Luiz Bonfá

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Luiz Bonfá
Background information
Birth name Luiz Floriano Bonfá
Born (1922-10-17)October 17, 1922
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Died January 12, 2001(2001-01-12)
Rio de Janeiro
Genres Brazilian jazz, bossa nova
Occupation(s) Musician, composer
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1940s–2001
Labels Verve, Dot, Cook, Philips, Epic

Luiz Floriano Bonfá (17 October 1922 – 12 January 2001) was a Brazilian guitarist and composer. He was best known for the compositions he penned for the film Black Orpheus.[1]


Bonfá was born on October 17, 1922, in Rio de Janeiro. He began teaching himself to play guitar as a child; he studied in Rio with Uruguayan classical guitarist Isaías Sávio from the age of 12. These weekly lessons entailed a long, harsh commute by rail and on foot from his family home in the western rural outskirts of Rio de Janeiro to the teacher's home in the hills of Santa Teresa. Given Bonfá's extraordinary dedication and talent for the guitar, Sávio excused the youngster's inability to pay for his lessons.

Bonfá first gained widespread exposure in Brazil in 1947 when he was featured on Rio's Rádio Nacional, then an important showcase for up-and-coming talent. He was a member of the vocal group Quitandinha Serenaders in the late 1940s. Some of his first compositions such as "Ranchinho de Palha", "O Vento Não Sabe", were recorded and performed by Brazilian crooner Dick Farney in the 1950s. Bonfá's first hit song was "De Cigarro em Cigarro" recorded by Nora Ney in 1957. It was through Farney that Bonfá was introduced to Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, the leading songwriting team behind the worldwide explosion of Brazilian jazz/pop music in the late 1950s and 1960s. Bonfá collaborated with them and with other prominent Brazilian musicians and artists in productions of de Moraes' anthological play Orfeu da Conceição, which several years later gave origin to Marcel Camus' film Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro in Portuguese). In the burgeoning days of Rio de Janeiro's thriving jazz scene, it was commonplace for musicians, artists, and dramatists to collaborate in such theatrical presentations. Bonfá wrote some of the original music featured in the film, including the numbers "Samba de Orfeu" and his most famous composition, "Manhã de Carnaval" (of which Carl Sigman later wrote a different set of English lyrics titled "A Day in the Life of a Fool"), which has been among the top ten standards played worldwide, according to The Guinness Book of World Records.

As a composer and performer, Bonfá was at heart an exponent of the bold, lyrical, lushly orchestrated, and emotionally charged samba-canção style that predated the arrival of João Gilberto's more refined and subdued bossa nova style. Jobim, João Donato, Dorival Caymmi, and other contemporaries were also essentially samba-canção musicians until the sudden, massive popularity of the young Gilberto's unique style of guitar playing and expressively muted vocals transformed the music of the day into the music of the future. Camus' film and Gilberto's and Jobim's collaborations with American jazzmen such as Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd did much to bring Brazilian popular music to the attention of the world, and Bonfá became a highly visible ambassador of Brazilian music in the United States beginning with the famous November 1962 Bossa Nova concert at New York's Carnegie Hall.

Bonfá worked with American musicians such as Quincy Jones, George Benson, Stan Getz, and Frank Sinatra, recording several albums while in U.S. Elvis Presley sang a Bonfá composition, "Almost in Love" with lyrics by Randy Starr in the 1968 MGM film Live a Little, Love a Little. Also of note is his "The Gentle Rain", with lyrics by Matt Dubey, and "Sambolero".

Bonfá died at 78 in Rio de Janeiro on January 12, 2001.


In 2005, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings released an album of Bonfá's work, entitled, Solo in Rio 1959, which included previously unreleased material from the original recording session.

In 2008, Universal Music France released a coffee table book containing two CDs which included previously unreleased material of Black Orpheus soundtrack, and a DVD. Also in 2008, Universal Music released The Brazilian Scene, Braziliana and Black Orpheus celebrating the 50th anniversary of the bossa nova.

Bonfá's major legacy continues to be his compositions from the Black Orpheus soundtrack, most notably the instantly recognizable bossa nova classic "Manhã de Carnaval". But Bonfá's discography also attests to his uniquely inventive mastery of Brazilian jazz guitar. Bonfá's guitar style was brassier and more penetrating than that of his major contemporary, João Gilberto, and Bonfá was a frequent and adept soloist whereas Gilberto plays his own suave, intricate brand of rhythm guitar almost exclusively. Bonfá often played solo guitar in a polyphonic style, harmonizing melody lines in a manner similar to that made famous by Wes Montgomery in the USA, or playing lead and rhythm parts simultaneously. As a composer and as a guitarist, Bonfá played a pivotal role in bridging the incumbent samba-canção style with the innovations of the bossa nova movement.


