While growing up in the jungle village of Santa Cruz, Brazil, Luiz Bonfa was known as a local guitar prodigy. When he got a chance to play for the renowned teacher, Isaias Savio, it was clear Luiz's reputation would spread far beyond his home town.
Savio invited Luiz to study with him and soon became his friend and the architect of the young guitarist's remarkable style. Luiz's early years as a professional were spent working in the club and casinos around Rio de Janeiro. In 1946, he was discovered by Brazil's largest radio network, Radio Nacional, and his reputation as an instrumentalist and composer grew rapidly. In 1951 the singer Dick Farney recorded several of his songs, including "Perdido de Amor," Luiz's first big hit.
Long a fan of American popular music, Luiz went to New York in 1957 where he made his home until 1970. During this time, he made more than 30 records and was featured with jazz greats such as Stan Getz, Bobby Scott, Ron Carter, Stanley Clarke and Antonio Carlos Jobim.
But perhaps the most important event in Bonfa's career took place when he returned to Rio for a month's vacation. French Director Marcel Camus approached Luiz to score the film Black Orpheus. Luiz accepted and composed a theme which he called "Morning of Carnival." When he played the piece to Camus, the director was not pleased. Luiz went "back to the drawing board" and returned to Camus with a second offering which the director found acceptable. Luiz insisted that the first was preferable and the two men argued considerably. Finally Camus gave in and "Manha de Carnaval" became the film's theme song. One year later, Black Orpheus won first prize at the Cannes Film Festival, (it later won the Academy Award for "Best Picture"), and "Manha de Carnaval" was the number one popular song worldwide (it remains the second most recorded song ever.)
Luiz's range of compositions includes "The Gentle Rain," a classic for the standard jazz repertoire, as well as a hit song he composed for Elvis Presley, "Almost in Love."
"I work strictly on inspiration," says Luiz, "I am not one of those who can say, 'Now I will sit and compose for an hour.' For example, the idea for 'The Gentle Rain" came one day when I was fishing. It just hit me!"
Luiz's release for Chesky Records, Non-Stop To Brazil, was his first recording in more than fifteen years. It is an intimate portrait. The uncomplicated instrumentation of guitar and percussion (with the exception of a few guitar duets) provides a showcase for Bonfa's subtle compositions and his breathtaking technical skill on guitar. Joining Luiz on the recording are Cafe, an extremely sought-after and talented Brazilian percussionist, and Gene Bertoncini, a delightful and versatile guitarist with whom Luiz has enjoyed many collaborations.