Moacir Santos, the legendary composer and arranger whose body of work served to expand popular preconceptions of Brazilian music beyond bossa nova and Musica Popular Brasileira (MPB), died in Pasadena, California on Sunday, August 6th.
Santos was recently enjoying a resurgence of interest in his career, thanks in part to the efforts of producers Mario Adnet and Ze Nogueira, and New York based record label Adventure Music. Santos had recently won the Shell Music and Premio Tim awards
“Moacir’s passing is a monumental loss to Brazilian music and to music in general,” said Mario Adnet. “These recent accolades are proof that Ze Nogueira’s and my belief in Moacir’s legacy was shared by his fellow Brazilians and by the world.”
Richard Zirinsky, Jr., President of Adventure Music, said, “It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of our friend Moacir Santos, and we send our deepest condolences to Moacir’s wife, Cleonice, and to their son, Moacir, Jr., as they mourn the loss of their beloved husband and father. Adventure Music feels honored and quite proud to have worked with Moacir and both Mario Adnet and Ze Nogueira in releasing both Ouro Negro and “Choros & Alegria” and feels strongly that both of these incredible works will only help to celebrate the amazing life and music of this fine man, who will be greatly missed.”
Moacir Santos was regarded as a walking encyclopedia in the realm of Brazilian instrumental music. Many of the musicians who have come to exemplify Brazilian music to US audiences, such as Dori Caymmi and Sérgio Mendes have cited his influence. The late Brazilian guitar ace Baden Powell was Moacir’s pupil, and revered his master on the song “Samba da Benção.”
Santos gained status as an arranger while working on the radio in Brazil in the 1950s. According to Santos, one of his most important works in Brazil was the soundtrack he wrote for the movie “Amor no Pacifico (Love in the Pacific),” which opened the doors for him to both the Brazilian and international markets, and eventually prompted his move to the United States in 1967.
In the United States, he recorded four solo albums, three of them for the renowned jazz label Blue Note, and one of them nominated for a Grammy Award. He also wrote soundtracks in Hollywood and taught numerous students, including Sérgio Mendes.
His first release for Adventure Music was Ouro Negro, which was originally released in Brazil in 2001, and which the New York Times then named as one of the best recordings of the year not available in the U.S. The CD’s 2004 U.S. release, and the subsequent release of 2005’s Choros & Alegria,” served to finally draw long over-due attention to Santos’ incredible musical legacy.