Obituaries: Laurindo Almeida

Because he was a virtuoso classical guitarist, Laurindo Almeida is viewed by most jazz listeners with suspicion. It was their loss. Guitarists, more than any other instrumentalists, owe allegiance to the instrument rather than to the musical style. Almeida loved classical, jazz and bossa nova music and played superbly in each style. He was a man of strong principles, and totally rejected humbug or artifice. He believed in the natural sound of the guitar.

"An electric guitar - to me, it's kind of an ugly thing," he said. "I really don't like the sound of an amplifier. It's an artificial sound. And it's very hard to identify who the musician is because the sound is all the same. The classical guitarist or violinist, you can tell because he's playing his notes; but an electric guitar, you press the string and here comes the sound through this box."

Almeida spent most of his life in the United States, where over the years Hollywood showered him with prizes as though they were dolly mixtures. He won five Grammy awards and various polls both as a guitarist and as a composer of film soundtrack music. He recorded a cornucopia of jazz, bossa and classical albums and, although it meant nothing to him, in 1962 his original Viva Bossa Nova album climbed to No 13 before falling back exhausted in the US charts. "That's one things about bossa nova - and I hate to say this, because I like money, too, but bossa nova's not supposed to be that popular."

Stan Getz always admitted that his success with what appeared to be the first jazz bossa nova album (which included "Desafinado") paid to put his children through school and college. In fact Almeida's 1962 album with the altoist Bud Shank was the first fusion of jazz and bossa by a few months and it was only chance which sent Getz and Charlie Byrd's later collaboration soaring in the charts.

During the Second World War Almeida became a staff guitarist on radio in Rio de Janeiro and led his own orchestra there. When he arrived in the States in 1947 he could speak no English. Impressed by Almeida's playing and wanting to hire him as a featured soloist, Stan Kenton could find no way to communicate with him until it was discovered that Almeida spoke perfect Italian. So did Kenton's chief arranger, Peter Rugolo.

"They took me on, and next thing I was in the bus with the orchestra, suffering terribly, mainly because I could hear all these kids telling jokes and I couldn't understand them. The life of a musician on the road, travelling about 100,000 miles a year - that was the hard part. The good part was the music that we played. Rugolo wrote a piece for me, 'Lament!', which we played all over the country from Carnegie Hall to the Hollywood Bowl. That winter we were trying to get through to New Jersey but the bus couldn't get through. It was my first contact with snow."

Almeida recorded with Kenton and, when he left him, settled in Los Angeles, with all the best West Coast jazz musicians including Bud Shank, Herbie Mann, the Four Freshmen and others. In 1963 he toured with the Modern Jazz Quartet and came to Europe with it in 1964.

His career as a classical soloist prospered and from the late Sixties he concentrated on a solo concert career, often sharing the stage with this wife, the soprano Deltra Eamon. He contributed music to films including Viva Zapata (1952) and The Old Man and the Sea (1958), and also worked on the film scores of The Godfather (1972) and A Star is Born (1976).

Irene Kral, one of the most underestimated jazz singers, who died young, made an album with him for Capitol which won them a Grammy and he recorded his album Suenas for the same label. Concierto de Aranjuez was commissioned in Japan, where Almeida was enormously popular, by the East Wind label, in 1978.

In 1974 Almeida formed the LA Four with Bud Shank playing alto and flute, the bassist Ray Brown and either Chuck Flores, Shelly Manne or, later, Jeff Hamilton on drums. They made nine successful albums for the Concord label and Concord also recorded Almeida's First Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra (1979) and Lobiana (1949).

Almeida published Guitar Tutor in Three Courses (1957) and Contemporary Moods for Classical Guitar (1970).

Steve Voce

Laurindo Almeida, guitarist, composer: born Sao Paulo, Brazil 2 September 1917; married Deltra Eamon; died Los Angeles 26 July 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss