Oscar At All Times

by Brazil Club - Let The Music Take You There on 09/29/2013 - 12:51 pm

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The news came early; guitarist, producer and songwriter Oscar Castro-Neves had passed away from cancer on Friday at his Los Angeles home.

His brother Pedro Paulo wrote:

"To all friends, fellow musicians, family members we have, Mario, Maria Lina and I, brothers and sister of Oscar, sadness to announce his peaceful death last night, the 27th of September 2103 in Los Angeles, California, and at his side his beloved wife, Lorry and beloved daughters, Bianca and Felicia. Our unforgettable Oscar left us with a lot of love for the Lord. "


For all of his 73 years, Oscar Castro-Neves had an enthusiasm for life that was both infectious and unmistakable. You could hear it in his voice - a pleasant warmth masking an inner intensity, almost as if his voice was holding his boundless energy in check. At once playful, excited, reflective, passionate, the voice was the man.

You could hear it in his music, too. For Oscar, melody and counterpoint would flow and weave about like a Brazilian caipirinha , an unexpectedly smooth and deceptively potent mixture of freshly squeezed limes, sugar and cachaça (a barely-aged sugar cane rum).

This effervescence for life helped Oscar Castro-Neves to become a de facto Cultural Ambassador for Brazilian music on both continents.

Born in Rio de Janeiro May 15, 1940, his musical career began at age 14, when he and his brothers formed their first group, gaining recognition on local radio and television shows and hanging out with guys named Gilberto, Bonfa, Jobim.


Listen on Monday to our 'Third Hour' on The Sounds of Brazil webstream for a special musical tribute at 11 am, 2 pm, 5 pm, 8 pm and 11 pm Chicago time.


Two years later, everything changed. "We were just a bunch of musicians who played for the fun of it, showing each other what we'd come up with," recalled Oscar. "You have to remember that all of these famous Bossa Nova musicians were 16 or 17 years, with the exception of Jobim. He was 30 at the time." At a party one day, Alaide Costa, one of Brazil's top singers at that time heard one of my songs, 'Chora Tua Tristeza' (Cry Your Sadness), and asked if she could record it. I was shocked. I said 'Yes, of course you can!' Within a month, that song was number one and by the end of that year there was over 50 different covers recorded. And there I was, only 16 years old with a big hit! It was unbelievable."

The legendary Bossa Nova concert at Carnegie Hall in 1962 led to a tour with Stan Getz, and eventually, to Sergio Mendes. Joining Brazil '66 as featured guitarist, musical director, and orchestra conductor brought him to Los Angeles to stay in 1967, and elevated him to prominence within the music industry. In his ten years with Mendes, he recorded 15 albums and traveled to every major city world-wide, including a 32-concert tour with Frank Sinatra.

Through his years of development as a skilled composer, arranger, producer, group leader and performer, Oscar Castro-Neves has touched on many musical styles, from sound tracks to pop acts, but has never lost touch with his native Brazil. He's worked with Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, and Michael Jackson. Quince Jones, Dave and Don Grusin, Johnny Mandel and Lee Ritenour. Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, Stan Getz, Minnie Ripperton, and Laurindo Almeida, just to name a few more.

He produced a song with Randy Crawford for the movie "Stake Out." His many film scores include "Gabriela" and "Blame it on Rio." He's worked as an orchestrator on "What About Bob," "Short Circuit II," Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," "Problem Child," "K-9," "L.A. Story," "He Said, She Said," and on "Sister Act 2."

His documentary work includes "Burning Down Tomorrow," (nominated for an Oscar of its own) and "Reflections Through A Brazilian Eye," an Emmy nominated television special for KCET in Los Angeles.

Oscar became a US citizen and was also the very proud uncle of 'Dancing With The Stars' - Indy 500 winning driver, Helio Castroneves. He’s also grown to become a great musical friend. My first meeting with him was in advance of his ‘Tropical Heart’ CD in 1993 – we sat down for an interview that became the basis for the album’s official release. And every year on May 15, I'd call to sing 'happy birthday'.  After the first time, Oscar remarked that I had  "a nice singing voice." I replied that I only sing for my very best freinds because I know that they'll forgive me. Sometimes, laughter and friendships come easily.  

As Cultural Ambassador, Oscar Castro-Neves not only understands the Brazilian Heart, he helped create a good amount of it. His work with harmonica master Toots Thielemans as co-producer (with Miles Goodman) of The Brazil Project and The Brazil Project, Volume 2 has received critical acclaim and has brought thousands of fans back to Brazilian pop music. His unique interpretation of these Brazilian standards has introduced at least that many more to artists like Caetano Veloso, João Bosco and Edu Lobo.

Years ago, he traveled to Brazil to produce a special live tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim as part of Brazil's largest jazz festival. The event was so well received that Oscar decided to continue it annually, most recently this summer at the Hollywood Bowl.

All these aspects of Oscar were reflected in his musical life, so a final quote:

"I wanted [my music] to be a glimpse into my own heart, what I'd like to give back for all that I've gotten from life. The music is just bits and pieces of what I am. I've learned to be more self-accepting, and I think that my music reflects that. I know that I'm the same person on stage as off, I don't have a stage persona. I am Oscar at all times..."

- Scott Adams

  Publisher, Brazil Club

  Host, The Sounds of Brazil 


Our 'On-Air' Tribute to Oscar Castro-Neves 

This week, we’ll celebrate the musical life of Oscar Castro-Neves during the Third Hour on The Sounds of Brazil webstream, and also on the radio version of our show. Here are a few personal observations on the songs I’ve selected for this tribute medley.

Note: Without exception, none of Oscar's CDs from the 1990's to the early 2000's are available digitally, and are today considered to be 'Rare Brazilian Gems'. We carry all of Oscar's CD albums in stock and have included links below for your reference. If you are interested in purchasing one or more, please review the links, then contact me persoanlly here.

Please do not use the check out options at Connectbrazil.com.

Return To Rio:

This one’s from Oscar’s ‘Brazilian Scandals’ CD and one of my all-time favorite albums. The song ‘Return To Rio’ was one of several on this album meant for the movie ‘Blame It On Rio’ (which Oscar was scoring at the time) but did not “make the cut”. What I personally find so appealing on this album is Oscar’s consummate string arrangements. Pure Brazilian musical majesty!

Te Gosto Tanto:

“I Like It All’. Oscar’s 'More Than Yesterday’ album followed ‘Brazilian Scandals’ a year later in 1992 and it coincided with the debut of my radio show ‘The Sounds of Brazil’. Oscar capitalized on his success with ‘Blame it On Rio’ to carry his orchestral concepts to the max, and this song represented a fresh and unique approach to Brazilian jazz. Another ‘must have’ album for your collection... even decades later.

The Waters of March:

Oscar singing! He was the guitarist on the original classic version on this song, the legendary duet with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Elis Regina, which was recorded in Los Angeles. A fitting way to close out our celebration for our dear friend Oscar Castro–Neves. 


Oscar's discography at Connectbrazil.com