‘I was transformed’: the power of Brazilian jazz legend Bola Sete

The late guitarist, who would have just turned 100, blew the minds of Carlos Santana, John Fahey and more with his hypnotic technique and expansive creative vision

San Francisco, early 1962. For Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete – who would have turned 100 last month – a night would hardly go by without a gig in the Tudor Room of the Sheraton Palace hotel. Bossa nova, seen as a classy background music in hotel dining rooms, was in high demand – but hired to play at cocktail hour, Sete would often go ignored by the audience of thirsty diners. Things changed when trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie recognised Sete and his guitar, the pair having met in Rio de Janeiro a few years earlier.

Gillespie was astonished, so much so that he would return to the Tudor Room with pianist Lalo Schifrin to witness what this little-known musician was capable of. “He was sending a message. It was a message very intense,” Schifrin later said.

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