Choro Resources – An Annotated Guide

This article first appeared in “Mandolin Quarterly” in 2000, Vol. 5 Nr. 1.

When I first became interested in choro it was through its solo guitar literature. Later I got a copy of “84 Chorinhos Famosos,” bought Acoustic Disc’s CD rerelease of Jacob do Bandolim and set out to discover how he made the pieces sound so good. I can’t say I’ve figured it out exactly yet, and “84 Chorinhos Famosos” is long since out of print, but by all other measures the number of choro resources available to the would-be player or interested listener has increased at a dizzying rate in the past decade. Thanks to the miracle of internet commerce, you can order books and CDs from the comfort of your own home, and you’ll even find choro recordings at major chain stores like Borders and Tower Records. The problem is knowing which ones to take a chance on. Hence my idea to find, list and describe choro materials and sources, to help players and fans find the books and CDs they want.

This list is by no means complete, but it’s the start of a project of mine to collect and review commercially available choro books and CDs and let people know where they can actually buy them. Before the year is out I’ll have a choro resource page at my website and I’ll add updates on a regular basis. But for those of your who want to start now, here’s a beginning. I give the source that I purchased the item from, and other places I’ve seen it, and there’s a complete list of contact information for all sources at the end of the article. Prices are rounded off, and I don’t give CD prices, except for sets. Contact information for all sources is listed at the end of the article.

Choro Music Books

O Melhor do Choro Brasileiro Vol. 1 & 2
Irmãos Vitale, São Paulo, 1997

This pair of books are the modern replacement to “84 Chorinhos Famosos”. Each volume has 60 choro, so if you do the math you’ll see that you actually come out ahead in number of tunes. The music is published as “lead sheets,” melodies with chord symbols and, unlike “84,” the chords by and large seem to be correct. There are more modern tunes in these as well, by Jacob and Waldir Azevedo. I haven’t actually counted, but I bet that even if you do have “84” you’ll gain 50-60 new tunes, because some of the less popular tunes in “84” were left out. The books cost about $20 each, and I ordered mine from Luso-Brazilian Books (see resource list at the end of the article for details). They also have them listed at Caravan Music.

O Melhor de Pixinguinha
Irmãos Vitale, São Paulo, 1997

This book has 72 choro and waltzes by the great Pixinguinha in lead-sheet form. The “Melhor do Choro” pair have 14 Pixinguinha tunes total, so there is some overlap, but many of the remaining 58 I’d never even read about, let alone heard. If Jacob’s tunes are overwhelmingly sunny, Pixinguinha’s seem to have a bittersweet quality that can sometimes break your heart. Maria Josè Carrasqueira, who produced the collection, worked from original copies, manuscripts, and recordings, many belonging to her father. She’s included tempo markings suggested by the recordings, articulation, and some harmony lines found on Pixinguinha’s recordings. A great book! It costs about $37, and I got it from Caravan Music.

O Melhor de Ernesto Nazareth
Irmãos Vitale, São Paulo, 1997

This book contains 10 of Nazareth’s piano pieces in score form, including “Brejeiro,” “Apanhei-te Cavaquinho,” and “Odeon”. It’s hard to find Nazareth’s original piano music in print, although you can sometimes find single pieces or GSP Music’s 2-volume out-of-print collection in libraries. This is a good solution. It cost about $13 and I got it from Caravan Music.

Brazilian Music Workshop – Antonio Adolfo
Advance Music, Rio de Janeiro, 1993

This is actually a course in the rhythms and styles of Brazilian music, with several of Adolfo’s original composition illustrating a variety of genres. Styles include: Samba, Bossa Nova, Samba-Funk, Partido Alto, Choro, Samba-Cancao, Baiao, Toada, Rasta Pe, Xote, Afoxe, Maracatu, Frevo, Marcha, and Marcha Rancho. The book is well written, in English, and provides hundreds of notated examples, many recorded on an enclosed CD. It’s a great course! Distributed by Musician’s Source, it lists for $40, but they discount it so even with shipping it was about $33. Luso-Brazilian Books lists a Brazilian music video by Adolfo on their website, but I haven’t seen it yet.

Choro Websites

[Note in 2010: This list is out dated, but I leave it for historical interest.]

If you have a computer you can get information on choro or download sheet music right off the web. There are several websites with background information on choro in English. Bruce Gilman’s articles (cited in my article on choro history) and others are available at Brazzil – News From Brazil. You can find them by typing “choro” into the search engine on the Brazzil page. Richard Boukas’ informative articles from Just Jazz Guitar magazine are posted on his website. There is also some background information on the Marie Brazil website and at the Rough Guide website. A lot of choro websites are in Portuguese, but some of these have sheet music you can download or interesting links, even if you don’t read the language. There are an ever-increasing number of choro pieces, 200 at last count, at the website of Agenda Samba & Choro, just click on the button for “Partituras” and you will find them. This website is difficult to contact, but it’s worth the effort. To download most of the choro you need to have the Encore music program, but there’s a link to an on-line trial version that you can use to open the music on your screen. The website for the group Conjunto Sarau has five choro transcribed by Alessandro Valente. Click on the word “partituras” in the write-up on the first page, and you can print them out easily. The titles are: “Coralina” by Albertino Pimentel; “Deu abóbora na retreta” by Candinho; “Flores da Vida” by Patápio Silva; “Serenata no Joá” by Radamès Gnattali; and “Vamos brincar” by Pixinguinha. There is also a Brazilian mp3 site where you can hear choro and MPB performances by Nó Em Pingo d’Água, Altamiro Carrilho, Trio Medeira Brazil, Egberto Gismonti, and others. There are many more pages, some specializing in Brazilian music or promoting a particular style or a particular group. If you want to see what’s new on choro on the web just type “choro” into your favorite search engine and see where you end up!

Choro CDs

Since I’ve started this project I’ve compiled a collection of over 50 CDs. Some I’ve found in stores, but most I’ve ordered over the internet. Here are about 30, my favorites and some you can do without. I’ve divided them into three categories: CDs that feature the bandolim, CDs featuring one group, and choro compilations. Information on where to find them appears in “Sources”.

Choro CDs featuring bandolim

Os Bambas do Bandolim
Kuarup Discos (KCD-116, Brazil, 1999). 64 minutes.

Musicians: Pedro Amorim, Ronaldo do Bandolim, Dèo Rian, Bruno Rian, Joel Nascimento, Isaias, Jorge Cardoso, Rossini Ferreira, Reco do Bandolim, Hamilton do Holando, (all bandolimists, with their conjuntos)

Tunes: Brejeiro, Apanhei-te Cavaquinho, Fidalga (Nazareth); Santa Morena, Aguenta seu Fulgencio (J. Bandolim); Reconhecimento (M. Nascimento); Iara (Medeiros); Marujo no Choro (D. Rian); Cuidado com ele (Alves); Lembranças do Recife, Dr. Menna (Ferreira): Lamentos no Morro (Garoto): Adelina (Conceição); Quando me Lembro (L. Miranda); Murmurando (Fon-Fon); Moleque Ronaldinho (R. Bandolim); Sofres porque queres (Pixinguinha); Isto aqui o que è?, Aquarela do Brasil (Barroso).

If you’re only going to buy one CD, as a mandolinist you should make it this one. A compilation of 10 of Brazil’s finest contemporary bandolimists and a selection of superb performances of great tunes– what else could you require? The bandolimists range in age from 80-year-old Rossini Ferreira to 23-year-old Hamilton de Holanda, and the performances from poetic to traditional to blazing. Joel Nascimento is my favorite of the 60+ generation, a brilliant player and improviser with a great band and interesting personal arrangements. The Rian’s, father Dèo and son Bruno, are also great players, upholding the traditional choro conjunto style. Rossini Ferreira is fabulous, and plays with the rhythm so freely he’ll sweep you away. The “Bandolim brothers,” Reco and Ronaldo, both in their 40’s and not related, move the tempo up a notch from traditional. Reco’s guitarists almost steal his show with contrapuntal 16th-note runs in thirds at terrifying speeds. Ronaldo and his “Trio Madeira Brasil” negotiate two tricky Jacob tunes with èlan, giving “Santa Morena” a flamenco introduction that, surprisingly, works.

