Almeida, Laurindo (Laurindo José de Araujo Almeida Nobrega Neto) (b Santos, Brazil, 2 September 1917; d Sherman Oaks, California, 26 July 1995). Composer, arranger and guitarist. He was raised in the small Brazilian coastal town of Prainha (now called Miracatu) near the port city of Santos in São Paulo State. Born into a large musical family, eight brothers and sisters, his first formal instruction in music was from his mother, who was an amateur classical pianist. However, he was more attracted to his sister Marias guitar and taught himself this instrument secretly from the age of nine by transcribing some of the piano pieces his mother assigned.
He and his brother, Edgard, moved to São Paulo when Laurindo was 12. At 15 years of age, Laurindo joined the local civil war in São Paulo State fighting with the revolutionary army. While recovering from a war wound, he met Brazils foremost guitarist, Garoto (Anibal Augusto Sardinha, 1915-55) who was entertaining in the hospital. He realized, through this encounter, that someone could make a living playing the guitar and he set his mind to do the same. This friendship with Garoto and later a working relationship, continued until 1955.
While living in São Paulo Laurindo obtained his first radio station job as artist and staff arranger. At this time he met another Paulista, Nestor Amaral, and played many programs with him, some entitled Jazz Cosmos, Typica Cosmos, and Regional Cosmos. After this meeting, both careers began to move quickly and upward. By 1935, Laurindo managed to get his next radio station job in Rio de Janeiro with Radio Ipanema and later over to Radio Mayrink Vega. He worked with Nestor and Ildefonso Amaral and were broadcast as a Chamber Trio.
He wrote many songs with Nestor: Shuca Shuca Shucalyo with lyrics by Irving Taylor, Zig-Zag, a samba (later used in the 1947 Danny Kaye film, A Song is Born) and more than 200 other works. Laurindo made numerous recordings and authored-co-authored waltzes, (his first Ainda te Lembras de Mim) arranged and created original sambas, choros, fox trots, samba-jongos, folksongs as well as humorous songs. Two of his sambas, Mulatto Antimetropolino (Carmen Miranda,1955, recorded this work with Odeon) and Vocé Nasceu pra ser Grãfina were popular with the public. For the 1940 Carnaval, he wrote, in 1939, Aldeia da Roupa Branca later to be called Johnny Peddlar, with Ubirajara Nesdan (it was translated in Spanish as Juancito el vendador) later to become popular world-wide.
Besides radio work, Laurindo played in clubs and led his own group for over 5 years at the Casino da Urca. During the period between 1936-47, he worked with such noted Brazilian artists as Garoto, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Radames Gnatalli, Carmen Miranda and her sister, Aurora, Cesar Ladeira, and Pixinguinha (Alfredo da Rocha Viana Filho, 1898-1973)he recorded choros with Pixinguinha under the direction of Leopold Stokowski on a cruise line in 1940. With Garoto they formed a group called Banda da Lua. Along with Zezinho (José do Patrocinio Oliveira), Garoto and Laurindo were billed as Brazils foremost masters of the guitar as well as the highest paid instrumentalist in the country from 1937 to 1947.
The hit song, Johnny Pedler, (Aldeia Roupa Branca) netted him and the lyricist, a substantial royalty check ($5,000.00) from RCA Victor, enabling Laurindo to relocate to California in 1947. Johnny Peddler, a song about the street peddler selling many things including love, was popularized by Eddie Duchin, the Andrew Sisters, Jimmy Dorsey, Les Browns Band of Renown, and many other big time musical groups. With this much musical support, Johnny Peddler laid the ground work for him and opened many doors in the U.S. entertainment industry.
On May 20, 1944, he married Maria Natália Miguelina Ferreira Ribeiro (1914-1969), a ballerina from Porto, Portugal, whom he met at the Casino Balneario da Urca in Rio.
