Amilton Godoy was born in Bauru to a family of musicians and his future was to be the same. His grandfather played the lute; his two brothers - Adilson e Amilson – became professional musicians; his father played the violin in an orchestra and also performed as a trumpeter at a club in Bauru (in the state of São Paulo). One of his uncles on his father’s side played the trumpet and another, on his mother’s side, was a conductor and pianist.
The first teacher of Amilton Godoy and his brothers was Nida Marchioni. He started to learn through the traditional teaching methods of the first year of piano, but studied privately rather than at the conservatory. At the same time, he began to study harmony, taught by his father and his uncle Célio (his mother’s brother) in the context of popular music. His father very much enjoyed playing tango, so Amilton would listen and try to reproduce that. He had a group together with his brother Adilson that was very successful in rural São Paulo, performing piano arrangements composed by his uncle Célio for four hands, when he was only eleven years old; and so his professional career began.
Nida Marchioni threatened on various occasions to stop teaching Amilton and his brothers because they were always out playing popular music in Bauru, until one day she carried out the threat. Amilton then moved on to study with another teacher, Efísio Aneda, who taught with a completely different style. Amilton spent two years learning traditional harmony with Efísio, who then passed away. Nida immediately decided to accept him back as her pupil, although sometimes would tell Amilton’s father: “Look, this boy needs to get out of here, there is not much more that I can teach him. Amilton needs to study in São Paulo city, at the Magdalena Tagliaferro School”
Amilton’s father took him to do a test with the teacher Nellie Braga, who heard him and accepted him as a student. For three years, Amilton travelled once a week to São Paulo for his lesson on a train journey that took six hours and twenty minutes each way. He had great determination.
He graduated through Nellie Braga at the Magda Tagliaferro School and from there went on to participate in and win various important competitions, such as:
In spite of having dedicated himself to Classical music, studying eleven hours a day and receiving multiple awards, Amilton ultimately chose the path of popular music.
Through self-teaching, the musician learnt to apply all of his knowledge acquired from Classical piano lessons in Bauru when he started to get work after moving to São Paulo city. With some helpful pointers from his friends, he began to explore jazz repertoire in depth, particularly Oscar Peterson, George Shearing and various orchestral works.
"While still in Bauru, when I was 13, I listened to George Shearing’s first album, given to me by my father. I kept listening and listening but could not understand it; nevertheless I started trying to reproduce it. That listening experience allowed me to develop my musical ear; since I had no access to sheet music, I tried to capture it, tried to write it down, I have no idea how long I took to get the first piece right. The solos, the phrasing, I repeated it all, wrote it all down, nearly burnt out the disc. In another moment, I heard Oscar Peterson for the first time, on a jazz program on the radio channel A Voz da América. Again I did not understand it, how could he play the piano in that way? Then my father bought his album. Now I had two different sources, and so the process repeated itself." (Amilton Godoy)
When he moved to São Paulo, Amilton Godoy was invited by the musician José Ferreira Godinho Filho, known as “Casé”, to join his quintet; this was a defining moment in Amilton’s career. He learnt to improvise with him; Casé would get jazz albums and ask Amilton to arrange the music to play with the quintet. With Amilton’s background in Classical piano, he began to play popular music in a manner completely unlike his contemporaries.
“I learnt from Oscar Peterson, from George Gershwin, their music filled my mind. That was preparation for the Zimbo Trio" (Amilton Godoy).
The Zimbo Trio came about when Rubinho Barsotti invited Amilton to make up a trio together with Luiz Chaves to play at the Baiúca Club in 1964. Amilton Godoy, who would later participate in the album "Projeção - Luiz Chaves E Seu Conjunto" (RGE/Som Livre, LP/1963, CD/1994), had been asked to replace Moacyr Peixoto.
On the 17th March, 1964, at the Oásis Club in the centre of São Paulo, the Zimbo Trio performed for the first time.
The Zimbo Trio have produced a significant body work in the Brazilian artistic arena with fifty-one recorded albums edited in more than twenty two countries.
The Zimbo Trio shared the stage and toured various countries with important names such as Elis Regina and Elizeth Cardoso. With Elis Regina, Wilson Simonal and Jair Rodrigues they defined an era known as “FINO DA BOSSA”.
Together with musicians such as Jacob do Bandolin, Sebastião Tapajos and Hector Costita, the Zimbo Trio exported Brazil’s instrumental music to more than forty-five countries, including all of Latin America, the United States, Europe, Africa, Japan and China.
With Amilton as the pianist, the Zimbo Trio won various nation and international awards, such as
In 1973, together with Rubens Barsotti, Luiz Chaves e João Ariza, Amilton founded one of the most important music schools in Brazil, CLAM Centro Livre de Aprendizagem Musical, responsible for the education of various artists, both national and international.
Today the ZIMBO TRIO takes the name AMILTON GODOY TRIO, since Amilton is the only remaining member of the original TRIO e and after RUBINHO BARSOTTI left, Amilton felt that the name should not continue since one of his bandmates no longer shared the stage with him and so he decided instead to pay tribute by “TELLING THE STORY OF THE ZIMBO TRIO”.
Amilton has published more than ten books on piano and harmony methods that are used by more than 30,000 music students.
Amilton has managed the piano department at the Campos do Jordão Winter Festival and was director for two years of the Guiomar Novaes Week in São João da Boa Vista. In 2012 he administered the piano course and five illustrative lecture courses with a variety of themes at the Office of Music in Curitiba.
Together with the composer Dulce Auriemo, Amilton has produced two albums from the collection “Solo Piano by Brazilian Composers”. They won the JABUTI prize for “My First Solo Piano Album”. Michael Hase, first flautist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, then invited Amilton to arrange some of the pieces from this collection for flute and piano.
In 2011 Amilton was the soloist for the Jazz Symphony Orchestra under the Italian conductor Nino Lepore, in a tribute to Nino Rota.
Furthermore, in 2012 Amilton arranged and recorded, together with the harmonist Gabriel Grossi, a CD entitled “Popular Villa Lobos”, though sponsorship from PROAC.
Amilton has been a member of the Music Committee of the Secretary of State for Culture and of the State Council for Culture for eight years.
As a soloist he is considered one of the world’s greatest pianists and has performed with various orchestras conducted by, for example, Cyro Pereira, Julio Medaglia, Chico de Moraes, Simon Bleche, Roberto Sion, Maurício Galindo and Wagner Tiso.