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Baden Powell portrait Acoustic guitarist Baden Powell (1937-2000) was an integral member of the early bossa nova scene... Powell co-wrote many songs which became bossa standards, particularly his early compositions with poet Vinicius de Moraes. Powell's solo work is mostly instrumental, comfortably situated between the jazz and classical guitar worlds.


Baden Powell "Apresentando Baden Powell E Seu Violao" (Philips, 1961)
(Produced by Baden Powell)

An uneven debut, which showcases the young Baden Powell, a little untamed at the time, bracketed by the ill-fitting pop-orquestral arrangements of Monteiro de Souza and his band. String arrangements and other orchestral flourishes flutter by, some fall with a thud, while Powell bursts over with dynamic energy, but a seeming lack of direction. Also, the classical/flamenco style seems more prominent than homegrown samba or bossa nova influences, and the repertoire leans heavily towards North American standards such as "My Funny Valentine," "Stella By Starlight," et al. Only deficient in comparison to his later, transcendent work, but still at times a little ungainly. Includes Powell's "Samba Triste," as well as Brazilian oldies by Ary Barroso and Pixinguinha.

Baden Powell "Um Violao Na Madrugada" (Philips, 1963)
(Produced by Armando Pittigliani)

Productionwise, this is a much more cohesive album, and a much better showcase for Powell's fretwork. The repertoire is much improved as well, with mellow, all-Brazilian material -- half the songs are Powell originals, while the other tracks include tunes by Ed Lincoln, Jadir De Castro and others... Powell's version of Nelson Cavaquinho's "Luz Negra" is an album highlight, along with the swinging, goofy, French-ified "Licao De Baiao." Not an electrifiying album, but still... great guitar music!

Baden Powell "Le Monde Musical De Baden Powell" (Barclay, 1963)

Baden Powell "Le Monde Musical De Baden Powell, v. 2" (Barclay)

Baden Powell & Billy Nencioli "Billy Nencioli + Baden Powell" (Barclay) (mid-60s)

Baden Powell & Vinicius De Moraes "Os Afro-Sambas" (Forma, 1966)
(Produced by Roberto Quartin & Wadi Gebara)

Unquestionably one of the greatest and most magical Brazilian albums ever made, this disc mysteriously remained largely out of print for decades. Well, now that I've finally shelled out the big bucks for a pricey Japanese import, I'm sure cheap copies will soon flood the market. At any rate, this collaboration between guitarist Baden Powell and bossa poet Vinicius De Moraes is incandescent and timeless; the music leaps out at you, as vibrant now as it was all those years ago. It's also probably the career highpoint for the female vocal group, Quarteto Em Cy, who later became overly polished and bland, but here sound youthful and even a bit unruly -- like a mob of teenage girls dragged in to sing for an after-school choir. The mix of moody, unsettling bossa nova melodies and somewhat abrupt African rhythms was wisely left a bit rough around the edges, and as a result retains an eerie, haunting strength. Powell rerecorded this album twenty-five years later (albeit without Vinicius' help; De Moraes had been dead for over a decade...), and while that version has its moments, it is nowhere near as transcendent as the original. If you can track this album down, it's a classic.

Baden Powell "Tristeza On Guitar" (MPS, 1966)
The first of Powell's On Guitar series, this album is a real change of pace from the lyrical mysticism of Os Afro Sambas, opening with the sprightly title track, "Tristeza," and maintaining up a certain bounciness throughout. This is largely due to the backbeats provided by drummer Milton Banana, who lays down some pleasantly effective, understated percussive grooves, which Powell makes the most of, playing as slyly as ever. It's nice stuff, lulling, but not overly predictable... Definitely worth checking out.

