14 February 1918
13 August 1969 (aged 51)
Jacob do Bandolim (1918-1969), Brazilian and Jewish, was a composer and instrumentalist. Born Jacob Pick Bittencourt, his stage name means Mandolin Jacob, after the instrument he played.
One of the key founders of the Brazilian instrumental style choro, Jacob do Bandolim began his long musical career by plucking his violin with a hairpin, and very soon developed into the greatest mandolin virtuoso Brazil has ever known. His compositions virtually defined the choro style through the thirties, forties and fifties, and he remains one of the most endearing figures in Brazilian music to this day.
A perfectionist, Jacob was able to achieve from his band Época de Ouro the highest levels of quality. Jacob hated the stereotype of the "dishevelled, drunk folk musician" and required commitment and impeccable dress from his musicians who, like himself, all held "day jobs." Jacob worked as a pharmacist, insurance salesman, street vendor, and finally notary public, in order to support himself while also working "full time" as a musician.
In addition to Jacob's virtuoso playing, he is famous for his many choro compositions, which range from the lyrical melodies of Noites Cariocas (Carioca Nights) and Doce de Coco, to the aggressively jazzy Assanhado, which is reminiscent of bebop. Jacob also researched and attempted to preserve the older choro tradition, as well as that of other Brazilian music styles.
Jacob died of a heart attack, when coming back from spending the day with Pixinguinha, in the midst of planning a recording project to benefit a friend. His two mandolins, which he called simply and prosaically "number one" and "number two," were kept in storage after his death until 2002, when they received minor restoration. Now, under the care of Instituto Jacob do Bandolim, they are being used in new recordings again.
An album titled Jacob do Bandolim: Great Jewish Music,, by the recording label Tzadik, pays tribute to one of Brazil's greatest Jewish composers. This recording features creative arrangements by Tzadik recording artist regulars. Material on the album ranges from the traditional to the experimental, and helps honor Jacob do Bandolim, one of the true guiding lights of the Jewish Diaspora, by keeping his music alive and "in play."
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