Baden Powell (guitarist)

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Baden Powell
Background information
Birth nameBaden Powell de Aquino
Born(1937-08-06)August 6, 1937
Varre-Sai, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
DiedSeptember 26, 2000(2000-09-26) (aged 63)
Rio de Janeiro
GenresBrazilian jazz, bossa nova
Years active1950s–1990s

Baden Powell de Aquino (Brazilian Portuguese: [ˈbadẽ ˈpawew]; 6 August 1937 – 26 September 2000), known professionally as Baden Powell, was a Brazilian guitarist.[1] He combined classical techniques with popular harmony and swing. He performed in many styles, including bossa nova, samba, Brazilian jazz, Latin jazz and MPB. He performed on stage during most of his lifetime. Powell composed many pieces for guitar, such as "Abração em Madrid", "Braziliense", "Canto de Ossanha", "Casa Velha", "Consolação", "Horizon", "Imagem", "Lotus", "Samba", "Samba Triste", "Simplesmente", "Tristeza e Solidão", and "Samba da Benção". He released Os Afro-sambas, a watershed album in MPB, with Vinicius de Moraes in 1966.[2]


Baden Powell de Aquino was born in Varre-Sai in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His father, a Scouting enthusiast, named him after Robert Baden-Powell. When he was three months old, his family relocated to the Rio suburb of São Cristóvão. His house was a stop for popular musicians during his formative years. He started guitar lessons with Jayme Florence, a famous choro guitarist in the 1940s. He soon proved a young virtuoso, having won many talent competitions before he was a teenager. At age fifteen, he was playing professionally, accompanying singers and bands in various styles. He was fascinated by swing and jazz, but his main influences were in the Brazilian guitar canon.

In 1955, Powell played with the Steve Bernard Orquestra at the Boite Plaza, a nightclub within the Plaza Hotel in Rio, where his skill got the attention of the jazz trio playing across the lobby at the Plaza Bar. When Ed Lincoln needed to form a new trio, he asked Powell to join on guitar to become the Hotel Plaza Trio. Powell brought in Luiz Marinho on bass and a fourth member of the "trio": Claudette Soares on vocals. Powell, Lincoln, and their young musician friends took part in after-hours jam sessions, gaining notice in the growing Brazilian jazz scene.[3]

Powell achieved wider fame in 1959 by convincing Billy Blanco, an established singer and songwriter, to put lyrics to one of Baden's compositions. The result was called "Samba Triste" and quickly became very successful. It has been covered by many artists, including Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd in their seminal LP Jazz Samba.

In 1962, Powell met the poet-diplomat Vinicius de Moraes and began a collaboration that yielded classics of 1960s Brazilian music. Although bossa nova was the prevailing sound at the time, Baden and Vinicius wanted to combine samba with Afro-Brazilian forms such as candomblé, umbanda, and capoeira. In 1966 they released Os Afro-Sambas de Baden e Vinicius.

Powell studied advanced harmony with Moacir Santos and released recordings on the Brazilian labels Elenco Records and Forma, as well as in the French label Barclay and the German label MPS/Saba (notably, his 1966 Tristeza on Guitar). He was the house guitarist for Elenco, and of the singer Elis Regina's TV show O Fino da Bossa.

In 1968, Powell joined with poet Paulo César Pinheiro and produced another series of Afro-Brazilian-inspired music, released in 1970 as Os Cantores da Lapinha.

Baden Powell in 1971

Powell visited and toured Europe frequently in the 1960s, relocating permanently to France in 1968.

In the 1970s, he released recordings with labels in Europe and Brazil. In 1981, during four weeks, he was on the stage of Palais des glaces in Paris as guitarist and singer.[4] However, he had health problems and spent the 1980s in semi-retirement in France and Germany. In the 1990s he and his family moved back to Brazil, where he continued to record and perform. Public recognition of his work came around that time in Brazil.

By the end of the 1990s he converted to evangelical Christianity, to which he credits overcoming his long addictions to alcohol and tobacco. He fell terminally ill in 2000 and died of general infection triggered by a bacterial pneumonia on 26 September 2000, in Rio de Janeiro.

He is the father of pianist Philippe Baden Powell de Aquino and guitarist Louis Marcel Powell de Aquino.

