Friday, September 26, 2008

The Sound Of The Violão Tenor

When I started listening to Brazilian recordings, I was fascinated by the sound of the violão tenor right from the start. One of the artists playing this instrument, who had my attention, was Garoto (Anibal Augusto Sardinha), of course. According to some sources it was Garoto, who introduced the violão tenor in Brazil in 1932 - he had imported a copy from the USA and was to use it intensely in performance and recordings during the remain of his career. I 'recognised' the sound of the violão tenor from recordings with Carmen Miranda featuring Garoto, it reminded me of the sound of Oscar Alemán - the Argentine swing guitar player, who had his career at the same time as Garoto. In fact, recognition of the sound of the two guitarists as similar was not a coincidence, the instrument played by both musicians had a built-in resonator device, that made the sound of the instrument recognizable instantly. The resonator system of the guitar was developed to help solving amplification of the sound before electricity was used for amplification. It was developed in the USA by the National Guitar company, specializing in metal shaped instruments with a built-in resonator, that functioned like a kind of membran speaker, amplifying the sound of the strings when played. The National Guitar models were often used by steel bar guitar players in Hawaiian style music, popular at the time, but also blues and jazz guitar players were attracted by the sound and volume effect of the instrument. In Brazil, local luthiers like the workshop of Del Vecchio developed a model of the resonator guitar different from the US issue, as the body of the guitar remained a box of wood with visible built-in resonators on the surface instead of a soundhole (- see picture above). However, players of the Del Vecchio model - both the 6 string violão and the 4 string violão tenor - often had problems staying tuned during performance due to the construction of the instrument. Anyway, when in tune, the sound of the instrument is recognizable instantly, and below I insert some video examples to give you an impression of this fascinating hybrid.

Garoto probably was the first to use the Del Vecchio violão tenor in performance and recordings. Later other violanista followed, i.e. Claudionor Cruz, Zé Menezes and Alvaro Brochado. In contemporary Brazil the violão tenor is not so common, but in previous blog postings I have pointed you to contemporary players of the instrument, like Pedro Amorim, Henrique Cazes, Marco De Pinna and - just recently - Renato Anesi. During the last week I just discovered that another well known violanista of the contemporary scene in Brazil, Alessandro Penezzi, in fact played the Del Vecchio violão tenor model early in his career. Below I insert some uploaded video performances, recorded 1990 with the choro ensemble Conjunto Som Brasileiro at a live concert.

The first tune played by Conjunto Som Brasileiro featuring Alessandro Penezzi on violão tenor is Pixinguinha's "Vou Vivendo"

The next tune from the same live performance is a rendition of Luiz Americano's "Numa Seresta"

The last video this time is a rendition of Jacob do Bandolim's "A Ginga do Mané" - enjoy this masterpiece, one of the few choros performed by Jacob on the violão tenor, here played convincingly by Alessandro Penezzi with Conjunto Som Brasileiro


Friday, September 19, 2008

Anacleto de Medeiros

When choro evolved as a style of playing popular music in Brazil during the late decades of the 19th Century, one of the pioneers, who helped shaping this music style, was Anacleto de Medeiros (1866-1907). The son of a freed slave, Medeiros began to study music at the age of nine, and earned a degree from the Rio Conservatory when he was 20. He became well-known locally as a composer and performer on flute, clarinet and saxophone. His greatest musical impact, however, began in 1896, when he founded and conducted Rio de Janeiro's most famous military band, the Banda do Corpo de Bombeiros (Band of the Firemen's Corps).

Under Medeiros' baton, the Banda do Corpo de Bombeiros became known for its precision and its lavish Carnaval spectaculars. In 1902, it was the first Brazilian group asked to record cylinders and discs for the newly-established recording studio of Casa Edison.

Several compositions by Medeiros were recorded by the Banda do Corpo de Bombeiros for the Casa Edison label - he wrote and arranged over 100 marches and choro for the Banda do Corpo de Bombeiros. He had the lyrics to some of his compositions written by the poet Catulo da Paixão Cearense, who even wrote an ode praising him. One of these compositions written by Catulo was the xote "Iara," which, published in 1912 under the name "Rasga Coração," was later used by Heitor Villa-Lobos as the theme for his "Choros No. 10". Some researchers allege that Medeiros was the creator of the Brazilian xote (- a genre descended from the European Schottisch). To hear a recording of "Iara" as played by Medeiros' band for Casa Edison, use right mouse button and click here

Many of Medeiros' pieces, including "Iara", achieved great popularity at the time, and are still performed by choro groups today. In 1999 Kuarup Discos released a cd, 'Sempre Anacleto', containing 12 compositions by Medeiros (- and one homage piece to his wife, "Cecy", by Chiquinha Gonzaga). The music on the disc is played by the Art Metal Quinteto with the Banda de Câmara Anacleto de Medeiros, click picture below to learn more and to listen to sound clips.

