Two for Tuesday: Laurindo Almeida

Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida made a name for himself as both a classical guitarist and as one of the creators of the fusion of Latin music and jazz known as “Jazz Samba.” He first entered the jazz scene in the late 1940’s with Stan Kenton’s band where he met saxophonist/flautist Bud Shank. Together they recorded the albums known as Braziliance 1 and 2 in 1953 (originally credited as “The Laurindo Almeida Quartet featuring Bud Shank”). This was the first attempt at combining jazz and Brazilian music, preceding bossa nova by several years. He recorded with the Modern Jazz Quartet in the mid-1960’s, when he also recorded many of his classical guitar albums and performed on many movie and TV soundtracks, including The High Chaparal, The Godfather, and Funny Girl. He and Shank would come together again in the mid-1970’s with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Shelly Manne to form the L. A. Four, which further explored Jazz Samba. In the early 1980’s he recorded a number of albums with fellow guitarist Charlie Byrd, and also recorded with Baden Powell, Stan Getz, and Herbie Mann. He died in 1995, leaving behind a legacy of the guitar in both classical and jazz.

Our selections today come from albums in my own collection. The first song is “Speak Low,” a jazz standard composed by Ogden Nash and Kurt Weill, from the 1966 album Sammy Davis, Jr. Sings and Laurindo Almeida Plays. The whole album is a masterpiece, featuring only Davis’ voice and Almeida’s guitar. The second is “Watch What Happens,” a song composed by Michel Legrand and Jacques Demy, the title track from the L. A. Four’s album of the same name. All of the players get a solo on this one.

There’s much more of Almeida’s music on YouTube, including his work with Getz and the MJQ. I hope you spend some time with his music.

Laurindo Almeida, your Two for Tuesday, October 28, 2014.

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