Baden Powell & Mauricio Einhorn "Tempo Feliz" (Forma, 1966)
(Produced by Roberto Quartin)

Okay, so, like, this is the album where it's finally cemented in my mind that "gaita" means "harmonica" in Portuguese. Powell teams up with harmonicat Mauricio Einhorn and jazzish producer Roberto Quartin for a fairly lush set that raises the ugly spectre of the "easy listening" rubric. Folks who are drawn to all things loungerific may dig this disc and its bossa-gone-cutesy breeziness... But for the rest of us, particularly those who were drawn to Powell for his more transcendent, magical qualities, this seems like a poor use of his talents, and an odd pairing of artists. There are moments of grace and magic, and even a few beautiful songs, but by and large the arrangements are undistinguished, and the concept is flawed: Powell wasted his time making this album; I suppose it's a matter of personal preference as to whether you would be wasting yours listening to it.

Baden Powell "Ao Vivo No Teatro Santa Rosa" (Elenco, 1966)
(Produced by Aloysio De Oliveira)

A lively concert album with bass, piano (Oscar Castro Neves) and drums in addition to Powell's far-ranging and imaginative guitar work. The percussion by Victor Manga is, mysteriously, a little off the mark... Partly this may be due to how it was miked -- sounds a bit flat and thuddy most of the time. Includes a mile-a-minute burnthrough of "Samba De Uma Nota So" and a spiffy classical piece, Powell performing a spotless version of a J.S. Bach prelude... Mostly I'd say I prefer the mellower studio versions, but this is still a nice early snapshot of Powell's live presence.

Baden Powell "Swings With Jimmy Pratt" (Polygram/Elenco, 1966)
(Produced by Aloysio De Oliveira)

Easy, breezy jazz, teaming Powell up with North American flautist Jimmy Pratt. Pretty lightweight -- loungecore devotees may enjoy this more than I did.

Baden Powell "A Vontade" (Elenco, 1967)
A beautiful album, with Powell very much in control of the haunting sound he sculpted on the Os Afro Sambas album, only without the vocals to contend with. The guitar work is sweet and soulful, and the percussion is also very dynamic and creative. A couple of tracks gallop on in an overly breezy, poppish fashion, but for the most part, this is a stunner. Highly recommended.

Baden Powell "Show/Recital" (Philips, 1968)
(Produced by Manuel Berembeim)

A live album (which looks like it might have originally been issued as two separate EPs) featuring Powell solo, and then as backup for vocalist Marcia and with the group, Os Originais do Samba. Powell's instrumentals are a bit rushed and clipped; the vocal tunes are more nuanced and engaging. Who was Marcia, anyway? Anyone know? She was a little slushy-voiced, but okay.

Baden Powell "Poema On Guitar" (MPS, 1968)

Baden Powell "Baden" (Elenco, 1968)
(Produced by Joaquim B. Berent & Wadi Gebara Nello)

A lovely, mellow set of guitar tunes, with accompaniment on a couple of the songs, particularly on flute (someone named Copinha) and percussion (Milton Banana, one of Powell's most sympathetic sidemen...) Not super-challenging or moody, but nice, and with an abundance of original compositions and some interesting choices in repertoire, such as Thelonious Monk's " 'Round Midnight," and a lesser-known Pixinguinha tune. Recommended.

Baden Powell "27 Horas De Estudio" (Philips, 1969)
(Produced by Joao Mello)

This disc opens with an atypical blues-jazz swing tune, "Lotus," which is a real sizzler, and has plenty of other great material. A little schmaltz at the beginning, with a strings-heavy version of Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Are," but then Powell settles into a more soulful, challenging mode, with the choro- tinged "Um Abraco No Codo," the piercing "Cego Aderaldo (...Nordeste)" and a moody rendition of Dorival Caymmi's "A Lenda Do Abaete." He even closes things out with a bit of Bach, cementing his command of the classical guitar. A fine, understated showcase of his stylistic and emotional range; one of his finer albums.

Baden Powell & Os Cantores Da Lapinha "As Musicas De Baden Powell E Paulo Cesar Pinheiro" (Elenco, 1970)
(Produced by Joao Mello)

I'm not even sure if Powell is the guy playing guitar on this album, but it certainly is a lovely, alluring set. "Os Cantores" turn out to be two members of Quarteto Em Cy and two of their male counterparts from MPB-4, along with Elizete Cardoso singing the leads. Not a bad lineup! The music is pretty nice, too -- some of the most overtly sambaed-out Powell material you're ever likely to hear. All but one of the songs the songs are Powell-Pinheiro compositions (the exception being a collaboration with the album's producer, Joao Mello), with the drums and cuica keeping the beat throughout, and fine, swinging vocals. Only on one song do the Em Cy gals go a little overboard and slip into one of their facile, saccharine harmonies... Otherwise, this is a lovely, lovely album, a little known gem of the era.