To give you an impression of the way Anacleto de Medeiros' music is played today, I insert a couple of uploaded video performances. - Here's a rendition of Medeiros' march 'Jubileu' as performed by the Orquestra de MP do CBMERJ

Another popular piece by Anacleto de Medeiros often played by choro ensembles is his tango with the title " Os Bohemios"

To end this, here's a rendition of Anacleto de Medeiros' xote, "Santinha"


Friday, September 12, 2008

Magic Of The Strings - Renato Anesi

This time I like to point you to the talented composer and multi-instrumentalist, Renato Anesi. - Renato Anesi was born in 1969 in Rio de Janeiro. His work is the result of intense musical experience as a child. His father, a guitarist and cavaquinista, was his first teacher. Renato grew up playing choros and sambas of Noel Rosa, Pixinguinha, Jacob do Bandolim and others. Later, in São Paulo, he studied in the Fundação das Artes of San Caetano (1984-1986) and in particular courses. He started his professional career at 16 as a guitarist in a band led by Zé Geraldo and toured Brazil 1986-87.

In 1989 Anesi began a work of art and music-education at Teatro Vento Forte and started composing for theatre in São Paulo. He composed and recorded the soundtrack music from the movie 'Coyote', winner of the Festival Internacional do Minuto in 1994. At the same time he had a luthier workshop, where he had the opportunity to meet, restore and regulate all kind of string instruments found in Brazil. To improve his experience as a luthier he even went to London to attend courses at the Polytech of London, also in 1994.

In 1995 Anesi played in a trio, Corda Coral, which was awarded a prestigious prize that year.In 1998, Anesi was invited by Spanish guitarist Jose Luiz Montòn to integrate his group and record a disc of flamenco music. The cd, 'Sin Querer', was recorded in Belgium 1999. In 1999, Anesi also toured with the Swedish balarina, Nina Corti.

Renato Anesi belongs to the young rock and jazz generation of contemporary Brazil, however, his musical roots integrate the tradition of many different styles of Brazilian instrumental music - choro, waltz, baião, frevo, maracatu, etc. With this material he has built a unique style, featuring a music universe committed only with creativity. His work was selected for the prize "Rumos e tendências musicais" of the Itau Cultural Institute in 2001. In 2004, he received the first prize at "Prêmio Syngenta de música instrumental de Viola".

In 2001 Renato Anesi released his first cd, 'Rosa dos Tempos', learn more about the contents and listen to sound-clips clicking here

In 2007 Pór do Som released the shown cd, 'Dez Anos Depois', by Renato Anesi, more info to be found at Discos do Brasil, click here

To give you an impression of the music played by Renato Anesi, I'll insert a couple of uploaded videos from a TV performance. - Here's a solo performance of a Garoto inspired composition by Anesi playing violão

From the same TV performance here Anesi is joined by a rhythm section playing violão tenor

To end this, here's a rendition of Renato Anesi's "Pernambucano" featuring Anesi playing bandolim accompanied by the rhythm section


Friday, September 05, 2008


Dilermando Reis (1916-1977) was born in São Paulo, but lived most of his life in Rio de Janeiro, where he worked actively in radio and recordings. From 1941 to 1975 he recorded over forty albums, both 78rpms and LPs. His preference was the traditional Brazilian guitar style: waltzes and choros full of modulations to "confuse accompanists," played with his unique style and sound. He recorded about 100 of his own compositions, many of which became standards of Brazilian popular guitar, like "Dois Destinos" and "Se Ela Perguntar." - Among the choros composed by Dilermando Reis I am especially fond of his "TEMPO DE CRIANÇA", which originally was recorded by Reis on a Continental 78 rpm (Continental, 16.054-B) in 1949. I like the youthful freshness and the full use of the guitar's capacity in this choro, a demanding challenge for any guitarist and a true tour-de-force on the frets like Garoto's "Desvairada" - here's an example of a performance of the piece by a young guitarist at his debut recital

Recently I was delighted to find yet another rendition of "TEMPO DE CRIANÇA" while listening to the highly acclaimed cd by Euclides Marques and Luzinho 7 Cordas, 'Remexendo', released by Kuarup Discos in 2006 (KCD 205).

The cd has 11 tracks of delightful guitar music featuring compositions by Radamés Gnattali, Garoto, Dilermando Reis, Pattápio Silva, Pixinguinha, Nazareth, Tom Jobim, Vincius de Moraes, Canhoto (Américo Jacomino) and further Agustín Barrios and Antonio Lauro. The performance of the chosen repertoire is excellent, the interplay between Euclides Marques, who plays the 6 string violão, and Luzinho (- on violão 7 cordas) has been compared to the co-work between Raphael Rabello and Dino 7 Cordas on a cd released 1991, which ranks among the best-ever recorded Brazilian guitar music in the critics' charts. On some tracks the duo of Euclides Marques and Luzinho 7 Cordas is accompanied by guest appearance of Paulo Moura, Laercio de Freitas and the Quinteto em Branco e Preto. - Learn more about the contens of the cd by clicking here

As said above, I was delighted to find a rendition of Reis' "TEMPO DE CRIANÇA" among the repertoire on the mentioned cd. To end this, here's another performance of this choro from a live concert recital by Ronaldo Sontag - enjoy it!