Master Composers: Oscar Castro-Neves definitely left quite a legacy
On the day he would have turned 74, the late Oscar Castro-Neves definitely left behind a treasure trove of musical memories.
The two albums that I was planning to profile in 2013 should serve as testament to the fact that Oscar was more than what Wikipedia mentioned in the first sentence of his profile as being, “considered a founding figure in Bossa Nova.”
He was much more than that.
Oscar was born in Rio on May 15, 1940 as part of a musical family of triplets. Learning instruments such as the cavaquinho, or simply a small Brazilian guitar–he would gain much greater fame later with his solid renditions on classical guitar and sometimes on the piano.
Often teaming up with his three brothers (drummer Leo, Mario with the piano, and Iko on bass), his first huge hit came in 1956 with “Chora Tua Tristeza”, a national hit song in Brazil at that time. Six years later, he teamed up to do a memorable concert inside New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall.
But perhaps he gained more of a following during a bulk of the 1960’s in collaborating with the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, the Stan Getz Quartet, the Lalo Schifrin Trio and the Laurindo de Almeida Quartet. A short stay back in Brazil followed before settling on his final residence in 1971 in Los Angeles.
He became a true superstar in being named as music director, vocal coach, and featured guitarist for the internationally famous Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 (later ’77). After leaving the group in 1981, Oscar would eventually branch out to doing movie scores for films like the Oscar nominated short film, Burning Down Tomorrow plus the movie Blame It On Rio, which starred Demi Moore and Michael Caine in the title roles.
The two albums that are pictured above were the fifth and sixth solo albums out of 13 total in his illustrious career (he also was credited in helping with the 1981 album, Cycles by David Darling and Eliane Elias on a Brazilian Classics album in 2003.)
The best songs from the 1989 album include the title track leading off, followed by the romantic ballad of “Love In The Afternoon” on Track 2. The pace slows considerably until you get to Track 7 with the ultra fast tempo on “Buzios”. The cute jingles on “Wiggle” prove to be a fun song on Track 9, while he pays tribute to his longtime home the last 32 years of his life in “Vea L.A.” on Track 10.
The 1991 album has some highlights too, which should be best savored for all time via the magic of YouTube.
Here is the title track (#4 if you are scoring at home on the CD), “More Than Yesterday”:
Here is another cool song, on Track 2 called “Felicia and Bianca”:
One of his final song credits was doing the album, “All One” on the Mack Avenue release of 2006.
That song really captured a beautiful harmony of guitar, violin, piano, and other key instruments at his finest.
If there was ever a Mount Rushmore of Brazilian Master Composers, no doubt it would feature Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto, Milton Nascimento, and Oscar Castro-Neves.
He definitely made the world seem smaller with every note that he played, and for that plus many other reasons many current and future Brazilian jazz artists hopefully can learn from his mastery and make it their own someday.
No doubt about it, Oscar Castro-Neves leaves behind quite a legacy in bossa nova and that, we as fans should forever be grateful.
Next week, we will get back to happy mode in this cool blog space as I plan to profile a woman in smooth jazz circles whose name sounds and spells just like your favorite baseball player. Hopefully by then, the cold, dark, clammy, damp rain that has pelted most of the Eastern half of the country this week will finally go away and the return of summer will spark new memories to behold just in time for the first unofficial weekend of summer just around the corner.
Hope to see you then.