Choro Resources: Addendum – CDs

This article first appeared in “Mandolin Quarterly” in 2003, Vol. 8 Nr.1.

It’s been three years since I published my series of choro articles in MQ. Resources for choro have increased tremendously since then, and CDs and books have become more widely available. I’ve continued to add to my collection of both, and have decided to add a couple of addenda to update my original resources list. I’m adding 10 CDs to the list this issue, including a couple that I’ve reviewed in the interim, and I’ll add another batch next issue.

I’ve been listening, as interest in choro has grown, to hear how both traditional chorista and new players would take this style of popular music that’s been around for nearly a century and a half and make it new again. The answers are varied and fascinating, as the diversity in these recordings shows. There are some new compositions in the style, some new takes on traditional tunes, and some leaps outside the genre. This group of CDs branches out a bit from the traditional presentations of choro I featured in the 2000 issue, showing how the style, like our American blues music, bends to suit the times and the imagination of its performers and composers. Here are some examples:

1. “Cafe Brasil”
Teldec 8573-82368-2 (Brazil, 2001) 51 min.

Musicians: An all-star cast, produced by Rildo Hora, including Sivuca, accordion; Dino 7 Cordas, 7-string guitar; Pedro Amorim, Ronaldo do Bandolim, Joel Nascimento, bandolim; Luciana Rabello, Henrique Cazes, Paulinho do Viola, cavaquinho; Altamiro Carrilho, flute.

Tunes: Noites Cariocas, Jamais, Treme Treme (Bandolim); Brejeiro (Nazareth); Onde Andaras (Veloso); Pastora Dos Olhos Castanhos (H. Silva); Um a Zero (Pixinguinha); Choro Chorao (Vila); Brasileirinho (Azevedo); Andre do Sapato Novo (Correia); Titulos de Nombreza (Bosco); Galo Garnize (Lima); Meu Premeiro Amor (P. Silva); Saru para Radames (Viola); Bionne (Gonzaga); Mariana (Almeida).

Well, you can imagine my delight, while browsing at my local Borders Bookstore, to see this CD prominently displayed as one of the picks of the week. It just shows how much choro availability has increased in the last decade. Beautifully packaged with an accompanying booklet full of notes on the pieces and pictures of the performers, “Cafè Brasil” is a great overview of choro, played by some of the best Brazilian performers of the style today. There are vocals scattered through the instrumental, including one by Ademilda Fonseca, the “queen of choro” about a smart rooster, complete with cackling! The pieces range from the 19th-century– Chiquinha Gonzaga’s “Bionne,” and Ernesto Nazareth’s “Brejeiro”– to several tunes written in the 1970’s. And the performers are fabulous. Relaxed and engaged, a veritable who’s-who of choro performers congregate musically to create performances that show the style off at its best.

Highlights include: Sivuca & Ronaldo do Bandolim passing melody and chords back and forth over the tight groove of the Conjunto Época de Ouro, Jacob’s legendary back-up band, in “Noites Cariocas,” Pedro Amorim’s punchy “Brejeiro” melody contrasting deliciously with Paulo Santos’ mellow clarinet, Paulinho do Viola’s beautiful vocal on “Pastora Dos Olhos Castanhos,” Joel Nascimento and Henrique Cazes’ dueling jazzy plucked strings on “Brasileirinho,” and Altamiro Carrilho’s virtuoso flute performance on “Meu Premeiro Amor” a tune written by his 19th-century counterpart, Pattapio Silva. This is a fabulous recording — don’t miss it! Highest recommendation.

“O Choro do Bandolim”
Atracao ATR11090 (Brazil, 2001) 36 min.

Musicians: Elcio, bandolim; Ronaldo, cavaco; David do Pandeiro, pandeiro; Chia, violao 7 cordas; Adilson, ritmo.

Tunes: Pedacinhos do ceu (Azevedo); Gente humilde (Garoto); Naquela Mesa (S. Bittencourt); Noites Cariocas, Choro do Varanda, Doce de Coco (Bandolim); O Vendedor de Caranhueldo, Suplica Cearense (Gordurinha); Atlantico (Nazareth), Lingua de Preto (Lopes); Baiaozinho, Meu Bandolim Amigo (Filho).

The CD is well played, with Elicio’s style ranging from traditional to more jazz-flavored, and an excellent conjunto that sizzles along behind him. Unfortunately the bandolim is recorded with overwhelming reverb, and the distant echoing sound is off-putting on the first couple of tunes. Gradually the ear grows accustomed, and one can appreciate the very interesting style of bandolim and band. Jacob’s tunes are played with charming ease. Gordurinha’s tunes add a touch of baiao and an unnamed accordion player. A sweet and somehow informal recording, it’s definitely worth a hearing. I got is from www.caravanmusic.com.

“Amandinho – a voz do bandolim”
Visom VICD00123 (Brazil, no date) 45 min.

Musicians: Armandinho, bandolim, cavaquinho & guitarra baiana, and backing musicians.

Tunes: Expresso 2222, Se eu quiser falar com Deus, Procissao/Domingo no Parque, Lamento sertanejo, Drao, Frevo rasgado, Refazenda, Esta na cara esta na cura (Gil); Trilhos urbanos, Voce e linda, Luz do sol, Cajuina, Qualquer coisa Alegria, London, Atras do Trio Eletrico, Chuva suor e cerveja, Todo eletricidade, A filha do Chiquita Bacana (Veloso).

When I saw Armandinho recently he was playing choro and selling this CD. His live performance was virtuosic, as he blazed through choro standards at ferocious tempos, managing to maintain the traditional flavor and yet throw it a rock curve. He looks and sounds like the bandolim’s Eddie Van Halen, as befits a musician whose father started the outrageous “Trio Eletrico” in the 1940’s. This CD is exclusively the music of Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, two of the greats of MPB, and it’s an eclectic combination of jazz, rock, and folkloric music. Starting with a bandolim, percussion duo, “Expresso 2222,”Armandinho sets up a funky groove and seems poised to rock. But he segues into a series of sampler-infused studio productions that bring to mind symphonic rock anthems of the 1980’s. Luckily Veloso’s “Cajuina” and “Qualquer coisa” intervene, bringing us back to a simpler setting where Armandinho’s fluid lines and flashy riffs can take center stage. But he’s really at his best in the frevos of northern Brazil, where his showmanship is grounded by the simple folk quality of the tunes, producing a tasty mix. The man’s a phenomenon, there’s no question about it. I’m just hoping that somewhere out there is a CD that showcases his choro playing in a simple live setting. It would definitely be worth a listen.

“Orquestra De Cordas Brasileiras”
Kuarup Discos KCD-039. (Brazil, 1989) 35 min.

Musicians: Henrique Cazes and Orquestra De Cordas Brasileiras

Tunes: Alvorado, Santa Morena (Bandolim); Sarambeque (Nazareth); Congada (Mignone); Remexendo (Gnattali); Sarau Pra Radames (Viola); So Depois De Elsebeth (Lessa); Garoa (Ferrer); Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 (Bach).

A brilliant Brazilian mandolin orchestra — wow, does it get any better than this? Under the direction of choro-expert Henrique Cazes, the 15-member group Orquestra De Cordas Brasileiras play arrangements of classic Brazilian choro, new Brazilian music, and Johann Sebastian Bach, changing their approach adroitly to suit the material at hand. Their ensemble playing is fast and tight, the arrangements are superb, and the musicality of the group is exceptional. It’s no wonder the CD won two “Premio Sharp” awards, Brazil’s version of our Grammy, for best group and best instrumental disc.

