Oscar Castro-Neves

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Steve Sidoruk

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Mack Avenue Records to Release Oscar Castro-Neves' "All One"

Famed guitarist, composer, arranger and producer Oscar Castro-Neves, a leading figure of the international Brazilian music scene since the early 1960s, follows up his critically lauded 2003 Mack Avenue release Playful Heart with an equally enticing performance on his new album, All One, to be released on March 14, 2006. The 14-track program features special guest, noted Brazilian vocalist Luciana Sousa, and an all-star line-up of instrumental talent that includes violinist Charlie Bisharat, bassist Brian Bromberg and keyboardist Don Grusin, Gary Meek on woodwinds, Alex Acua and Mike Shapiro on drums and Kevin Ricard on percussion, on works that tap a broad range of Brazilian and global influences. Castro-Neves' vast experience as a recording artist and producer, coupled with his keen intuitive sense and consummate good taste, create a listening experience that soothes the soul as it fires the senses.

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1940 into an especially musical family, Oscar began performing with his three brothers - pianist Mrio, bassist Iko and drummer Lo - while just a youngster, established a reputation as a composer and instrumentalist while still in his teens. 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 although over a decade younger than bossa nova creators Joo Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, nonetheless played an important role in the global acceptance of bossa nova as the most important new music style to emerge from Latin America in decades.

As a contemporary of such noted bossa pioneers as guitarists Roberto Menescal and Durval Ferreira and pianists Luiz Ea and Eumir Deodato, Oscar was in the vanguard of young Brazilian musicians who helped popularize the new style around the world. At the tender age of 15, his composition “Chora Tua Tristeza” became a nation-wide hit, spawning over four-dozen covers. 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 US, 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.

Oscar never planned to take up permanent residence in the U.S. - his four decade presence in Los Angeles, the city he has long called home, occurred naturally as his role as a member of Sergio Mendes' group in the early 1970s quickly spread his fame. The result was an avalanche of opportunities to arrange and produce for other artists and led his guitar style to countless studio sessions. Among the many highlights of his tenure in the US as the resident dean of Brazilian sounds have been collaborations with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Elis Regina, Flora Purim, Yo-Yo Ma, Joe Henderson, Harry Belafonte, Stan Getz, Eliane Elias, Joo Gilberto, Lee Ritenour, Airto Moreira, Edu Lobo, Toots Thielemans, Paul Winter, Diane Schuur and countless other Brazilian, jazz, classical and pop music stars.

For All One, all of Oscar's talents as an instrumentalist, arranger and producer are distilled into one stunning package. “It's really four albums in one,” Oscar jokes, referring to a repertoire that includes Brazilian classics, vintage US pop and jazz standards, originals that are embellished with the latest pop music ingredients, and a nod to both the classical music and bolero traditions. From Jobim's perky, bossa-spiced jazz waltz “Double Rainbow,” a longtime favorite of Oscar's, to Chopin's wistful “Prelude Op. 28 No. 20 in Cm” and Thelonious Monk's “'Round Midnight,” the program's broad stylistic range is synthesized by the leader's expressive bossa-rooted guitar lines and elegant arrangements that take full advantage of the exceptional ensemble's talents. As the tracks unfold, the blissful paring of Oscar's guitar and Bisharat's violin becomes an aural focal point, as does the well-placed solo forays of Gary Meek on flutes and saxophones.

Among the standout tracks are “Historia de un Amor,” a gorgeous, half century old bolero well known to fans of Spanish language romantic music around the world, and the title tune, a new original work by Oscar in the march-like rancho style that originated in Rio in the 1920s. “It's the music that accompanies carnaval revelers home after a nightlong party,” he explains. Oscar sings both songs in his straight-from-the-heart manner - unvarnished, sincere, and utterly riveting. Grammy nominated Brazilian singer Luciana Souza adds her golden, pitch-perfect voice to “No me diga adeus,” cleverly arranged to mirror the effervescent style “Mas que nada,” the first big hit for Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66, and the haunting love ballad “Morrer de amor,” a song Oscar wrote in 1965 that is still popular at Brazilian wedding ceremonies. For John Coltrane's “Naima,” Oscar speeds up the tempo and gives the classic a contemporary sheen with a constantly shifting percussive undercurrent provided by hip-hop, samba and Afro-Cuban inspired rhythm loops. Capping the set is a tribute to composer-singer Michael Franks via a funk 'n bossa update of his “One Bad Habit.”

“I drink from many founts,” Oscar says metaphorically, explaining his insatiable desire to explore the widest possible realm of music influences. On All One, the logic of his artistic wanderlust becomes abundantly clear as track after track reveal the inherent music genius that has made Oscar Castro-Neves one of the world's most complete musicians of his generation.

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