Playing style[edit]

Baden Powell decided at age 19 to stop playing the electric guitar, preferring to concentrate on the classical guitar for the rest of his career. He did record a series of albums with a borrowed steel-string acoustic, but that is as far as he strayed from his main instrument in his adulthood.

An analysis of his repertoire reveals a wide range of interests. It spanned all the idioms of Brazilian popular music of the 20th century: samba, bossa nova, Afro-bahian ritual music, frevo, choro, and North Eastern Sertão music, and even European and Japanese lullabies. Like most musicians growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, he was deeply influenced by jazz, especially bebop and swing. He covered Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight" on two recordings, and Jerome Kern's "All the Things You Are" on three occasions (including his first solo album).

This upbringing is reflected in his playing style, which shows a fusion of jazz harmonies and classical guitar technique, with a very Brazilian right hand (the one carrying the rhythm on the guitar). In solo classical music, he was proficient in the works of Tárrega and Bach. When playing in a group, he was able to accompany singers with quiet mastery, or let loose and play street samba in sloppy "party" style as if the guitar was another percussion instrument. Like Monk, he was fond of the minor second interval as a way to "bend" the tonality. However, because of his jazz background, he would rarely physically bend the string, preferring instead to play the minor second using an adjacent open string. Students of his style should note this preference for chord voicings that feature extensions on the open strings as a way of punctuating passages. Other idioms to watch for are the endless variations in rhythm played by the right hand, always within the proper 2
samba meter
, as well as his tendency to put his "signature" in a fast descending scale with a (slower) ascending arpeggio in the relative key. He also used vocalise and scat singing, often in unison with the melody line (especially when the melody was sung on the bass strings of the guitar).

His influences were his first teacher "Meira" (Jayme Florence, 1909–1982), Dilermando Reis (1916–1977), and Garoto (Anibal Augusto Sardinha, 1915–1955). He also commented about being influenced by the work of Les Paul (1915–2009), Django Reinhardt (1910–1953), and Jacques Loussier (1934–2019).


Baden Powell first appeared as accompanist on a few big band and samba recordings from the 1950s. He recorded his first solo album in 1959, but it was released in 1961. His first and second albums contain jazz standards, Brazilian popular music of the time, and original compositions. In 1962, he recorded with flautist Herbie Mann and drummer Jimmy Pratt. In 1963 he led small ensembles in Brazil and France. The French labels Barclay and Festival released many of his recordings. In Germany, MPS/Saba released his work with producer Joachim Berendt. In Brazil, he recorded for Elenco Records, Forma, and the Brazilian subsidiary of Philips Records. After a few new releases in the 1980s, Powell returned to recording studios in Brazil for his final years. His later recordings consist of solo guitar or voice and guitar.