The CD begins and ends with choro classics by Jacob do Bandolim. His “Alvorda,” arranged for the group by contemporary composer Radames Gnattali, features energetic cross rhythms, expressive tremolo, and fast clean ensemble runs in harmony. Wistful as a passing cloud and turning as vibrant as a sunny day, the tune sets the stage for a CD of enormous expressive breadth. Jacob’s “Santa Morena,” arranged by Henriques Cazes, is a brilliant ending piece for the disc, resounding with Spanish influence and building to an exciting flamenco-influenced climax.

In this CD, Orquestra De Cordas Brasileiras accomplishes what every mandolin orchestra attempts, a performance that presents its music and its sound in a way that is fresh, vibrant, and in no way an imitation of traditional orchestras. The group’s arrangements make the music shine, enriching and expanding the original material. The CD convincingly makes the case for the mandolin orchestra as an exciting contemporary ensemble, one that continues to change and adapt to new repertoire. Henrique Cazes, who plays cavaquinho as well as directing the group, is to be commended for his musical and visionary approach. This CD is a truly remarkable musical achievement. Available at www.kuarupdiscos.com.br Highest recommendation.

“Bach in Brazil”
EMI 7243 5 56939 21 (Brazil, 2000) 49 min.

Musicians: Henrique Cazes and Camerata Brasil.

Tunes: Um a Zero, Ele e Eu, Vou Vivendo (Pixinguinha); Chorando Baixinho (Ferriera); Remexendo, Variacoes sobre o Samba do Urubu (Gnattali); Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 (Villa-Lobos); Two-part Inventions No. 8 & 11, Vivace from Double Concerto in D minor for two violins, Allegro from Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, Allegro from Concerto in F, Prelude to harpsichord suite in C minor, Gigue from Partita No. 4 for clavier (Bach)

This recording features Henrique Cazes’ most recent ensemble, Camerata Brasil, in a comparison and co-mingling of the music of choro and the music of Bach, using each to interpret the other. The recording is fun, spunky, and beautifully played, transforming well-known classics of each genre. Some succeed brilliantly, some fall short of the mark, but all are performed with an exuberance and sense of fun that allows the liberties taken to delight rather than outrage.

A natural for the recording is Heitor Villa-Lobos’s aria from “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5,” the classic mix of Bach and Brazil. The Camerata’s interpretation is beautiful and novel, featuring a haunting clarinet melody with a mysterious reworking of the 8 cello accompaniment for choro ensemble. Bach’s “Two-part Invention No. 8” is given a very cool, jazzy reading by the Camerata, and the Vivace from his “Double Concerto in D minor for two violins” swings hard and seems to enjoy it. Even some of the classical pieces that begin on a shaky foot, like the Allegro from Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 6,” which sounds lugubriously ponderous in the initial statement, straighten out once they get going and evolve into a delightful interplay among the plucked strings. And though they take great liberties with Bach, the ensemble makes its interpretations convincing. The improbable choroesque rhythmic reworkings used in the Allegro from Bach’s “Italian Concerto in F” are quite delightful, guaranteed to bring a smile to the most skeptical listener.

The choro repertoire, of course, is more familiar ground for the group, and their interpretations of these stay close to traditional performance practice. “Chorando Baixinho” even features the expected clarinet melody, keeping it similar to Abel Ferriera’s original version despite some polyphonic underpinnings. Some tunes, like Radames Gnattali’s “Remexendo” don’t seem to really benefit from their Baroque overlay, but others, most notably Pixinguinha’s “Um a Zero” take the hits of Baroque in stride. As I write this review this CD is available as a cut-out from Daedalus Music (www.salemusic.com) for $7.

“Arranca Toco”
Acari Records AR5 (Brazil, 2000) 50 min.

Musicians: Pedro Amorim, bandolim; Nailor Azevedo, clarinet & sax; Mauricio Carrilho, violao de 7 cordas; Jorgino do Pandeiro, pandeiro.