1947: United States of America
His first job in the United States was in a Danny Kaye move soundtrack, A Star is Born in which Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Nat Cole also appeared. Soon thereafter, Laurindo joined Stan Kentons (1912-1979) orchestra, staying with him as a soloist, arranger, and composer until 1952. While with Kenton, he introduced the classical guitar tradition within jazz, and his early recordings from this time set a new standard (finger style) for jazz guitarists. He was a featured soloist with Kentons band at the Chicago Opera House, Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall making famous his own composition Amazonia, and the Kenton/Rugolo work Lament, written expressly for Laurindo. He brought to the United States, Brazilian folk/popular styles known in Rio de Janeiro in the 1940s, as the samba, choro, and the Baião, a hybrid of several types of folk music of the Brazilian northeast. In the early 1950s he cultivated what he then called samba jazz, a combination of cool jazz with samba elementsnot quite Bossa Nova but definitely the vanguard of this style. The United States became his home and he was naturalized a citizen in 1961.
Motion Picture Industry - Laurindo can be heard performing in over 800 film soundtracks. He has composed the complete scores to at least 10 major motion pictures (including the award winning Old Man and the Sea) and contributed to many other TV and film scores for Paramount, Universal, Columbia, and MGM studios. Recently, he underscored and performed the guitar part in Clint Eastwoods Unforgiven, 1995.
Compositions and Arrangements - Laurindo belongs to an elite group of Brazilian guitarists, who by composing important works for the guitar, reinstated the instrument in his native country as worthy of serious musical study. Stylistically, his compositions synthesize his classical background, Afro-Brazilian rhythms, other local and national characteristics of Brazilian music, and American jazz. Laurindo believed that there exists only the thinnest line between the two styles and that it is the performer primarily who makes the distinction; if one places a rhythm section behind most of Bachs works, the result is jazz. Like Garoto, his mentor before him, he cultivated a highly chromatic harmonic and melodic language, which he used for both styles. Much of his classical music has a decided popular flavor and therefore is particularly accessible to audiences. Laurindo explained his creative process: I compose in a descriptive way, inspired by a picture I see in my mind, which I then paint in music&I paint everyday scenes, as mundane as the freeway over-passes, such as I used for my Los Angeles Aquarelle Suite in six movements for guitar quartet or quintet.
In addition, he has written over 1,000 separate compositions including over 200 popular songs such as Choro for people in Love, Sahras Samba, and Twilight in Rio. His concert works range from solo guitar music to chamber music and a concerto for his chosen instrument.
Touring - He has toured the world and recorded with the Modern Jazz Quartet from 1963 to 1974 and again in the 1990s. Since the 1950s, he had been active with his group The LA 4 (alto saxist Bud Shank, bassist Ray Brown, and drummers Jeff Hamilton and Shelley Manne), which successfully combined classical music and jazz. Also during this time (1971) he married Deltra Ruth Eamon, Canadian-born lyric soprano who became part-and-parcel of his musical activities and his live.
Awards - Laurindo has been awarded five Grammy Awards (all for classical pieces), but has also received sixteen nominations in various classical, pop, and jazz categories of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. In 1961 his Discantus for three guitars tied with Igor Stravinskys Moments for piano and orchestra for First Place in the category, Best Contemporary Composition. Laurindo contributed both music and performance to the short animated film, The Magic Pear Tree (1968), a Bing Crosby Production, which received two nominations for an Academy Award. In 1977 he received the Certificate of Appreciation from the American String Teachers Association for a lifetime of dedicated and distinguished service to the guitar in the U.S., and the Vahdah Olcott-Bickford Memorial Award (1983) presented by the American Guitar Society for his illustrious career as a performer and composer and his dedicated promotion of the music of the Americas& the Library of Congress Music Divisions National Treasure Award&and in 1992, the Latin American & Caribbean Cultural Society Award, Certificate of Honor, from the Achievement Recognition Institute in London in recognition of his great talent as a composer and performer. In November, 1994, Laurindo was presented the Distinguished Award for Contributions to the University, California State University, Northridge by President Blenda Wilson, And, just before his death the Brazilian Government awarded him the Comendador da Ordem do Rio Branco, one of the highest awards Brazil bestows on its artists.