  • 1955 "luiz bonfá" (Continental LPP-21)
  • 1956 "de cigarro em cigarro" (Continental LPP-53)
  • 1956 "Noite e Dia" (Continental LPP-3018)
  • 1956 "Meia-Noite em Copacabana" (Polydor LPNG 4004)
  • 1956 "Edu N.2" (Rádio 0036-V)
  • 1956 "Orfeu da Conceição" (Odeon MODB-3056)
  • 1957 "Alta Versatilidade" (Odeon MOFB-3003)
  • 1957 "Violão Boêmio" (Odeon MOFB-3014)
  • 1958 "Ritmo Continentais" (Odeon MOFB-3020)
  • 1958 "Bonfafá" (MOFB-3047)
  • 1958 "Luiz Bonfá e Silvia Telles" (BWB-1040)
  • 1958 "Meu Querido Vioão" (Odeon MOFB-3076)
  • 1959 "!Amor!" (Atlantic SD 8028)
  • 1959 Black Orpheus (Philips 432.387 BE)
  • 1959 "O Violão de Luiz Bonfá (Cook 1134)
  • 1960 "A Voz e o Violão" (Odeon MOFB 3144)
  • 1960 "Passeio no Rio" (Odeon BWB 1151)
  • 1961 "Pery Ribeiro" (Odeon 7BD-1011)
  • 1961 "luiz bonfá (Odeon 7BD-1017)
  • 1961 "Pery Ribeiro e Seu Mundo de Canções Românticas (Odeon MOFB-3272)
  • 1961 "Sócio de Alcova" (RCA LCD-1007)
  • 1962 O Violão e o Samba (Odeon MOFB 3295)
  • 1962 Le Roi de la Bossa Nova (Fontana 680.228ML)
  • 1962 "Bossa Nova no Carnegie Hall" (Audio Fidelity AFLP 2101)
  • 1962 "Luiz Bonfá Composer of Black Orpheus Plays and Sings Bossa Nova" (Verve V6-8522)
  • 1962 "Le Ore Dell"Amore" (C.A.M.CEP.45-102)
  • 1963 "Caterina Valente e Luiz Bonfá" (London LLN 7090)
  • 1963 Jazz Samba Encore! (Verve V6-8523)
  • 1963 "Recado Novo de Luiz Bonfá" (Odeon MOFB 3310)
  • 1963 "Violão Boêmio vol. 2 (Odeon SMOFB 3360)
  • 1964 Rio (Columbia CS 9115)
  • 1965 "The Gentle Rain" (Mercury SR 61016)
  • 1965 "Quincy Plays for Pussycats (Mercury SR 61050)
  • 1965 "The Shadow of Your Smile" (Verve V6-8629)
  • 1965 Braziliana (Philips PHS 600-199)
  • 1965 "The New Sound of Brazil" (RCA LSP-3473)
  • 1965 "The Movie Song Album" (Columbia CS 9272)
  • 1965 The Brazilian Scene (Philips PHS 600-208)
  • 1967 "Pour Un Amour Lointain" (United Artist 36.123 UAE)
  • 1967 "Maria Toledo Sings the Best of Luiz Bonfa (United Artists UAS 6584)
  • 1967 "Luiz Bonfá" (Dot DLP 25804)
  • 1967 "Stevie & Eydie, Bonfá & Brazil (Columbia CS 9530)
  • 1967 "Luiz Bonfa Plays Great Songs" (Dot DLP 25825)
  • 1968 Black Orpheus Impressions (Dot DLP 25848)
  • 1968 "Bonfá" (Dot DLP 25881)
  • 1969 "My Way" (Reprise FS 1029)
  • 1969 "I Got a Woman and Some Blues" (A&M SP-9-3025)
  • 1970 The New Face of Bonfa (RCA LSP-4376)
  • 1971 sanctuary (RCA LSP-4591)
  • 1972 Introspection (RCA FSP-297)
  • 1973 "Jacarandá" (Ranwood R-8112)
  • 1978 Bonfá Burrows Brazil (Cherry Pie CPF 1045)
  • 1989 Non-Stop to Brazil (Chesky JD29)
  • 1992 The Bonfá Magic (Caju 511.404-2)
  • 1992 "The Brazil Project" (Private Music 82101)
  • 1992 "The Brazil Project" 2 (Private Music 82110)
  • 2005 "Solo in Rio 1959" (Smithsonian Folkways SFW CD 40483)
  • 2015 "Strange Message" (iTunes)


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