Tunes: Cochichando (Pixinguinha); Visitando o Recife (Paraiba); E do Que Ha (Americano); Chorando Baixinho (Ferreira); Hilda, Quatro Malandros, Choro em Paris, Cercando Frango, Mestre Jorginho do Pandeiro, Pedrinho em Acari (Amorim/Carrilho).

Acari Records was started in 1999 by Luciana Rabello e Mauricio Carrilho to be “the first record company to specialize in the most important genre of instrumental Brazilian music, choro.” Their release “Arranca Toco” is a beautiful CD from four of Brazil’s brightest lights in the choro style. It’s a perfect quartet that swings, cries, wails, and skips through a varied collection of choro, new and old.

Pedro Amorim, well known for his beautiful tone & expressive musical line, establishes that delicious balance of sweet and punchy sounds that defines the Brazilian bandolim at its best. His melodies sing, and when he steps back to let the clarinet take over, his chordal work swings. The bandolim takes center stage in the group, and Amorim is up to whatever curves the tunes throw his way. He also writes a number of choro on the CD, some with guitarist Mauricio Carrilho and some alone, and their variety complements the traditional tunes.

Mauricio Carrilho takes on the roles of guitar and bass with his 7-string guitar, and provides the intricate yet solid base on which each choro rests. He can play chords with sharp alacrity or a lazy virtuosity, as needed, to strengthen the mood of a tune. And at every opening in the melodic fabric, he is there to dazzle with fast clean bass runs that keep the piece cooking. Carrilho is well know and respected worldwide for his solo guitar work, and his low profile on this CD is perhaps the best testament to his understanding and respect for the role of the 7-string guitar in choro.

Jorgino Silva’s pandeiro is the heartbeat of it all. A member of Jacob do Bandolim’s legendary Conjunto Época de Ouro, Silva fuses together the sweet sinuous clarinet or darker sax with the brilliant sound of the bandolim, and solidly grounds them on the lines of the 7-string guitar. Nailor Azevedo, on clarinet, floats his line across the solid beat of his compatriots with a sensual cool that breathes and flows like a mountain stream. His improvised contrapuntal accompaniment under the bandolim melody must have Pixinguinha smiling in choro heaven.

And you can catch a taste of Luciano Rabello’s cavaquinho on “Pedrinho em Acari”. If you’re a fan of the small ukulele-like instrument, by all means check out her brilliant solo CD on Acari. The woman smokes! You can buy Acari CDs from the Texas company Caravan Music, and Acari Records also has their own website, www.acari.com.br, that has just added an English-version. This is a great choro CD. Highest recommendation.

“Joel Nascimento & Sexteto Brasileiro – Ao Vivo in EUA”
Kuarup Discos KCD-093 (Brazil 1997). 50 min.

Musicians: Joel Nascimento, bandolim; Paulo Sergio Santos, clarinet & sax; Henriques Cazes, cavaquinho; Joao Lyra and Mauricio Carrilho, violao; Luiz Otavio Braga, violao de 7 cordas; Beto Cazes, percussion.

Tunes: Choro no. 6, Embolado, from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1, O Trenzinho do Capira, from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2 (Villa-Lobos); Bataque (Nazareth); Saudade Eterna (Coelho); Mulher Rendeira, Schotish, Choro Tocato (Gnattali); Modulando (Brito).

In 1986, Joel Nascimento and his Sexteto Brasileiro performed at the Santa Fe Chamber Festival in New Mexico. Their program was an ambitious undertaking, a reworking for choro ensemble of some of the more complex pieces of Brazilian composers like Heitor Villa-Lobos and Radames Gnattali. The concert was recorded, but wasn’t released on CD until over a decade later, in honor of Nascimento’s 60th birthday. The live recording is uneven at times— the bandolim is often too sharp, the guitar lines are sometimes too soft, but the concert is important for its ambitious scope, and for the tremendous virtuosity displayed by the ensemble. . It’s a complex and interesting program, and shows a different musical side of some of the great players of choro. The project served to present the bandolim with a plucked string ensemble in arrangements of serious music to a North American chamber music audience. Those of us who couldn’t be there are lucky that Kuarup has chosen to release it on CD, to bring the music across time and place to reach us today. It can be purchased online from Caravan Music, or Kuarup Discos www.kuarupdiscos.com.br.

