Jazz Guitar Legend: Laurindo Almeida

The international acclaim of audiences and music critics alike has recognized Laurindo Almeida (1917-1995) as one of the industry’s truly wonderful concert guitar players, and yet he is also well remembered as a showcased soloist with the Modern Jazz Quartet on two historical world tours.

From Beethoven and Bach to Bossa Nova, Broadway hits and jazz standards — all of these types of guitar music are an element of his apparently limitless performance repertoire. Many of Laurindo’s guitar compositions are available in his collection books of jazz guitar tabs and jazz guitar tablatures. Most significantly, he did it all with exceptional ability and artistry.

Laurindo-AlmeidaBorn in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he obtained his first musical training on the piano from his mother who was a concert pianist. His sister Maria was the family guitar student, but it was Laurindo who was to master the classical guitar and eventually turn out to be a virtuoso on the instrument as well as one of Brazil’s most highly regarded musicians.

Leaving a successful career in concert and radio performance in Brazil, he relocated to Hollywood, California in 1947 where he worked for a year doing concert events and movie work. But jazz lured him to the orchestra of the innovative jazz musician Stan Kenton. He presented to Kenton, and the world, his new and exciting conception, Bossa Nova. His world premier presentations of Pete Rugulo’s “Lament” and his own “Amazonia” at the Chicago Opera House and Carnegie Hall drew remarkable acclaim! Today’s jazz guitar performers still remain guided by the revolutionary ideas he introduced during the Stan Kenton years.

Capitol and Decca record companies spearheaded new triumphs for Almeida’s superlative live performance profession with classical guitar recordings. He was selected for world premier recordings of compositions by two of Brazil’s best composers, “Concerto for Guitar” by Heitor Villa-Lobos, and Radames Gnattali’s “Concerto de Copacabana.” Almeida has over 200 compositions to his credit in addition to many transcriptions and arrangements of the classics for guitar.

A consistent champion in Downbeat and Playboy magazines jazz polls and a Film Poll champion since 1947, Laurindo was nominated 16 different times by The Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and won five Grammy awards. For one Grammy, his composition “Discantus for 3 Guitars” tied with Igor Stravinsky’s “Moments for Piano and Orchestra” for Best Contemporary Composition. Amongst the many nationwide and worldwide citations he acquired was a Certificate of Honor for having the distinction of becoming a “reference file” in the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, where all of the manuscripts will eventually reside. All told, Laurindo Almeida was a consumate guitar performer and musician of the highest order whose legacy will continue for all time! Luckily, for aspiring guitarists Laurindo released numerous collection books of his guitar arrangements and transcriptions that are still available today!

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