Bassist Sérgio Brandão, known as the “Brazilian Jaco”, dies aged 65

Sérgio Brandão has died aged 65
(Image credit: Estate of Sérgio Brandão )

Bassist Sérgio Brandão, known as the “Brazilian Jaco”, died on April 2 after suffering cardiac arrest due to complications from gastric interstitial complications. Brandão was 65 years old.

Hailed as a “music ambassador and conduit of Brazilian music outside of Brazil,” Brandão had credits on hundreds of recordings over his 40-year career.

Among his professional highlights include being hired by Quincy Jones to co-produce the landmark 1984 Ivan Lins album, Juntos, which featured a variety of US and Brazilian artists, among them George Benson, Patti Austin, Elis Regina, Djavan and Marcus Miller.

Brandão was born in Rio de Janeiro and began playing acoustic guitar at age 11. By 17 he switched to acoustic bass and, shortly after, the electric bass. He attended the Villa Lobos Institute in Rio where he studied music theory, spending his teens and early 20s in Rio, where he worked with the likes of Lins, Joao Bosco and Johnny Alf.

Brandão moved to New York in 1978, and began to play with some of the top names in jazz in the studio and onstage. In 1985 and 1986, he was a part of the New York Samba All Stars, a high-profile group that included the likes of Jaco Pastorius, Michel Camilo, Claudio Roditi and other top names in Latin music.

Over the years he collaborated with a huge list of artists, including Harry Belafonte, Herbie Mann, Randy Brecker, Sérgio Mendes, Bebel Gilberto, John Legend, Carly Simon, David Byrne, Gilberto Gil and others.

He worked tirelessly to promote Brazilian music internationally, and was one of the first Brazilian musicians to tour Russia after the fall of the USSR. Brandão also performed with US president Bill Clinton on saxophone during an impromptu performance in the late ‘90s, and in 2017 was invited to Beijing to perform for Brazilian president Michel Temer and Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang.

In the months leading up to his death, Brandão had completed producing two recordings for Hong Kong-based Bossa Negra and was in the middle of finishing a project with longtime collaborator Jose Gallegos, Jazzilian.

Among the many tributes to Brandão came from bassist Leo Traversa, who wrote on Facebook: “It's been difficult to put into words the sadness that we all feel upon hearing of Sergio's passing but so many of our friends have said it so well. Sergio wasn't just a great musician, he was a force of nature. He didn't play the bass, he was the bass. He didn't play music, he was the music.

“I don't think I've ever seen anyone play so great while looking so relaxed as Sergio did every time I saw him play. Music came out of him so naturally, just like his kind personality. On top of being an incredible musician, he was also a beautiful human being with a huge heart.”

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.