“Pixinguinha/70”
Museu da Imagem e do Som CD MIS035 (Brazil, 1996) 69 min.

Musicians: Jacob do Bandolim with Epoca de Ouro, Radames Gnattali, Conjunto Os Boemios, flute trio, orchestra.

Tunes: Carinhoso, Lamentos, Ingenuo, Proezas do Solon, Cochicho, Sofres Porque Queres, Passatempo, Solidao, Vou pra casa, Gargalhada, Sentimento oculto, Os Cinco companheiros, Rosa, Marreco quer agua, Paciente (Pixinguinha); Un rosa para Pixinguinha, Pixinguinha (Gnattali)

This remastered release of the 1968 concert given in tribute to Pixinguinha on the occasion of his 70th birthday, was put out by the Museum of Image and Sound in Rio. It is most notable for the live recordings of Jacob do Bandolim, on 5 tunes with his group Conjunto Epoca de Ouro, and 3 with the orchestra of the Municipal Theater, where the event was held. The balance is way off in the recording of the conjunto, who sound like they’re in another room, but Jacob’s playing, his rich tone, fluid style, and easy yet virtuosic way of improvising, are captured with breathtaking clarity. It’s as if he was sitting across the room playing “Lamentos,” “Ingenuo,” “Proezas do Solon,” an incredibly sexy version of “Cochicho,” and “Sofres Porque Queres”. He plays “Pixinguinha,” the first movement of Gnattali’s suite “Retratos” beautifully with the orchestra, along with Pixinguinha’s own jaunty “Paciente,” and an lush arrangement of “Lamentos”. It’s a rare treat to hear Jacob playing on the spot, giving a very different performance of the latter tune than he does with his own group. The CD ends with Jacob and the orchestra playing “Carinhoso”. The orchestra sounds a little cheesy, but Jacob keeps his cool and plays it his way, to great effect.

Of the non-Jacob offerings, Radames Gnattali’s solo version of “Carinhoso,” which begins the CD, is great; and his version of “Rosa,” with orchestra, is silky smooth. The other groups are fine, but it’s the Jacob sides that really make this CD a worthwhile purchase for those who count him as a primary influence. I got this disc from Caravan Music.

“New Chorinhos from Brazil”
(USA, 1999) 50 min.

Musician/Composer: Luiz Simas (piano)

Tunes: Chorinho das Comadres, Chorinho com Bossa, Saltitante, Chorinho Bachiano, A Ladeira do Sobe-e-Desce, Preguioso, Endiabrado, Teimosa, Do Coracao, Chorinho do Mar (Simas)

There’s no mandolin on this CD, but I had to include it on the list because Luiz’ music is quintessentially the new choro. Originally from Rio, Luiz came to New York just over a decade ago, and his compositions have one foot in each of his worlds. Luiz’ jazzy style, cheerful tunes, and virtuosity on the piano are incredibly captivating. I’ve recently begun giving concerts in a duo with Luiz traditional choro and his compositions so it feels a bit like nepotism to praise him too highly, but you can listen and decide for yourself. There are samples of his CD on his website, www.luizsimas.com, and you can order it there or from Amazon. Highest recommendation.

“Nadando em Luz / Swimming in Light”
Qorq Productions (USA, 2002) 68 min.

Musicians: Marilynn Mair, mandolin; Luiz Simas, piano; Sasha Lisnichuk, Richard Boukas, Bob Sullivan, guitars; Evan Ziporyn, clarinet; Enigmatica; World Cafè Quartet; others.