Baden Powell "Canto On Guitar" (MPS, 1970)
(Produced by Joachim E. Berendt)

Another nice entry in the "On Guitar" series, featuring plenty of dazzling guitar work, and a lot of wild, creative percussion. Recommended!

Baden Powell "Estudos" (MPS/Elenco, 1971)
(Produced by Joao Mello)

One of Powell's finest albums -- filled with dark, elegant, moody, moving pieces, in a variety of styles, but all quite nice. Almost all the songs are Powell originals: the album opens with "Encosta Pra Ve De Sa," a modified modern choro tune co-written with Paulo Cesar Pinheiro, and settles into increasingly mellower, more seductive material. There are two cover tunes, one by Vinicius De Moraes (and another that was cowritten with Vinicius) and a sparing rendition of "Chao De Estrelas," an oldie by samba-cancao legend Silvio Caldas... On "Baixo De Pau," near the album's end, Powell solos on a standup bass, one of few times he did so on record. Throughout, this is a captivating, evocative record... Highly recommended!

Baden Powell "E De Lei" (Philips, 1972)
Baden Powell "Images On Guitar" (MPS/BASF, 1973)
(Produced by J. E. Berendt)

Powell gets funky and frivolous, with French scat singer Janine de Waleyne chirping around in the wings. While some of her vocalizations are pretty irritating, the two really hit their stride on the funky "Blues A Volente," which recalls the acoustic jazziness of the early Pentangle albums, or American acoustic rocker Ellen McIllwane's wild records made around the same time. Powell also indulges in some Les Paul-ish multi-tracking studio frippery, as well as several moody meditations that rank among some of his better work. Although this is mostly pretty noodly, it's mostly not offensive. A sweet little, out-of-the-way album, with some iffy moments. (This album was released independently in both Brazil and Europe, under two different titles).

Baden Powell "Solitude On Guitar" (MPS/Columbia, 1973)
Widely distributed in the US, this has its lyrical moments, but is mainly a bit staid... heavy on the classical style, and short on the swinging beat. Nice, but safe.

Baden Powell & Stephane Grappelli "La Grande Reunion" (Imagem, 1974)
Powell teams up with French jazz violin legend, Stephane Grappelli, for a set of all-Brazilian material which includes a slew of Jobim tracks, as well as a Gilberto Gil composition (!).

Baden Powell "Apaixonado" (MPS, 1975)

Baden Powell "The Frankfurt Opera Concert" (Tropical Music, 1975)

Baden Powell "Baden Powell 1976: Tristeza" (Festival, 1976)

Baden Powell "Baden Powell & Maria D'Apparecida" (Carabine, 1977)
Generally speaking, Powell makes a fine accompanist, especially on his later collaborations, where the demands of backing another artist seems to have drawn him out of his comfort zone as a solo performer. This disc is a nice example: Powell's guitar work is phenomenal, complex and dynamic, and full of life. French vocalist Maria D'Apparecida, however, is an underwhelming singer: she's emotionally and tonally flat, but not in that masterful-understatement deadpan style that Astrud Gilberto and Doris Monteiro perfected, but rather, she sounds like someone who just doesn't quite have a feel for the material. Still, it's a lovely record with superb playing by Powell... He sings, too, which is always nice, and they have some lovely duets. Worth checking out.

Baden Powell "Aquarelles Du Bresil" (Barclay, 1978)

Baden Powell "Nosso Baden" (Atlantic, 1980)
(Produced by Sergio Cabral)

A sweet, stripped-down collaboration with Powell, playing solo guitar and singing, along with the percussion section of Os Originais Do Samba, who play with the utmost economy and restraint... A beguiling, low-key album that nonetheless has inventive, searching moments. Also nice to hear Powell playing in such a distinctly samba-oriented mode, sort of like a super-mellow pagode album, with flashes of experimental acoustic guitar ala Leo Kottke in the mix. Beautiful!

