Johnny Alf, father of bossa nova, dies

Johnny Alf, a Brazilian pianist and singer credited with inventing bossa nova, has died. He was 80.

Johnny Alf, a Brazilian pianist and singer credited with inventing bossa nova, has died. He was 80.

Alf died Thursday in a Sao Paulo hospital of multiple organ failure after a fight with prostate cancer.

Alf always rejected the term bossa nova, but musicians who came after him, including Tom (Antonio Carlos) Jobim, Leny Andrade and Carlos Lyra, say they were influenced by his style.

Ruy Castro, who wrote the definitive history Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World, credited him as a fundamental precursor of the style. 

Alf was born Alfredo Jose da Silva on May 19, 1929, in Rio de Janeiro. He learned piano as a child and became an aficionado of early American jazz, including George Gershwin and Cole Porter.

He began composing songs in his teens and early in his career began incorporating a samba beat on popular jazz and swing songs.

Through his connections with singer Dick Farney and jazz journalist Jose Domingoes Raffaelli, he got a nightclub job in Copacabana, where a young Jobim would hang out with other young Brazilian musicians.

Author of songs such as Estamos Sós, O que é Amar, Podem Falar and Escuta,  Alf moved on to play at the Plaza nightclub, considered the cradle of bossa nova.

He worked with numerous Brazilian musicians in a singing career that lasted until a few years ago, including Luís Chaves Sérgio Mendes, Luís Carlos Vinhas and Leandro Braga. His playing is registered on 46 albums, singles, compilations and participations.

Alf recorded only nine solo LPs or CDs in his career, including a 1955 78 rpm album for Copacabana Brasil, which is considered by several musicologists to be the first bossa nova album.

His later albums include Diagonal, Johnny Alf, Olhos Negros, which he recorded in 1990 after 10 years away from the studio and 1999's Eu e a Bossa.

With files from The Associated Press