Brazilian-born brothers Sérgio and Odair Assad have set the benchmark for all other guitarists by creating a new standard of guitar innovation, ingenuity and expression. Their exceptional artistry and uncanny ensemble playing come from both a family rich in Brazilian musical tradition and from studies with the best guitarists in South America. In addition to setting new performance standards, the Assads have played a major role in creating and introducing new music for two guitars. Their virtuosity has inspired a wide range of composers to write for them including Astor Piazzolla, Terry Riley, Radamés Gnattali, Marlos Nobre, Nikita Koshkin, Roland Dyens, Jorge Morel, Edino Krieger and Francisco Mignone. Now Sérgio Assad is adding to their repertoire by composing music for the duo and for various musical partners both with Symphony Orchestra and in recitals. They have worked extensively with such renowned artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Fernando Suarez Paz, Paquito D’Rivera, Gidon Kremer and DanUpshaw.
The Assads began playing the guitar together at an early age and went on to study for seven years with guitar/lutenist Monina Távora, a disciple of Andrés Segovia. Their international career began with a major prize at the 1979 Young Artists Competition in Bratislava. Odair is based in Brussels where he teaches at Ecole Supérieure des Arts. Sérgio resides in San Francisco, where he is on the faculty of the SF Conservatory, and Paris.
The Assad’s repertoire includes original music composed by Sérgio Assad and his re-workings of folk and jazz music as well as Latin music of almost every style. Their standard classical repertoire includes transcriptions of the great Baroque keyboard literature of Bach, Rameau and Scarlatti and adaptations of works by such diverse figures as Gershwin, Ginastera and Debussy. Their touring programs are always a compelling blend of styles, periods and cultures.
The Assads are also recognized as prolific recording artists, primarily for the Nonesuch and GHA labels. In 2001, Nonesuch Records released “Sérgio and Odair Assad Play Piazzolla,” which later won a Latin Grammy. Their seventh Nonesuch recording, released in the fall 2007, is called “Jardim Abandonado” after a piece by Antonio Carlos Jobim. It was nominated for Best Classical Album and Sérgio went on to win the Latin Grammy for his composition, “Tahiiyya Li Oussilina.”
A Nonesuch collaboration with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg in 2000 featured a collection of pieces based on traditional and Gypsy folk tunes from around the world. The Assads and Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg continue to tour together, displaying unique chemistry, humor and stunning virtuosity. In 2003, Sérgio Assad wrote a triple concerto for this trio that has been performed with the orchestras of São Paulo, Seattle and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. In the summer of 2004, Sérgio & Odair arranged a very special tour featuring three generations of the Assad Family. The family presented a wide variety of Brazilian music featuring their father Jorge Assad on the mandolin and the voice of mother Angelina Assad. GHA Records has released a live recording and a DVD of the Assad Family live at Brussels’ Palais des Beaux-Arts.
The Assad Brothers collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma is ongoing. In 2003 the Brazilian record "Obrigado Brazil" was released featuring Rosa Passos, Egberto Gismonti and Cyro Baptista. Sérgio arranged several of the works on the disc, which captured a Grammy in 2004. A world tour followed, culminating in live concerts at the opening of Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall and another Sony release of the live concert. In 2009, the Assads were featured on Yo-Yo Ma's chart topping release, "Songs of Joy & Peace," which features other guest artists as diverse as James Taylor and Dave Brubeck. In the piece "Familia" Yo-Yo plays Sérgio's composition featuring mother, Angelina Assad, sister Badi and children Clarice, Rodrigo and Carolina. The release topped both the classical and the mainstream Billboard charts and won a Grammy for Best Classical Crossover. Yo-Yo and the Assads appeared together on Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion" in 2009 and recently completed a tour of the U.S with the Tucson appearance sold out months in advance.
In the 2006-2007 season, the Assad Brothers performed Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto Madrigal for Two Guitars and Sérgio's arrangement of Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. In 2007 and 2008, the brothers toured with the Turtle Island Quartet in a program called "String Theory." In the winter of 2008, the Assads curated a guitar festival at the 92nd St. Y in New York, and then toured with some of those artists in a project called "Brazilian Guitar Festival" featuring Badi Assad, Romero Lubambo and Celso Machado. The Assads were also featured performers on James Newton Howard's soundtrack to the movie "Duplicity," starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. In the spring of 2010 the brothers tour a project entitled "De Volta as Raizes" (Back to Our Roots) featuring Lebanese-American singer Christiane Karam, percussionist Jamey Haddad and composer/pianist Clarice Assad.
In May 2012, Sergio Assad was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Arizona in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the repertoire.