Baden Powell "L'Ame De Baden-Powell" (Musidisc, 1982)

Baden Powell "Felicidades" (Kardum, 1983)
Live recording.

Baden Powell "Melancolie" (Accord, 1985)

Baden Powell "Samba Triste" (Accord, 1989)

Baden Powell "Live At The Rio Jazz Club" (Caju Music, 1990)

Baden Powell "Seresta Brasileira" (Fantasy/Caju Music, 1991)
(Produced by Franco Paulinho & Joao Guerra)

Also released as Rio Das Valsas, this is a typically beautiful, understated Baden Powell album, comprised of solo guitar pieces with a decidedly flamenco tinge to them. Compelling and beautiful -- highly recommended.

Baden Powell "Os Afro-Sambas" (JSL/Iris Musique, 1991)
A re-recording of his classic 1966 collaboration with Vinicius de Moraes, redone in 1990 albeit without the late Vinicius's participation. It's kind of an odd effort, and at times feels a bit by-rote, although it's still pretty good. Quarteto Em Cy contribute their high, keening harmonies, and while this is a solid album, it doesn't have the sultry, mystic appeal of the original album. Be careful, although there's nothing wrong with this version, it ain't the real Afro Sambas, and just looking at the covers, it can be very hard to tell the two apart.

Baden Powell "Live In Switzerland: May, 1992" (Prestige/Phonag, 1992)

Baden Powell "De Rio A Paris: Decembre, 94" (Fremeaux & Associes, 1995)
This is a high-energy set recorded in the early 1990s, with Powell emphasizing speed and force, with some half-whispered scatting on several tunes. In technical terms, this is pretty dazzling, although I must confess I prefer the more delicate, lyrical style he uses elsewhere. But if you just want you jaw to drop at his hot licks and stylistic finesse, this is a fine album to explore. Reissued as a double CD, along with 1996's Live At Montreux.

Baden Powell "Rio Das Valsas" (Iris Musique, 1996)

Baden Powell & Filhos "Live In Rio" (Iris Musique, 1996)
With his sons, Philippe Baden Powell and Louis Marcel Powell...

Baden Powell "Live At The Rio Jazz Club" (Iris Musique, 1996)

Baden Powell "Live In Hamburg" (1999)

Baden Powell "Lembrancas" (Trama, 2000)

Baden Powell "Live In Montreaux: 1995" (Fremeaux & Associates, 2004)
Reissued as a double CD, along with 1994's A Rio De Paris.

Baden Powell "Live A Bruxelles" (Sunnyside, 2005)

Baden Powell "Memories" (DRG, 2007)


Baden Powell "Baden Powell (Box Set)" (Universal, 2003)
An authoritative 13-CD box set collecting Powell's albums for the Philips, Elenco and Forma labels. Includes rarities such as his 1961 debut and the long-sought after Os Afro Sambas album, all of which, one imagines, will soon become available as individual releases. Includes the following: Apresentando Baden Powell E Seu Violao (1961), Um Violao Na Madrugada (1961), Os Afro Sambas (1966), Ao Vivo No Teatro Santa Rosa (1966), Tempo Feliz (1966), A Votande (1967), Baden Powell Swings With Jimmy Pratt (1967), O Som De Baden Powell (1968), Show/Recital (1968), 27 Horas De Estudio (1969), As Musicas De Baden Powell E Paulo Cesar Pineiro (1970), Estudos (1971), and E De Iei (1972). All albums are reviewed above.

Baden Powell "Three Originals: Tristeza On Guitar/Poema On Guitar/Apaixonado" (Motor, 1993)
2-CD set reissuing albums originally on the MPS label.

Baden Powell "Baden Powell No. 2" (Fontana, 1973)
Brazilian compilation that features some of Baden's excellent early work for the Elenco label.

Baden Powell "A Arte De Baden Powell" (Fontana, 1975)

Baden Powell "O Prestigio De Baden Powell" (Fontana, 1984)
Great compilation of some of Baden's best material from the 60s.

