Luiz Bonfa, Solo in Rio 1959

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Guitar playing so virtuosic, it’s hard to believe it’s just one man plucking the strings.

Recorded with loving warmth by Emory Cook, there's a beautiful intimacy to this album, finally released in its expanded form. Luiz Bonfa's guitar playing is virtuosic — much of the time he's so dextrous that it's hard to believe there's only one man playing — and in his compositions you can hear the early musings of bossa nova, cool but with a definite swing. There are classic Bonfa tracks like “Manhã De Carnival” (from his Black Orpheus) and “Perdido De Amor,” but also beautiful instrumental meditations such as “Variações em Violão,” where he shows his stunning range. Even when he tackles a jazz standard like “Night and Day” he makes it his own, with subtle cross-rhythms underpinning the melody. Above all, there's a vibrant lyricism in his playing, with plenty of surprises from an agile imagination. This is a portrait of a man at the height of his art, completely at one with his music, and you leave feeling privileged to have shared it.