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Eliane Elias Remembers Oscar Castro-Neves

5.15.40 – 9.27.13

Oscar Castro-Neves
Oscar Castro-Neves, photo courtesy of Mack Avenue

Oscar called himself a “forever optimist.” When he called me with the news of his cancer, it had been very difficult for him; he had been going through weeks of chemotherapy and he was doing terribly. But he would still laugh on the phone and say, “Eliane, I’m the forever optimist! I am that guy who jumps from the top of the Empire State Building. Then, as I’m going down and I go by the 51st floor, I say, ‘So far, everything is OK!'” He really made me laugh and he stayed strong.

I had known about Oscar for years when I first moved to New York. He had moved to the United States in 1971 and he worked with Sergio Mendes for about 10 years, and then we started our musical relationship in the late ’80s. We had a lot of empathy; we shared rhythmically and had an affinity harmonically. It was something we didn’t have to discuss. I say to every guitarist that I work with who aspires to learn Brazilian music that Oscar is it. He had beautiful voicings and was a beautiful accompanist. He knew how to lay down the rhythm and connect the chords. There was a clarity and beauty to his sound. I just knew that when I would give him a tune and I would bring him the changes, that rhythmically we completed each other. It was something so very special. When I was making my album Sings Jobim, it was something different for me to do an entire album on which I was going to sing. It was so incredible for me to be able to take my hands off the piano, because I had always accompanied myself. But I knew that what I wanted to hear would be delivered.

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