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the ipanemas os ipanemas

The Ipanemas

In the 1960s The Ipanemas changed the face of Brazilian music with their Afro Samba sound. Consisting of Astor Silva (trombone) Marinho (bass) Wilson das Neves (drums) Rubens Bassini (percussion) and Neco (guitar), they released only one album in the 1960s; the now cult ‘Os Ipanemas’ was released in 1964 and recorded in Rio and is a mix of Bossa nova, Brazilian samba, African rhythms and Jazz.

Wilson was working as a session musician for the orchestra of TV Globo where he and Neco first met. During the Sixties they were both contracted as in-house musicians to CBS Records by the trombonist Astor Silva who was the musical director and chief arranger for the record label. Wilson describes how the recording came about, “We were contracted to CBS so we all got together and had a chat and decided to record an album. It was off our own initiative and as Astor Silva our maestro was musical director at CBS it was easy to make it happen. It was quick to record – we did it in two weeks or less because it was everyone together and there was no playback at that time.”

Understated words from Wilson yet the Ipanemas were nothing less than musical alchemists when they fused Afro-Brazilian jazz, samba and bossa and their debut album remains a unique piece of alchemy in the history of Brazilian music. Unfortunately for the Ipanemas the album was just too radical for the then newly emergent bossa nova movement and the album was largely overlooked.

Wilson is one of Brazil’s most prolific drummers whilst Neco is an unassuming genius of bossa nova guitar. Wilson and Neco were instrumental in breaking bossa nova in Brazil back in the 1950s and in the decades since. They have recorded with many great Brazilian legends; both have played a major part in Brazil’s musical history. Wilson das Neves, who is also now a vocalist, has long been one of the most sought after drummers in Brazil and Neco’s bossa guitar skills can be traced to many countless cult classics.

Wilson das Neves was born June 14 1936 in Rio de Janeiro. He is a Brazilian Percussionist and is a key figure in the history of Brazilian music, having played with many of Brazil’s greatest musicians across many decades and after having featured on numerous important recordings. Wilson grew and learnt his trade in Rio; his roots came from Pernambuco, Brazil’s former slave centre. Wilson fills us in on some family history: ‘My father was from Pernambuco and my mother from Salvador. My great-grandmother was the daughter of slaves there. I used to hear a lot of music at home from when I was very small. Lots of partido and Candomble with regional music and flutes, bandolim and cavaquinho.’ The mix of influences would be essential to the sound of The Ipanemas.

Neco also born and raised in Rio is a Brazilian guitarist, arranger and composer; he is noted by his right hand with a strong sense of rhythm. He has participated on several recording sessions for many record labels among his career. Neco released his first LP in 1963, ‘Samba Nova Concepcao’ in which he was in charge of the arrangements and orchestra.

Both Wilson and Neco supplemented their incomes by appearing on local radio like Radio Nacional and Radio Tupi, two of the big stations at the time. They also played at local parties or as they were called back then bailes (balls). Wilson recalls those heady days: “Back in those days we would play at twenty graduation balls in a month. There were also theatre reviews and nightclubs spots - there was a lot of variety to the work. I learnt so much - it was like a university of music for me.”

Time passed by and The Ipanemas, as a band, faded into the book shelves of Brazilian music history. It seemed that this was where they were to stay until Joe Davis, founder of Far Out recordings, had an idea that would change the fate of the bands future. Joe had been working hard alongside Ivan Conti of Azymuth who also happened to be Wilson das Neves old time friend. Ivan asked Joe if he could assist them in putting a new production together, Joe happily agreed and the band was reformed in 2000 by Joe and Roc Hunter. The members now consisted of Wilson das Neves, Ivan Conti and Neco Wilson.

With the help of Ivan Conti, Jorge Helder and Vitor Santos they have released five albums with Far Out Recordings: ‘The Return of The Ipanemas’ followed by 2003s ‘Afro Bossa’ ‘Samba Is Our Gift ‘in 2006, ‘Call of the Gods’ in 2008 and finally ‘Que Beleza’ in 2010.

The Ipanemas embarked on their debut tour in 2008, it was a rare chance to hear their 1960s repertoire as well as songs from all their Far Out Recordings released played live in the UK for the first time ever. The line up included very special guests including Alex Malheiros from Azymuth.

Sadly, in 2008 Neco passed away taking half a century of Brazilian music history with him. After his death it was only right for Wilson das Neves and Ivan Conti to make an album dedicated to wonderful life of Neco. So in June 2010 The Ipanemas released ‘Que Beleza’ through Far Out Recordings. Wilson and The Ipanemas returned and their creativity output was as important to them as it was in Neco’s memory. No one else could possibly recreate the unique music they made.