Tunes: Receita da Samba, Reminiscencias, Doce de Coco, Migalhas de Amor (Bandolim); Marilene, Lamentos, Vou Vivendo (Pixinguinha); Enigmatica, Iara (Medeiros); Brasileirinho (Azevedo); A Natureza (Santos); Alma e Coracao (Miranda); Zinha (P. Silva); Sacy Perere, Passos no Choro (C. Gonzaga); Serenata no Joa (Gnattali); Brejeiro (Nazareth); Isis (Lacerda); Morning Samba (Lisnichuk), Chorinho com Bossa (Simas); Nadando em Luz (Mair).

And this is my entry into the world of choro. Clearly I can’t say anything about it, but I wanted to list it all the same. It’s a mark of choro’s influence in the world at large that I should be seduced away from chamber music by these incredibly sweet tunes. You can find out more about the CD on my website, www.marilynnmair.com.

Return to the Choro Articles page.

Posted January 24th, 2003. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • “Smudging the lines between folk and classical is an intrepid endeavor… Mair’s a superb mandolin player who has brought the instrument to unexpected places…”

    – Jim Macnie, The Providence Phoenix (USA)

    “Marilynn Mair has always had the keen ability to balance classical mandolin traditions and repertoire, while constantly breaking new musical ground…a superb and versatile mandolinist and composer.”

    – – Butch Baldassari, Mandolin Magazine (USA)

    “Mair travels by mandolin to Brazil and brilliance… her commitment to the music shines through.”

    – Rick Massimo, The Providence Journal

    “Stepping back to the 18th-century masterworks gave her the opportunity to highlight her technique with a fresh light… her playing is thoughtful, vibrant and a delight to listen to.”

    — Terence Pender, Mandolin Quarterly (USA)

    “She’s a fabulous player with a wonderfully clear and lyrical sound.”

    – The Ottawa Citizen (Canada)

    “Mair displays an exceptionally gifted approach to this music, using her formidable mandolin technique with grace and sensitivity… It’s the next best thing to a trip to Rio.”

    – David McCarty, Mandolin Magazine (USA)

    “Marilynn Mair performs Brazilian mandolin music… she plays the mandolin as an instrument for all occasions.”
    – Vaughn Watson, The Providence Journal (USA)

    Bring a talented ensemble of gifted musicians together playing some of the great concertos and chamber music pieces of the 1700s, present the extraordinary classical mandolinist Marilynn Mair front and center, and you have a rare combination of the right musicians performing the right music at the right time.

    – David McCarty, Mandolin Magazine (USA)

    “Marilynn Mair é uma bandolinista americana de formação erudita”

    — Paulo Eduardo Neves, Agenda do Samba Choro (Brasil)

    “Mair is unstoppable… capable of evoking any landscape, past or present, you’d care to conjure.”

    – Mike Caito, Providence Phoenix (USA)

    Marilynn Mair on mandolin…touches the deepest and most engaging reaches of the ancient and passionate ‘Latin soul’.

    – Carlos Agudelo, Billboard Magazine

    “A lovely concert! We estimate your spell-bound and enthusiastic audience at close to 1800 people…”

    – Lincoln Center Out-Of-Doors (USA)

    “The final repeat of the melody transmitted a strong feeling of peace and tenderness that escaped no one in the audience. It is this sensitivity and subtleness that characterized the overall performance.”

    – Brian Hodel, Guitar Review (USA)

    “A brilliant concert from beginning to end…The performance was extraordinary.”
    – La Rioja (Spain)

    “A sparkling concert… absolutely brilliant!”

    – Guitar Magazine (England)

    “Marilynn Mair acquits herself very well indeed, a most accomplished player, able to deal with the many intricacies the repertoire demands of her.”

    – Chris Kilvington, Classical Guitar (England)

    “Marilynn Mair lives up to her reputation as an excellent mandolinist, with clear tone, a beautiful tremolo, and creative expressiveness.”

    – Zupfmusik Magazin (Germany)