Baden Powell "Personalidade" (Polygram, 1993)

Baden Powell "Baden Powell: Mestres Da MPB" (Warner Brasil, 1994)
Mostly live material, including several poorly recorded tracks with the Quarteto Em Cy (?), and a recitation in tribute to Vinicius de Moraes. OK, but not electrifying.

Baden Powell "Baden Powell: Mestres Da MPB v.2" (Warner Brasil, 1994)

Baden Powell "Enciclopedia Musical Brasileira" (WEA, 2000)

Baden Powell "Serie Sem Limite" (Universal, 2001)
A nice 2-CD overview of his tenure on Philips and its related labels...

Baden Powell "e-Collection" (Warner, 2002)

Baden Powell "Millennium Collection" (Polygram, 2002)

Baden Powell "O Universo De Baden Powell" (Sunnyside, 2003)
A strong 2-CD collection of material from his capacious European catalogue, including some live performances and other interesting selections... Definitely worth checking out if you're going the "best-of" route!

Baden Powell "Tempo De Musica" (Iris Musique, 2006)

Baden Powell "Os Afro-Sambas/A Votande" (El/Cherry Red, 2008)
A much-welcome reissue of two classic albums... Out of print for many years, the 1966 album, Os Afro-Sambas, was a record collector's "holy grail," and having it out in an affordable version will be a boon for many fans. It's a spooky, challenging album, made in collaboration with poet-lyricist Vinicius De Moraes, and it delved deep into Powell's knowledge of Brazil's African musical heritage, producing many classic bossa nova songs. The pairing of this album with 1967's A Vontande is well-placed: although Powell had a wide stylistic range (and recorded a lot of what could be considered "easy listening" throughout the decade) but these two albums had a very similar feel, a eerie texture and depth that still gives listeners goosebumps. I haven't heard this reissue yet, although I know there are folks out there who are critical of the sound quality and mastering of various reissues on the Cherry Red label -- I can't tell you whether that is the case here as well.


Michael Andriacco "Baden Powell, Guitar Music" (Etcetera, 1994)

Maria Creuza "...Interpreta Baden Powell" (Iris Music, 2008)

Smokey & Miho "Smokey & Miho" (Afro-Sambas, 2002)
Smokey & Miho "Tempo De Amor" (Afro-Sambas, 2002)

The smooth, versatile rock guitarist Smokey Hormel (known for his work with Tom Waits, Beck, and others) and vocalist Miho Hatori (of Cibo Matto fame) teamed up out of their mutual appreciation for Baden Powell's 1966 album, Os Afro Sambas, a bossa classic that remains mysteriously hard to find, even in this golden age of collector reissues. The Smokey & Miho band formed in 2001 to recreate the entire album in a series of live performances; their first 5-song EP, Smokey & Miho, built on the mellow, lounge-y bossa vibe (but was mostly made up of original Hatori-Hormel material, along with a cover of an obscure Angolan pop song by Euclides F. Pereira). On their follow-up EP, they stick to the old stuff, covering four songs off the original Afro Sambas album, as well as a fifth vintage Powell/De Moraes composition, "Consolacao." The entire Tempo De Amor EP is a delight -- Hatori's vocals recapture the feel of the original harmonies by the all-female Quarteto Em Cy, while Hormel's fluid guitar work is able to build apon Powell's haunting music, bringing a new modern warmth to the spooky source material. Fans of classic Brazilian bossa nova should love this affectionate homage. Highly recommended!

Various Artists "Musica De Baden Powell" (Som Livre)
Classic '60s/'70s recordings by artists such as Maria Odete, Maria Creuza, Os Cariocas and Elizeth Cardoso.

Various Artists "A Bencao, Baden Powell" (Universal Latino, 2007)

Other Media

Baden Powell "Saravah" (DVD) (Fremeaux & Associes, 2005)
Originally issued in 1969, this documentary captures Powell in his prime...

Baden Powell "Baden Powell Live" (DVD) (Fremeaux & Associes, 2005)

Baden Powell "O Universal Musical De Baden Powell" (DVD) (2003)


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