonfá: Solo in Rio 1959

Discovered Again


Solo in Rio 1959Among the most legendary names in Brazilian music, the name of Luiz Floriano Bonfá certainly deserves a special place. The guitarist/composer from Rio de Janeiro (born October 17, 1922) mainly made his name in the samba-canção and the early bossa nova period. At age twelve, young Luiz started to take classical guitar lessons from the Uruguayan Isaías Sávio, who immediately recognized the remarkable talent of his student. He kept his eyes closed for the difficult financial situation of the youngster by not asking for any lesson money. It must have been an extra stimulation for Luiz Bonfá to develop his musical skills in the best possible way. Soon he could be heard during various public occasions.

The definitive recognition for Bonfá came when in the 1950s the eccentric crooner Dick Farney recorded some of his songs. That attracted the attention of Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes which marked the beginning of a fruitful cooperation. The first artistic climax came when Bonfá was asked by film director Marcel Camus to deliver some music for the legendary movie Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus). One of Bonfá’s compositions for that film, “Manhã da Carnaval” (“A Day in the Life of a Fool”), gained world fame and is now among the most performed standards of all times. Between 1956 and 1975 Bonfá traveled back and forth between Brazil and the USA. In both countries his musical career was received with increasing fame. In the USA he toured with singer Mary Martin and worked with musicians like George Benson, Quincy Jones, Deodato, Stan Getz and Frank Sinatra. There were also quite some recording dates along the road.

One of those albums has always been considered special. The master and his guitar were recorded live with the revolutionary Nagra-recorder by the famous audio engineer Emory Cook (1913-2002). Emory Cook had his own philosophy about sound, recording equipment and manufacturing techniques, for which he’s still recognized as one of the greatest engineers. O Violão de Luiz BonfáThe album (released in 1959 as O Violão de Luiz Bonfá) almost got lost in history, until the original tapes were discovered again when Emory Cook donated his record company (including all the recording master tapes) to the Smithsonian Institution in 1990. It’s to the credit of the late Emory Cook that the sound on the cd is of outstanding quality, considered that it was recorded almost 50 years ago! What we have here is the complete record of 1959 (tracks 1 – 17) with the addition of an extra half an hour of music. The inheritance of the Cook Collection also included the tapes that were not used for the album at the time. They contain 14 never-before released recordings, among which some interesting second takes. This solo album reveals the guitarist’s masterful technique. Some critics compare his polyphonic way of playing with that of the late great jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery. And it must be said, while listening to this musical document you’ll no doubt be dazzled by the bass and melody lines that Bonfá lays down. At some moments it’s hard to believe that this is the work of one solo performer, as in the walking bass lines on “Night and Day,” the Cole Porter classic.

This cd is a true masterpiece by the guitarist, who passed away in 2001 after suffering from prostate cancer. Finally there must be a special mention for the incredibly informative 31-page booklet. Besides an extensive biography and explanation of the recording, we also get a track by track description. It’s like a museum catalogue… The texts are by classical guitarist, poet, novelist and journalist Anthony Weller. They are translated in Portuguese (by MCD Records founder Eduardo Muszkat and Helena Soares Hungria) for the Brazilian release. A must for every guitarist and music fan with an interest in Brazilian music!

Luiz Bonfá



Luiz Bonfá
Solo in Rio 1959 
In Brazil: MCD 359 (2006)
Worldwide: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings SFW40483 (2005)
Time: 68’00”


All compositions by Luiz Bonfá, except where noted.

  1. Pernambuco
  2. Night and Day (Cole Porter)
  3. Shearing
  4. Sambolero
  5. Calypso Minor
  6. Uma Prece (A Prayer)
  7. Bonfabuloso
  8. Quebra Mar (The Seawall)
  9. Luzes do Rio (Lights of Rio)
  10. Perdido de Amor (Lost in Love)
  11. Manhã de Carnaval (Luiz Bonfá – Antônio Maria)
  12. Amor sem Adeus (Love Without Goodbye) (Luiz Bonfá – Antônio Carlos Jobim)
  13. Variações em Violão (Variations on Guitar)
  14. Seringueiro
  15. Chopin
  16. Na Baixa do Sapateiro [In the Shoemaker’s Hollow] (Ary Barroso)
  17. Murder
  18. A Brazilian in New York
  19. Prelude to Adventure in Space
  20. Tenderly (Walter Lloyd Gross – Jack Lawrence
  21. Blue Madrid
  22. Marcha Escocesa (Scottish March)
  23. Fanfarra (Fanfare)
  24. Samba de Orfeu (Luiz Bonfá – Antônio Maria)
  25. Manhã de Carnaval (Luiz Bonfá – Antônio Maria)
  26. Perdido de Amor 2
  27. Sambolero 2
  28. Quebra Mar 2
  29. Seringueiro Excerpt
  30. Seringueiro 2
  31. Luzes do Rio 2