Title Release Label Notes
Apresentando Baden Powell e Seu Violão 1961 Philips (Br) with Carlos Monteiro de Souza and his orchestra. Produced by Baden Powell
Um Violão na Madrugada 1961 Philips with Carlos Monteiro de Souza and his orchestra. Produced by Armando Pittigliani
Baden Powell Swings with Jimmy Pratt 1963 Elenco with band directed by Jimmy Pratt on drums. Produced by Aloysio de Oliveira
À Vontade 1963 Elenco (Br) with flute, drums and percussion. Produced by Oliveira
Le Monde Musical de Baden Powell, also released as Fresh Winds 1964 Barclay (F), United Artists (US) with trio and orchestra dir. by Paul Mauriat, recorded in Paris. Produced by Jacques Lubin
Billy Nencioli + Baden Powell 1965 Barclay/PolyGram French singer Nencioli with band and strings feat. Powell. Music by Powell
Os Afro Sambas de Baden e Vinicius 1966 Forma (Br) with Vinícius de Moraes, Quarteto em Cy, horns and percussion. Produced by Roberto Quartin and Wadi Gebara Netto
Tempo Feliz 1966 Forma/Polygram with trio feat. Mauricio Einhorn on harmonica. Produced by Quartin and Gebara Netto
Ao Vivo no Teatro Santa Rosa 1966 Elenco live, with trio feat. Oscar Castro-Neves on piano. Produced by Oliveira
Tristeza on Guitar 1966 MPS/Saba solo and with trio. Powell uses guitar overdubs. Produced by Joachim-Ernst Berendt and Gebara Netto
O Som de Baden Powell 1968 Elenco with Copinha on flute and rhythm section. Produced by Berendt & Gebara Netto
Os Originais do Samba - Show / Recital 1968 Philips live, with trio, singer Márcia and Originais do Samba
Poema on Guitar 1968 MPS/Saba quartet with Eberhard Weber, Charly Antolini and flutist Sidney Smith. Produced by Berendt
27 Horas de Estúdio, also re-rel. as Aquarelles du Bresil 1969 Elenco solo, with trio and string section. Produced by João Mello
Le Monde Musical de Baden Powell, Vol. 2 1969 Barclay arranged and conducted by trumpeter Ivan Jullien. Musical direction and production by Lubin
Os Cantores da Lapinha (As Musicas de Baden Powell e Paulo Cesar Pinheiro) 1970 Elenco
Baden Powell Quartet, Vols. 1-3 1970 Barclay compilation, 3-LP boxed set
Live in Japan, also re-rel. as Face au Public and Gravado ao vivo em Paris 1971 Barclay live, with trio
Canto on Guitar 1971 MPS/Saba with trio
Estudos 1971 Elenco, MPS/BASF
Solitude on Guitar 1971 CBS (G)
É de Lei 1972 Philips
Images on Guitar 1973 MPS/BASF, Canyon (Jp) live
L'Âme de Baden Powell 1973 Festival (F), Imagem (Br) with trio and singer Janine de Waleyne
La Grande Réunion 1974 Festival with Stéphane Grappelli
Grandezza on Guitar 1974 CBS (Nl) with Herb Geller and Eberhard Weber
Estudos 1974 MPS/Saba
Apaixonado 1975 MPS/Saba
Baden Powell + Cordes - Mélancolie 1975 Festival with Janine de Waleyne and string section
Baden Powell canta Vinicius de Moraes e Paolo Cesar Pinheiro 1977 Festival
Baden Powell 1978 Musidisc (F) compilation, 4-LP set, with trio and Janine de Waleyne
Nosso Baden, also re-rel. asSimplesmente 1980 Atlantic/WEA (Br) with percussion group Originais do Samba
De Baden para Vinicius 1981 WEA live
Felicidades, also re-rel. as Live in Hamburg and Felicidade 1983 Pläne (G), Iris/Kardum (F) live
Violão em Brasileira re-rel. as Rio das Valsas and Seresta Brasileira 1988 Idéia Livre (Br), Caju (Br/Jp), JSL (F), Milestone (US) et al.
At the Rio Jazz Club 1990 Caju live
Os Afro Sambas 1990 Banco BMC (Br) re-recording of the 1966 album, again with Quarteto em Cy, lead vocals by Powell
The Frankfurt Opera Concert 1975 1992 Tropical Music (G/Jp) live, with trio
Three Originals 1993 MPS/Polygram compilation
Live in Rio 1994 Kuarup (Br) live, trio with his sons
Décembre 94 de Rio à Paris 1995 Frémeaux & Associés (F)
Live in Montreux, 22 Juillet 1995 1996 Frémeaux & Associés live
Baden Live à Bruxelles 1999 Lua (Br), Sunnyside (US) live
Lembranças 2000 Trama (Br) solo with occ. perc and flute
Baden Powell de Aquino 2001 Iris compilation, 2-CDs plus CD-ROM
O Universo Musical de Baden Powell 2002 Universal, Sunnyside compilation, 2-CD set with recodings from 1964-1977
Samba in Prelúdio - Quand tu t'en vas 2002 Frémeaux & Associés with Benjamin Legrand and Philippe Baden Powell
Frémeaux and Associates Recordings 1994-1996 2003 Frémeaux & Associés compilation
Baden Powell 2003 Universal compilation, 13-CD box set with recordings from 1961-1972

With Herbie Mann

With Miltinho com o Sexteto Sideral

  • Um Novo Astro (Sideral, 1960)


  1. ^ McGowan, Chris; Pessanha, Ricardo (1998). The Brazilian sound: samba, bossa nova, and the popular music of Brazil. Temple University. p. 64. ISBN 1-56639-545-3.
  2. ^ Internet (, AMDB (2009-12-18). "Nº 9 - Canto de Ossanha". Rolling Stone (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 2021-03-19.
  3. ^ Ed Lincoln: The interview...
  4. ^ « Variétés : Baden a surpassé Powell », Jean-Pierre Thiollet, Le Quotidien de Paris, 3 June 1981.


External links[edit]