Oscar Castro-Neves

Oscar Castro-Neves


Legendary Brazillian guitarist fuses Brazillian music with jazz sensibilities.


Few musicians in the world today can boast a career that reflects a lifetime of accomplishments as diverse, rich and acclaimed as those Oscar Castro-Neves has achieved. Renowned as a composer and arranger for his sophisticated harmonic concepts and the exquisite texture and color of his orchestrations, he is equally well known for his distinctive guitar style and as an accomplished record producer who has worked with dozens of major artists in a wide range of jazz, popular, Brazilian and classical idioms.

Famed jazz critic Leonard Feather wrote of Oscar, "The crystalline beauty of his arrangements is matched by the rare delicacy with which they are interpreted. Castro-Neves is incapable of creating a dull moment, but that is an understatement: He is only capable of generating rhythmic, harmonic and melodic joy."

Oscar was born May 15, 1940, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, one of triplets in a highly musical family. Along with Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto and a handful of other young composers, he emerged in the early 1960s as one of the founding figures of the musical movement that became known worldwide as Bossa Nova. His first instrument was the cavaquinho, the small Brazilian guitar used in such traditional styles as choro. He soon added the piano and classical guitar to his repertoire and began performing with his three brothers -- pianist Mário, bassist Iko and drummer Léo. At the tender age of just sixteen, Oscar's first recorded song, "Chora Tua Tristeza," became a national hit in Brazil and generated over fifty covers recorded by various artists. In the studio, he recorded historic albums with the music’s biggest names, including Vinicius de Moraes, the poet laureate of the bossa movement; Dorival Caymmi, the godfather of Bahian-rooted Afro-Brazilian sounds; and the soon to be famous female vocal group Quarteto em Cy. In 1962, a year before “The Girl From Ipanema” became a Top 10 hit, he helped lead the Bossa Nova invasion of the U.S., playing a central role as a performer and accompanist for other noted Brazilian musicians at the historic presentation of Brazil’s new music at Carnegie Hall.

Following his U.S. debut, Oscar and his quartet toured in the illustrious company of the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, the Stan Getz Quartet, the Lalo Schifrin Trio and the Laurindo de Almeida Quartet before he returned to Brazil to resume a busy schedule as an arranger and producer. In 1971 he made Los Angeles his permanent home, joining Sergio Mendes' Brazil ‘66 group as the featured guitarist, music director and vocal coach. When he left the group in 1981, he had recorded more than 15 albums with Mendes, had co-producer many, and had appeared in concert in dozens of the world’s major cities.

Word of his arranging and guitar expertise spread quickly among the close-knit community of studio musicians and producers in Los Angeles, resulting in an avalanche of opportunities to arrange and produce for other artists and lend his guitar style to countless studio sessions. Among the many highlights of his tenure in the U.S. as the resident dean of Brazilian sounds have been collaborations with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Elis Regina, Flora Purim, Yo-Yo Ma, Joe Henderson, Michael Jackson, Barbara Streisand, Stevie Wonder, Stan Getz, Eliane Elias, João Gilberto, Lee Ritenour, Airto Moreira, Edu Lobo, Toots Thielemans, Paul Winter, Diane Schuur and countless other Brazilian, jazz and pop music stars.

Not surprisingly, major media critics have been lavish in their praise of Oscar. In a review of his performance with saxophonist Joe Henderson, Reuben Jackson of The Washington Post wrote, "The enthusiasm and beauty of guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves seemed to ignite fires beneath the ensemble." Britt Robson of The Star Tribune commented, "It was apparent that guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves was a collaborative catalyst who expertly shaded the tone and spurred the creativity of everyone around him." And Don Heckman of The Los Angeles Times wrote, "Castro-Neves was present in Rio at the birth of Bossa Nova in the '50s, and he is one of the most proficient players of the deceptively complex guitar rhythms that are the music's heartbeat. His instrumental rendering of ‘Manhã de Carnaval’ (from the film Black Orpheus), was an exquisite updating of the familiar theme; and his vocal/guitar interpretation of Antonio Carlos Jobim's ‘Waters of March,’ one of the most remarkable songs of the 20th Century, brilliantly displayed its gripping, stream-of-consciousness qualities."

Oscar’s list of credits as a record producer is long and distinguished. Among the most notable are: Color and Light - Jazz Sketches on Sondheim, chosen as one of the Top Jazz Albums of the year by Billboard Magazine and one of the Ten Best Albums of the year by Time Magazine; Double Rainbow, Joe Henderson’s tribute to the music of Jobim, picked as one of the Top Jazz Albums of the year by Billboard and nominated for a Grammy® Award; and Soul of the Tango


Playful Heart, February 8, 2004
All One, March 15, 2006