Vera’s Heartbeat will present the Brazilian master composer, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Guinga (nee Althier Carlos de Souza Lemos Escobar) at bluewhale (Weller Court Plaza 3rd floor, 123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St., Suite 301, Los Angeles, CA 90012).
Widely considered Brazil’s greatest and most important living composer, Guinga’s songs have been recorded by stars including Elis Regina, Michel Legrand, Sergio Mendes, Leila Pinheiro, Chico Buarque, Clara Nunes, and Ivan Lins. As a guitarist he has played with artists such as Clara Nunes, Beth Carvalho, Alaíde Costa, João Nogueira and Cartola. He has composed in collaboration with Paulo Cesar Pinheiro, Aldir Blanc, Chico Buarque, Nei Lopes, Sergio Natureza, Nelson Motta, Simone Guimarães, Francisco Bosco, and others.
Guinga was born in Madureira (a neighborhood in the north side of Rio de Janeiro city) in 1950. He began composing at age 16, and at 17 appeared at TV Globo’s Second International Song Festival in 1967. He studied classical guitar under Jodacil Damasceno for five years.
According to KPFA DJ Daniella Thompson (quoted by Andres Gilbert here), there have been more than 155 recordings made of Guinga’s music on at least 100 albums in addition to his own. Almost as pervasive as his music is his own urban legend; Fulfilling his father’s wish, Guinga graduated from dental school and, in 1975, opened a Rio de Janeiro dental practice with his wife Fatima, who is also a dentist. For years Guinga made his living as a dentist, and lived through his music, performing and composing a deep and sophisticated bench of songs connecting his love of jazz to Brazilian forms including samba, frevo, modinha, bossa nova and rural baião.
“I knew there wasn’t going to be a lot of money in it and I didn’t want to find myself playing music I didn’t believe in to make a living,” Guinga explained in an interview with journalist Andrew Gilbert. “I actually don’t like dentistry very much, but I thought it would afford me the economic resources so I could concentrate on writing music I really cared about.”
In 1991, songwriter Ivan Lins created the Velas label to release Guinga’s 1991 debut album Simples e Absurdo. Its success led to a series of albums which allowed Guinga to compose, play and teach full time.
His album Rasgando Seda, in partnership with Quinteto Villa-Lobos, released in 2012, was nominated for Latin Grammy as Best Instrumental CD of the Year. Roendopinho, released through Acoustic Music Records, was a critical success and was nominated for the “Prêmio da Música Brasileira” as Best Instrumental CD of the Year (2015).
Also in 2015, he released the CD Porto da Madama (Selo SESC) with singers Esperanza Spalding, Maria João, Maria Pia de Vito and Mônica Salmaso; featuring arrangements for Popular Brazilian songs (canção brasileira) including compositions from Tom Jobim, Luiz Gonzaga, Dorival Caymmi and others. On Mar Afora (2016, Acoustic Music Records), he performs a guitar in duet with Portuguese singer Maria João. In 2017, he released Canção da Impermanência and Avenida Atlântica (with the strings quartet Carlos Gomes).
Journalist Mario Marques published a biography on Guinga in 2002 (Guinga, Os mais belos acordes de subúrbio, Ed Gryphus). In 2003, he had launched his songbook (A Música de Guinga, Ed Gryphus).
“His [Guinga’s] tunes can go hopscotching through arpeggios that sketch subtle harmonic motion, yet seem like something anyone could whistle. They dart and zigzag, stopping and starting and veering at odd angles, yet still sound as if they're dancing,” wrote Jon Pareles in the New York Times.