Having recorded 39 albums between 1963 and 2003 (some released posthumously since he passed away in 2000), Baden Powell takes his place in the Brazilian pantheon of guitarist/composers next to Laurindo Almeida, Carlos Barbosa-Lima, Sebastião Tapajós, Bola Sete, Raphael Rabello, Nonato Luiz, Paulo Bellinali and present-day maestro Romero Lubambo. As a key figure in the Bossa Nova phenomenon and with a confusing discography that includes numerous compilations, the present 30-track two-disc collection of many works from his Philips tenure is a convenient and rewarding portal for newcomers whereby to make Powell's acquaintance.
Baden Powell was equally fluent in the Classical and Brazilian Jazz milieus - he made his 1963 European debut at the Parisian Olympia theater with a mix of classical and self-penned repertoire. He composed the soundtrack for Le Grabuje, researched African candomblé and umbanda traditions in Bahia to enter his Afro-Samba phase of 1965-66 and launched his own short-lived but legendary record label Elenco. Partnering first with Vinícius de Moraes, then Paulo César Pinheiro, Powell wrote an endless string of popular numbers, many of which would eventually find their way into the oeuvre of famous vocalists like Milton Nascimento and Elis Regina (whom he spent a season performing with at Rio's Zum-Zum nightclub). He toured the US with Stan Getz in the mid-60s and delighted European audiences at the 1966 Cannes and 1967 Berlin Jazz festivals which led to collaborations with Jim Hall and Stephane Grappelli, Michel Legrand, Lalo Schifrin and Thelonious Monk. Living for years on end in Paris and Germany while intermediately returning to Brazil, Powell's stature and popularity continued undiminished until his death.
With three Jimmy Pratt duets and examples of famous tunes like "Manhā de Carnival", "Berimbau", "Samba Triste" and "Tempo Feliz", the Sem Limite collection presents a fair share of Moraes and Pinheiro numbers but also includes compositions by Dorival Caymmi, Jobim and Pixinguinha. If you're unacquainted with this giant of Brazilian musical culture, this extensive double album has found favor even with aficionados intimately familiar with Baden's legacy and is a perfect entry into his output from 1963 to 1971.Concomintantly, the recording quality is fair but not stupendous but the sheer essentialness of Powell's stature, his archetypical capture of the Brazilian zeitgeist of his day and the mean balance of the chosen examples, with their graceful total length on either CD and welcome mix between solo and ensemble numbers, make Sem Limite required listening for all guitar lovers not already converted to Baden's charms. You'll likely recognize more than half of the compositions while admitting that you didn't know that they had their origin with this guitarist..