Oscar Castro-Neves Dies at Age 73
Brazilian guitarist, arranger and composer Oscar Castro-Neves died Sept. 27 from complications of gastric cancer in Los Angeles. He was 73.
Born in Rio de Janeiro, Castro-Neves became a teenage star in Brazil with his hit song “Chora Tua Tristeza.” In the early 1960s, he emerged alongside Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto and a handful of other young composers as one of the founding figures of the bossa nova movement. In 1962, a year before “The Girl From Ipanema” became a Top 10 hit in the United States, Castro-Neves played a central role as a performer at the historic debut bossa nova concert at Carnegie Hall. He moved to the United States permanently in 1966.
Castro-Neves’ quartet toured in the company of the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, the Stan Getz Quartet and the Lalo Schifrin Trio. In 1971 he joined Sergio Mendes’ Brazil ’66 group as the featured guitarist, musical director and vocal coach. When he left the group in 1981, he had recorded more than 15 albums with Mendes, several of which he co-produced.
Castro-Neves performed as a guitarist on a number of jazz and pop albums, including records from Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Jackson, Barbara Streisand, Stevie Wonder, Barry Manilow and Quincy Jones, and he also toured with Frank Sinatra. His greatest commercial success came as a producer, with credits including the Grammy-winning crossover album Soul Of The Tango by Yo-Yo Ma, Joe Henderson’s Grammy-nominated Double Rainbow: The Music Of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Harry Belafonte’s platinum-selling The Tradition Of Christmas as well as records by Toots Thielemans, Stan Getz and Paul Winter.
His film score credits include arrangements and orchestrations for Blame it on Rio, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and L.A. Story, along with numerous television credits.
Castro-Neves was considered a complete musician who demonstrated instrumental virtuosity and an inherent musical genius. He was well-liked by fellow musicians for his enthusiasm, charm and send of humor. Castro-Neves’ native country, Brazil, honored him with the title of “Officer of the Order of Rio Branco” in recognition of his contribution to the dissemination of Brazilian culture and music around the world.
The subject of a 1963 DownBeat Blindfold Test, Castro-Neves told jazz critic Leonard Feather, “When you go out in the streets in carnival time in Rio and some players of samba are passing, most people stop what they are doing and go behind them, dancing and singing in the streets. It’s our thing, we feel that.”
Castro-Neves’ discography as a leader includes 1962’s Big Band Bossa Nova, 1963’s The Rhythm And The Sound Of Bossa Nova, 1987’s Brazilian Scandals and Oscar!, 1991’s More Than Yesterday, 1993’s Tropical Heart and 1998’s Brazilian Days (with Winter). He recorded as a Mack Avenue Records artist from 2003 until 2006, including the CDs All One and Playful Heart. Last year, Zoho Music released Castro-Neves’ Live At Blue Note Tokyo, recorded in 2009.
He is survived by his wife Lorraine, and two daughters, Felicia and Bianca.