Solo in Rio 1959 stands as a classic in the massive Luiz Bonfa catalog. Originally issued on the Cook label -- named for its owner, famed audio engineer Emory Cook -- it remained a favorite of the guitarist's throughout his lifetime. The Emory Cook Collection is housed and managed by the Smithsonian and as such, Folkways is able to re-release this masterpiece on CD with many added treasures -- there is an additional half-hour of music on the CD. The original featured 17 cuts. The new version contains 32, including an early version of "Samba de Orfeu." While it is true that it is the guitarist and composer's most famous composition and he recorded it many times, this is the only one on solo guitar. This is the first time it appears anywhere. Also included are two versions of the celebrated "Manhã de Carnaval." The second read is a more up-tempo and shorter version that is breathless in its beauty. Other well-known Bonfa compositions that have alternates here are "Perdido de Amor," "Sambolero," "Quebra Maer," and "Luzes do Rio." Another gem is the startling "Prelude to an Adventure in Space," with its hard swinging samba that transmutes into a dirge-like bolero on a dime. Solo in Rio 1959 offers an early hearing of Bonfa as fully developed, in possession of a stunning range of styles and techniques, all of them employable in the service of the song. The deep lyricism and harmonic richness of Bonfa's playing is unlike anything else before or since. Solo in Rio 1959 is a historic release, and one that will hopefully alert an entirely new generation to the work of this master of the guitar. In addition to the beautifully remastered music in this package, there is a fine biographical and musicological essay by Anthony Weller.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek