Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Anniversary of Pixinguinha & Choro Day

On the 23rd of April it is 118 years since the birth of Pixinguinha. During the past 15 years this date has been officially celebrated in Brazil as Dia Nacional do Choro in honor of Pixinguinha and his importance for choro and Brazilian music. Here I will follow this tradition and commemorate Pixinguinha's genius by inserting some examples of his music. And why not start with a birthday tune composed by the master and here performed by Jacob do Bandolim - TEU ANIVERSÁRIO

This choro by Pixinguinha is the same tune as RECORDANDO, which Pixinguinha recorded for Odeon in 1934

The peak period of Pixinguinha's long career probably was during his cooperation with Benedito Lacerda in the 1940s. Fact is that many of the classic choros by Pixinguinha/Lacerda from this period are still performed today, a.o. INGêNUO

In a TV show from 1997 Época de Ouro performed INGêNUO a.o. featuring Ronaldo do Bandolim playing the melody

1997 was the centennial of Pixinguinha's birth that was celebrated all over Brazil in various events. A TV transmited concert from one of these celebrations has been uploaded in a complete version at YouTube and is inserted here to mark the anniversary of Pixinguinha and Choro Day - sit back and enjoy the show


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Choro Vivo - A Danish Choro Trio

Choro Vivo
Thanks to globalization and the internet knowledge about choro music has spread outside Brazil during the past fifteen years. Today there are musicians all over the world playing choro inspired by the great Brazilian performers of the past and present. Here I like to introduce a Danish choro ensemble from Copenhagen - Choro Vivo that has just released a debut CD.

Martin Heap, 7 string guitar, cavaquinho
Choro Vivo was formed by Martin Heap in January 2010. Martin Heap (b.1974) has studied guitar at The Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen and graduated in 2003. In 2001 he visited Rio de Janeiro for the first time and was inspired to explore and play choro. As a result, he stayed in Rio from 2004 to 2007 and studied with the renowned choro guitarist Mauricio Carrilho and was introduced to the Cariocan choro community. In 2005 Martin Heap produced a CD  featuring a choro ensemble named Choro Brasil Scandinavia that included himself and another Scandinavian guitarist besides three well known Brazilian musicians. The CD and the ensemble was presented in live performance in Copenhagen, July 2005 (- you can read more about Choro Brasil Scandinavia following this link ). Thanks to his many contacts in Brazil Martin Heap has organized a pioneering work in Denmark to introduce choro to the public, and his enthusiasm and initiative has so far also resulted in the formation of the trio Choro Vivo in 2010. The original formation of the trio comprised violinist Alexander Kraglund (b. 1985) and guitarist Bjarke Mulder (b. 1980) besides Martin Heap on 7 string guitar and cavaquinho. Today Choro Vivo has two new members replacing Kraglund and Mulder.

Martin Buono, guitar
Martin Buono (b.1986) has studied classical guitar at The Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen and graduated as soloist in 2014. He is the one part of the prizewinning Copenhagen Guitar Duo excelling in the classical guitar repertoire. Martin Buono has also studied flamenco guitar in Spain and is involved in other music projects besides Choro Vivo, learn more at his official website, here 

Marco Spallanzani, bandolim
 Marco Spallanzani is from Modena, Italy, but has been living in Copenhagen since 1985. He has studied guitar at the rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen and graduated 1992.Besides playing guitar Marco Spallanzani is a composer, arranger and tutor, he also plays other string instruments than guitar and has specialized in playing bandolim in Choro Vivo. Learn more about his career and other projects at the official website, here 

Choro Vivo, CD front (Gateway Music, 2015)
The debut CD of Choro Vivo was recorded last year and released earlier this month by Gateway Music in a downloadable version, here and is also available in streaming audio at the website of Choro Vivo. The CD has nine tracks, the repertoire is devoted to well known classic choro compositions in arrangements by Choro Vivo. Some tracks have guest appearance by accordionist Fransesco Cali , percussionist Afonso Corrêa and Brazilian guitarist Glauber Seixas.

Choro Vivo with guest performers
The first track, 'Odeon' (Ernesto Nazareth), is the trio's interpretation of the well known tune and showcasting the bandolim as lead voice. Next tune is Pixinguinha's 'Um A Zero' featuring the trio extended with accordionist Francesco Cali, percussionist Afonso Corrêa and Glauber Seixas on 7 string guitar - the tune has great playing by all including solo exchange and improvisation by Spallanzani's bandolim and Cali's accordion. Then follows Anacleto de Medeira's 'Yara' by the trio showcasting Martin Heap on the cavaquinho as solo voice, Martin Buono on guitar and Glauber Seixas on 7 string guitar replacing Spallanzani. Next, two more classics by Pixinguinha, 'Os Oitos Batutas' and 'Naquele Tempo' - the last mentioned extended with Cali on accordion, while 'Os Oitos Batutas' adds Corrêa on percussion. A choro by Paulinho da Viola influenced by the guitar style of Canhoto da Paraíba, 'Rosinha, essa Menina' is next featuring great playing by Martin Buono and exemplary support by Heap and Spallanzani, and this is followed by an excellent arrangenment and reading of Villa-Lobos' 'Mazurka-Choro' by the trio. The two remaining tracks are devoted to a reading of Jacob do Bandolim's 'Feia' and E.Nazareth's 'Travesso' - the last mentioned has also been recorded in a live presentation uploaded at YouTube and is inserted below to give you an impression of Choro Vivo in performance.

It's a thrill to learn that choro music is taken good care of and presented with due respect to and affirmative understanding of the Brazilian tradition by Choro Vivo - the future of choro in Denmark looks bright with the release of the trio's debut CD, definitly recommended!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Yamandú Costa - Tocata À Amizade

Yamandú Costa (Photo: Anderson Silva)
The New CD by Yamandú Costa Tocata À Amizade (Biscoito Fino) is a splendid example of a deliberate smoothing of the boundaries between classical art music and popular tradition. Generally, in the Western tradition erudite musical composition has enjoyed primacy of popular traditions, while it has not been pronounced in Brazilian music culture.Among other aspects, this means that improvisation or free musical expression has been severely limited within the framework of traditonel Western classical art music, although previously rudiments to consider improvisation as an essential aspect of musical expression have been applied to sudden musical forms. These include for the type of compositions, which are known as toccatas.
Sheet book front
The encyclopedia definiton of a toccata reads: Toccata (from Italian toccare, "to touch") is a virtuoso piece of music typically for a keyboard or plucked string instrument featuring fast-moving, lightly fingered or otherwise virtuosic passages or sections, with or without imitative or fugal interludes, generally emphasizing the dexterity of the performer's fingers.This msusical form has been developed since the late Renaissance and its best known example probably is J.S. Bach's  Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (BWV 565). His toccatas for organ are improvisatory compositions, and are often followed by an independent fugue movement. You can read more about this musical form and are further able to listen to examples, here 
CD front: Tocata À Amizade  (Illustration by Elifas Andreato)
According to the info at the Biscoito Fino website,  the new CD by Yamandú Costa pays tribute not only to musicians he admires, but also to the art of playing an instrument. Quote: "We, who play popular music, have this custom of meetings, evening parties, in which we exchange information, learn new songs. In this CD I wanted to make an allusion to this very common and very natural practice among us." The idea of recording the CD came from an invitation that Yamandú received from the Louvre Museum Auditorium in Paris. "They ordered me a piece, I wanted to show some of the popular music of Brazil, so I wrote the suite “Impressões brasileiras”, for about four years." The suite opens the CD and consists of four parts: 1-Choro-tango, 2-Valsa, 3-Frevo-canção and 4-Baionga. The suite is followed by two new compositions by Yamandú: Negra Baiarina and Boa Viagem, both are examples of informal toccatas. Next follow two compositions paying tribute to two major figures in Brazilian guitar tradition, Pedra do Leme by Raphael Rabello/Toquinho and Graúna by João Pernambuco. The CD closes with a reading and interpretation of Radamés Gnatalli's 'Suite Retratos' in four parts, named after the composers in Brazilian tradition each of them portrays: Pixinguinha - Ernesto Nazareth - Anacleto de Medeiros - Chiquinha Gonzaga. Yamandú explains: "In my view, this cousin of Radames' work perfectly portrays the dialogue between schools of classical music and popular. (...) We rehearsed a lot to get this much free result that is on the disc." The CD thus underlines the dialogue between classical and popular music in Brazilian tradition, and the title Tocata À Amizade further points to the fact that this dialogue is not with the intention of provoking a polite audience, but to emphasize the friendship between two equal musical expressions and further the friendship between the musicians who perform the music at the CD.In truth, a musical project based on fixed frames which allow for free expression and improviasation, a well known and respected approach within choro music and related, popular Brazilian genres.
Yamandú Costa Quartet in performance (photo by Paulo Cartolano)
All tracks of the CD were recorded in a quartet setting, and Yamandú (violão de 7 cordas de naylon) brings together musicians Rogerio Caetano (violão 7 cordas de aço), Luis Barcelos (bandolim de 10 cordas and arrangements of “Suite Impressões brasileiras” ) and Alessandro Bebê Kramer on accordion. - To give you an impression of the music featured at the CD, I'll insert some uploaded examples from previously recorded live performance by the quartet. Here is first a live presentation of Radamés Gnatalli's 4º movimento Retratos (Chiquinha Gonzaga) from the Suite Retratos

Next, here is a presentation by Yamandú Costa quartet of João Pernambuco's Graúna

Finally, to end this presentation of Yamandú Costa's new CD, here is the quartet performing Pedra do Leme by Raphael Rabello/Toquinho

The Tocata À Amizade CD is available for purchase as mp3 downloads at Amazon, hereand iTunes, here 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Danilo Brito - New CD By Bandolinista Extraordinaire

Danilo Brito
The excellent bandolinista, Danilo Britohas released a new CD last November. The CD has no title, but contains nine pieces of music all composed by Danilo Brito. He is accompanied by a traditional regional ensemble which comprises Carlos Moura (violão 7 cordas), Wesley Vasconcelos (violão), Lucas Arantes (cavaquinho), Roberto Figueroa (pandeiro) and there is a guest appearance by André Mehmari (piano) in the last track. The repertoire of the disc are compositions in the classic choro style and every track is a listening delight performed by excellent and very skilled musicians. Danilo Brito stands out as a magnificent soloist mastering his instrument with impeccable technique, and his great playing throughout mixes speed, tone and expression with a marvellous result. The CD is a superior example of the virtuosity of a great artist, highly recommended!
CD-front: Danilo Brito, Orpheu Music, Orpheu 05
Further info on the CD is available here and it may be purchased here. You also have the opportunity to listen to all tracks in full length in streaming audio at Sound Cloud, here. 
Below I'll insert some uploaded YouTube videos presenting some of the music recorded at the CD. Here is first Danilo Brito and his regional from the release promotion of the CD playing the tune 'Foi Ontem'

From the same promotion presentation, here is Danilo Brito and ensemble playing 'Pega Ratáo'

Danilo Brito also shows off his skills at the violão tenor, here's an example recorded at the mentioned CD, the tune is titled 'Generoso'

To end this small presentation of the music at Danilo Brito's new CD, here is a live performance of the waltz titled 'Vermelha' in a duo setting


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Garoto on Lap Steel Guitar

Garoto with electric lap steel guitar
Garoto (Anibal Augusto Sardinha, 1915-55) is deservedly hailed as a Brazilian master of several plucked instruments such as cavaquinho, bandolim, violão tenor, violão (conventional six string guitar), banjo, electric guitar and the 'guitarra havaiana'. Here I'll put some focus on Garoto as a player of the 'guitarra havaiana' (=lap steel guitar).

Acoustic lap steel guitar
The 'guitarra havaiana' or lap steel guitar was developed in Hawaii in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is usually positioned horizontally and the strings are plucked with one hand, while the other hand changes the pitch of one or more strings with the use of a bar or slide called a steel (generally made of metal, but also of glass or other materials).

Steel bar
The technique was invented and popularized in Hawaii. Thus, the lap steel guitar is sometimes known as the Hawaiian guitar, particularly in documents from the early 20th century. Early lap steel guitars were conventional guitars with steel strings modified by raising both the bridge and head nut. This type of guitar is claimed to have been invented in about 1889 by Joseph Kekuku in Hawaii. The type of slide called a steel which gives the technique its name was probably originally made of steel, or the name may come from the legend that the first steel was a railroad track.

The Rickenbacker 'frying pan'
The lap steel typically has 6 strings and is tuned to either standard guitar tuning, or an open chord. It differs from a conventional guitar in having a higher action. The electric version of a lap steel guitar was invented around 1930. The Rickenbacker'frying pan', an electric lap steel guitar produced from 1931 to 1939, was the first commercially successful solid body electric guitar.

Anibal Augusto Sardinha, Garoto
It is known that Garoto had his debut playing banjo, but he soon added several other plucked instruments to the inventory of instruments he mastered. In the late 1920s his idol and mentor was Zezinho (José Patrocinio de Oliveira,later known as Zé Carioca, 1904-1987), who also was a master of several plucked instruments. Zezinho had accompanied João Pernambuco in the famous recordings by João for the Columbia label, and Zezinho was one of the first to introduce the 'guitarra havaiana' in Brazil and also to record on this instrument. Garoto may have been introduced to the instrument by Zezinho and also been taught the basics from him. Around 1936 Garoto teamed with Aymoré in a duo to accompany singer Silvio Caldas and other popular artists of the time, and in 1936 Garoto also made his first registered record playing the 'guitarra havaiana' accompanied by Aymoré and Carlinhos on conventional guitars. The music is a choro titled 'Dolente' composed by Garoto

In the same year Garoto and Aymoré became staff musicians at Rádio Mayrink Veiga in Rio de Janeiro, and there they worked together with Gastão Bueno Lobo and Laurindo Almeida in an ensemble named Conjunto Havaiano, which aired live performances of popular music played 'hawaiian' style. Unfortunately, no recorded evidence of these live shots seems to have been recorded and saved.

Carolina Cardoso Menezes
In 1942 Garoto teamed with piano player Carolina Cardoso Menezes to record for the Victor label, between July 1942 and August 1944 they recorded at least 12 sides that became popular and since have been considered the best known work of Garoto playing the 'guitarra havaiana'. On these sides Garoto has switched to the electric lap steel, and below I'll insert some examples of the music from these recordings, which have been uploaded at YouTube. - From the first session on July 31th 1942 the duo recorded Garoto's choro 'Amoroso'

On January 12th 1943 Carolina Cardoso Menezes and Garoto recorded 'Tico tico no fubá', where Garoto also plays the violão tenor

At the same session the duo also recorded 'Carinhoso' - here played faster than usual and with a samba rhythm

When I started listening to the huge recorded output featuring Garoto, the above examples became some of my favorite recordings at once, they still are and for me they represent some of the best popular interpretation of choro although played on an instrument not usually associated with choro - the lap steel guitar. Anyway, great stuff that should be reissued in a proper format, I think.
Feliz Natal & Feliz Ano Novo 2015/ A Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year 2015!


Monday, November 03, 2014

Apanhei-te Cavaquinho - History of The Cavaquinho

The title of this entry refers to a famous choro tune composed by Ernesto Nazareth in 1914, since then a standard tune among choro musicians and recorded by numerous artists. However, the title of Apanhei-te Cavaquinho (- which in English means 'I got you, cavaquinho', refering to the friendly 'cutting contests' among choro musicians in rodas de choro meetings) is also the title of a four part filmed documentary of the story of the cavaquinho.

Cavaquinho ace and historian Henrique Cazes and producer Ivan Dias produced a documentary in four parts on the origins and circulation of the cavaquinho recorded on location in Portugal, Rio de Janeiro, Cabo Verde and Hawaii to cast some light upon the story of this fascinating instrument. The film was shown on TV in Brazil and has now been uploaded on YouTube, more than four hours documentation featuring Henrique Cazes as the guide interviewing key persons at the mentioned locations. As may be expected, the speak is in Portuguese most of the time (- except through some of the interviews recorded in Hawaii) and there are not added English subtitles in the YouTube version. However, even though you do not speak or understand the Portuguese language, this filmed documentary is entertaining and moreover has great photography by Carlos Mendes Pereira creating an authentic atmosphere of the locations and supporting the interviews well. You have the opportunity to watch all four parts following this link

CD front: Uma História do Cavaquinho Brasileiro (independent, 2012)
As a follow-up to the mentioned film, Henrique Cazes recorded and produced the shown CD in 2012 featuring fourteen tracks of compositions documentating the importance of the cavaquinho in popular Brazilian instrumental music, in particular choro. Of course,  Ernesto Nazareth's 'Apanhei-te Cavaquinho' is featured on the CD in a new arrangement also used in the soundtrack of the film mentioned above, and there are more tunes by choro pioneers like 'Cruzes, Minha Prima!' by Joaquin Callado, 'Roceira' by Mário Álvares da Conceição (- an early master of the cavaquinho known as Mário Cavaquinho) and 'Não Pode Ser!' by Nelson Alves (- another pioneer of the cavaquinho known as Nelson Cavaquinho). Late 1940s, Waldir Azevedo made the cavaquinho popular as a solo voice in choro and related genres, and four of his compositions are featured in new arrangements by Henrique Cazes and Beto Cazes - besides the smash hits 'Brasileirinho' and 'Delicado' you have new versions of 'Brincando Com O Cavaquinho' and the beautiful 'Eterna Melodia'. From the same period there is also a new arrangement of Garoto's 'Meu Cavaquinho', further a version of 'Gingando' (- a popular tune composed by Dino 7 Cordas while being a stable member of cavaquinista Canhoto e seu Regional, the ensemble which later became the backing ensemble of Jacob do Bandolim). Modern tradition of the cavaquinho is represented by an arrangement of Radamés Gnattali's 'Variações Sem Tema', here performed in a duet interplay with pianist Cliff Korman, and further there is a version of Paulinho da Viola's melodious 'Beliscando'. Finally, two contemporary compositions by Henrique Cazes, 'Real Grandeza' (- a choro dedicated to Paulinho da Viola's  farther, Cesar Faria, violanista and founder of the famous Epoca de Ouro choro ensemble) and the double tune 'Dois Estudos Nº 6 E Nº 7' (- dedicated to bandolinista Joel Nasciemento and Hamilton de Holanda respectively). - Henrique Cazes plays the cavaquinho in all fourteen tracks (- and doubles on violão tenor in some tunes), and he is accompanied by a backing ensemble consisting of 7 string acoustic guitar, double bass, percussion and in some tracks an accordion is also added. More info on participating musicians and tracks available here 

Henrique Cazes
Henrique Cazes is a modern master and virtuoso of the cavaquinho as a solo voice in Brazilian popular music, and the shown CD is a marvelous example of his mastery of the instrument in a repertoire of delightful compositions reflecting the story of the cavaquinho and its importance in choro and related instrumental genres. The CD is highly recommended, if you like Brazilian instrumental popular music of high quality and further are keen on exploring the cavaquinho as played by a modern master. The CD is available at Itunes and various streaming audio services, and a mp3 download version is available for purchase at Amazon, here. 

The CD was presented in a TV program by TV Cultura in Brazil, and I'll insert a couple of fragments from the program below uploaded at YouTube. - Here's is first Henrique Cazes playing his arrangement of Waldir Azevedo's 'Brincando com o Cavaquinho'

To end this small review, here's is Henrique Cazes in his own composition 'Real Grandeza'


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mike Marshall & Choro Famoso - Segunda Vez

Mike Marshall
Mike Marshall (b.1957) is an American mandolin player and multi-instrumentalist. He has performed and recorded with many musicians in a variety of styles, including bluegrass, classical, jazz and Brazilian music. In addition to several instruments within the mandolin family, Marshall also plays the guitar and violin. - Mike Marshall is also a partner in the music label, Adventure Music, which is dedicated to releasing music from Brazil.  Adventure Music has released Serenata, a duet recording  with pianist Jovino Santos Neto featuring the compositions of Hermeto Pascoal (2003), Brazil Duets (2005) featuring various musicians, New Words (Novas Palavras) (2006) a co-work with Hamilton de Holanda and further the debut recording by Mike Marshall & Choro Famoso (2004). Recently the second CD by Marshall and Choro Famoso also was released by Adventure Music, Segunda Vez, which is shown below.

CD front: Segunda Vez, Adventure Music, AM 1090 2 (2014)

Choro Famoso is: Mike Marshall ( mandolin), Andy Connell (clarinet, soprano sax), Colin Walker (7-string guitar) and Brian Rice (pandeiro). 

Choro Famoso
The new CD has seventeen tracks and the repertoire consists of both classic and modern choro compositions. There is classic pieces by famous Brazilian chorões such as Ernesto Nazareth, Pixinguinha, Nelson Alves, Luiz Americano, Jacob do Bandolim, Waldir Azevedo, Heitor Avena de Castro, Orlando Silveira, Esmeraldinho Salles and K-Ximbinho. The more contemporary choro repertoire is represented by music composed by Moacir Santos, Mauricio Carrilho, and Guinga. The performance by the Choro Famoso quartet is excellent, well balanced and with a convincing and deep understanding of the spirit of choro in both the classic and modern examples of choro featured at the disc. Highly recommended! - The CD has extensive notes about the music and is available for purchase here 

Choro Famoso in live performance
To give you an impression of Mike Marshall and Choro Famoso in live performance, I'll insert two uploaded video fragments from a concert recorded in 2010. Here is first the quartet's version of a choro titled 'Luis Americano Na Pre 3'

To end this small review, here's Choro Famoso's rendition of 'Evocação de Jacob' by H.Avena de Castro