Thursday, February 7, 2013

“Samba Triste”

Happy Thursday, friends! Are you ready for some guitar music? Yes, in the ever shifting & probably at times bewildering landscape of Robert Frost’s Banjo blog series, Thursday seems to have morphed into guitar day at least for the time being!

This month I’m really featuring Brazilian master musicians, because not only is Gal Costa the featured artist on Mondays, but Baden Powell, or strictly speaking, Baden Powell Aquino will be featured today & the following two Thursdays.

If you are familiar with Baden Powell’s work, you’re aware that he was a true virtuoso, as well as a gifted composer. If not, you will be amazed at his guitar skills! The nylon string classical guitar reigns supreme in Brazil, of course, & it was Baden Powell’s instrument. His technique is classical as well, & using that technique he was capable of guitar pyrotechnics at a remarkable level. But guitar mastery—or the mastery of any instrument—isn’t about being able to play a mind-boggling number of notesd in a brief space of time, though true virtuosos all are capable of this. Powell incorporated dynamics, emotion, timing, energy & could as easily move the listener with a slow lyrical passage as with a dazzling cadenza.

Baden Powell began his recording career in 1961 with Monteiro de Souza e Sua Orquestra Apresentando Baden Powell e Seu Violão on the Phillips label, & over 50 albums were issued in his name between then & 2005's Musica on WEA International; several of these were issued posthumously, as Baden Powell passed away in 2000. The Wikipedia article gives a good summary of Powell’s playing style & interests:

An analysis of his repertoire reveals a wide range of interests. It spanned all the idioms of Brazilian popular music of the 20th century: Samba, Bossa Nova, Afro-bahian ritual music, Frevo, Choro, North Eastern Sertão music, even European and Japanese lullabies. Like most musicians growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, he was deeply influenced by Jazz, especially Bebop and Swing. He covered Thelonious Monk's 'Round Midnight on two recordings, and Jerome Kern's All the Things you Are on three occasions (including his first solo album).

This upbringing is reflected in his playing style, which shows a fusion of jazz harmonies and classical guitar technique, with a very Brazilian right hand (i.e., the one carrying the rhythm on the guitar). In solo classical music, he was quite proficient in the works of Tárrega and Bach. When playing in a group, he was able to accompany singers with quiet mastery, or let loose and play street Samba in sloppy "party" style as if the guitar was another percussion instrument.

This live recording of his composition “Samba Triste” is from 1970. Enjoy!

The image links to its source on Wiki Commons.
The image of Baden Powell in 1971 is the property of Phillipe Baden Powell, who holds the copyright. According to Wiki Commons: “The copyright holder of this file allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed. Redistribution, derivative work, commercial use, and all other use is permitted.”


  1. Interesting man! How come I missed out on him? Named after the founder of the scouts, presumably?

    One of my favourite guitarists is the late Agustin Barrios Mangoré - a different style/genre, but you've got me thinking I ought to know more about South/Central American guitarists generally.

    1. Yes, he was an interesting man & a wonderful guitarist; & yes, named after Lord Baden Powell. There are so many wonderful Brazilian guitar players--Luiz Bonfa is in this mold, & Toquinho is a singer, but still an incredibly accomplished guitarist who does some instrumental work.


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