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Brasilian Jazz Great & Latin Grammy Winner Paulo Moura Has Died

One of Brazil’s most celebrated instrumentalists, Paulo Moura, has died. After a long battle with cancer, Moura passed away on Monday night (July 12) at 77 in Rio De Janeiro.

Mr. Moura, a saxophonist and clarinetist, was a boundary breaker. In his teens, he began performing as a soloist in the Brasilian Symphony Orchestra. Another early career highlight was his participation in a Bossa Nova night at Carnegie Hall in 1962 with Sergio Mendes. Mr. Moura and Mr. Mendes subsequently recorded with Cannonball Adderley, at that time one of the biggest-selling jazz artists, recording “Cannonball’s Bossa Nova,” one of the finest U.S.—Brasilian Bossa Nova recordings. Mr. Moura also worked with Herbie Mann during this period

Paulo’s own recordings tended more towards straight-up jazz, with less bossa influence, but his instrumental mastery attracted many accomplished musicians into his orbit. During the ’70s, Moura worked with post-Tropicália notables such as Milton Nascimento. The material Mr. Moura cut during this period is still held in high regard by many.

Later in his career, he turned to revitalizing folk forms with jazz. His reinterpretations of choro master Pixinguinha earned him a Latin Grammy in 1999, the first Brazilian winner of the award.

I had the high honor of working with, and more importantly, hearing Mr. Moura perform the work of Pixinguinha when I was honored to work with Tom Andre’s Jambalaya concerts in Brasil in the early part of the 21st century. His distinctive style and appearance made him one of the most recognized individuals on the streets of Rio, as I experienced first hand during an unforgettable stroll with Paulo in the streets of Centro in RJ, waiting for him to perform at Teatro Caetano. The crowds parted as he walked, many said wonderful things to him, and no doubt wondered who the menino blanco was with him. I will always cherish that memory. And now am happy that Louis Armstrong just got a great clarinetist to play with him in the Heavenly jazz band.