Bossa Nova at Carnegie Hall was recorded in New York City on the night of November 21, 1962.
Also available on CD
Featuring Joao Gilberto
Sergio Mendes Sextet
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Bossa Nova at Carnegie Hall was recorded in New York City on the night of November 21, 1962. Sidney Frey, President of American Audio Fidelity went to Brazil, two months before the festival to invite some Brazilian artists to participate in Carnegie’s Bossa Nova concert. He managed to get commitments from João Gilberto & Milton Banana, Luiz Bonfá, Agostinho dos Santos, Oscar Castro Neves & Carmen Costa, and José Paulo & Bola Sete, who were currently in the United States. To round out the show, American jazz musicians would perform in the second half.
To Sidney’s delight, more than a dozen Brazilian artists unexpectedly arrived on the eve of the concert. When word got out, multiple news agencies—CBS News, Voice of America, U.S. Information Agency, etc.—flocked to cover the event. Tickets sold out two days before the concert, and it’s estimated 1,000 people stood outside in the rain that night waiting for tickets.
This record is a true living and undeniable documentary of that remarkable event. Only two reporters were present at this unforgettable night of Brazilian music: Walter Silva (the well-known “Woodpecker”) and Sylvio Tullio Cardoso. Here’s their account of “Bossa Nova Night” at Carnegie Hall.
Reporting by: Sylvio Tullio Cardosa
(O Globe, Rio de Janeiro)
It all started on a day in September, 1962. Sidney Frey — who was performing one of his usual visits to Brazil at the time — summoned the chroniclers for a “cocktail,” during which he would make an important announcement. After much talk and a lot of scotch, old Frey dropped the bomb: he had rented New York’s famous Carnegie Hall for a bossa nova festival. The show would be on the night of November 21. In addition to the North American musicians, who were already playing the new Brazilian samba, such as Stan Getz, Gary MacFarland and Lalo Schifrin, several soloists and singers from Rio and São Paulo would participate.
Since that alcohol-infused night, the Carnegie Hall Festival was all everyone talked about. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that the doors of the famous temple of classical music would open to performers of non-classical music. Dozens of jazz musicians, folk singers and folk artists had already walked the Carnegie stage. But it was undoubtedly the very first time that Brazilian popular music would have its night in the austere concert hall of 57th street. Bossa Nova at Carnegie Hall! Unbelieveable.
The official posters nailed to Carnegie’s walls announced only João Gilberto, Oscar Castro Neves & Conjunto, Bola Sete, Carmen Costa, José Paulo, Lalo Schifrin and Stan Getz. Two days before the festival, however, close to a dozen other musicians and singers from Rio and São Paulo had arrived. That rainy night of November 21, 1962, Carnegie’s doors opened to receive close to 3,000 eager “modern music” enthusiasts.
If each act performed two numbers, the concert would have lasted approximately four hours. Frey announced that if the show ended a minute after midnight, he would have to pay overtime at Carnegie Hall. It was then thought to give two concerts: one at 8:30 and another at midnight. The idea was abandoned because it was already too expensive. With the intervention of businessmen, managers and consul staff, it was then decided that the artists who were not on the official list would perform only one number each.
At 9:00, the curtains went up at Carnegie Hall. First up, “Sextet Bossa Rio” by Sérgio Mendes. Unfortunately, the amplification system installed was not recommended by Frey. For those audience members in the counters and galleries hearing João Gilberto, Carlinhos Lyra, Tom Jobim, Cláudio Miranda and Roberto Menescal was a disaster. But for those well placed listeners, the performance was intense.
The great success of that night was undoubtedly the duo Agostinho dos Santos & Luiz Bonfá, who literally stole the show with “Orpheus Carnival.”
As a document, “Bossa Nova at Carnegie Hall” is undoubtedly a milestone recording.
Reporting by Walter Silva (Picapau)
When I learned that there would be bossa nova at Carnegie Hall, in my role as programmer and presenter of the disc show Pick Up do Picapau (then on Radio Bandeirantes), I decided to suggest that our station cover the festival as it would be a great service to Brazilian music and, also and mainly, to the dissemination of our most important melodic, rhythmic and poetic manifestation, which is what was called Bossa Nova.
There we went, at the expense of the station, to tape the show. Brazil owes more to Sidney Frey, Dona Dora Vasconcellos and councillor Mário Dias Costa, much more than the many embassies that work out of New York. Brazilian Bossa Nova would not be known, admired and applauded, were it not for the selflessness of these three people.
The festival was a success indeed. So, 3,000 people inside and over a thousand outside, what does that mean? So if it wasn’t success, how did you get to occupy the top positions in record sales? It was success. So successful, other festivals will come. So successful that the proof is there: THE WORLD SINGS BOSSA NOVA. This Carnegie Hall performance is worth everything that has been done in years for the music and things of Brazil. And this, I repeat, we owe to Mr. Sidney Frey, Dona Dora Vasconcellos and Mário Dias Costa. This release is here, with all its virtues and defects.
But that’s not what matters. What matters is that you, listening to it, will be listening to the most important testimony about Brazilian popular music, in every way. This is the greatest document of the consecration of a movement made by young, educated and intelligent people. That’s all that matters. Keep it, because your grandchildren will demand it from you.
(This text has been edited from the original release.)