Isaias, discovered by Jacob at one of the choro competitions he sponsored, sounds remarkably like the master in two beautiful traditional performances. Pedro Amorim, the oldest of the new generation, is thoughtful and poetic in his interpretations, accompanied by piano on one piece and playing the other as a duo-style solo. But I have to say I got the biggest charge out of the youngest players, who infuse the gentility of choro with a charge of rock energy. Hamilton kicks the intensity of “Aquarela do Brasil” off the charts with propulsive rhythm and a cuica-imitation solo. His other tune, “Lamentos no Moura,” starts off as a jazzy solo before adding guitar and drums. Jorge Cardosa rips through Ferreira’s “Lembranças do Recife” in 2 minutes of cool virtuosity, and starts off Luperce Miranda’s beautiful ballad, “Quando me Lembro,” with a run so hot your jaw has just got to drop, before settling in to an emotional performance full of rubato and changes of mood. Kuarup Discos does a great job on production, has full notes, in Portuguese, and lists all instruments and performers clearly. I ordered this online from Kuarup. Highest recommendation.

Vibrações – Jacob do Bandolim
RCA (V. 100.024, Brazil, 1993). 42 minutes.

Musicians: Jacob and Época d Ouro

Tunes: Vibrações, Receita de Samba, Pèrolas (Bandolim); Ingênuo, Lamentos (Pixinguinha); Assim Mesmo (Americano); Fidalga, Floraux, Brejeiro, Vèsper (Nazareth); Murmurando (Fon-Fon); Cadência (Maciel).

This “Acervo Especial” CD from RCA is a rerelease of Jacob’s most acclaimed LP, recorded with Época d Ouro in 1966. It’s everything you could hope for, great playing from Jacob, interesting compositions and arrangements, excellent back-up from the conjunto, with variety of texture and improvised contrapuntal lines. It’s also nice to get a reproduction of this historic LP just as Jacob released it, rather than the usual compilations. Jacob’s performance of “Receita de Samba” is brilliant, his variations on the B section are the best on record, and the ending calls out for applause. Luis Americano’s “Assim Mesmo” is bright and nicely ornamented, a fitting tribute to Americano’s clarinet style, a big influence on Jacob’s own playing. “Lamentos” is sparse and expressive, with dramatic supporting work from Época, and his arrangement and performance of “Murmurando” are terrific. I got the CD at the Virgin Megastore in London, and haven’t seen it online or in stores in the USA. I hope you can find it over here because it is definitely the best. Highest recommendation.

Choros, Valsas, Tangos e Polcas – Jacob do Bandolim
Radio MEC (S005, Brazil). 73 minutes.

Musicians: Jacob with Cèzar Faria and Carlinhos, violões; Tico-tico, cavaquinho; Chiquinho, pandeiro.

Tunes: O nó (Candinho); Très estrelinhas, Lidia (Medeiros); Coralina (Pimentel); Tira poeira (Bilhar); Sons de carrilhôes (Pernambuco); Glória, Rosa, Displicente, Minha Gente (Pixinguinha); No meu tempo era assim, O despertar da montanha (Souto); Juventude saudosa, Para eu ser feliz (Pinho); Nostalgia, Cristal, Migalhas, Reminiscências, Feitiço (Bandolim); Saudade eterna (Coelho); Ameno Resedá, Gotas de Ouro (Nazareth); Saudades do Guará (Oliveira); Saudades do Rio (Reis).

This CD is a rerelease of the famous 1959 Radio MEC recordings of Jacob, a period showing his early experimentation with jazz sonorities and instrument alterations. The performances are great, and good indications of his developing style. His transcriptions are well conceived, the conjunto parts are tightly arranged, and Jacob’s virtuoso technique is clearly evident. It is possible to hear some of his early jazz influences, particularly in two cuts each featuring his experimental instruments, the vibraplex and the violinha, solo instruments that he substituted for the bandolim. The violinha is a tenor violão with a guitar-like sound, and vibraplex, played through Leslie speakers on “Feitiço,” sounds quite like a jazz guitar. The selection of tunes is unusual, and shows Jacob’s interest in reviving older pieces from the choro repertoire. Of special interest are the pieces by Amador Pinho, a bandolimist from the 1930’s whose work is largely unknown today. This CD is available online from CDNow. Highest recommendation.

Chorando de verdade
Joel Nascimento, Kuarup Discos (MKCD-069 , Brasil) 40 minutes.

Musicians: Joel Nascimento, bandolim; Raphael Rabello or Luiz Octavio Braga, 7-string guitar; Mauricio Carrilho, violão; Mitsuru, cavaquinho; Beto Cazes, percussion; Paulo Santos, clarinet.

Tunes: Cabuloso, Treme-Treme (Bandolim); No Meu Tempo Era Assim (Souto); Escovado (Nazareth); Primavera (Nascimento); Iara (Medeiros); Coralina (Pimentel); É Do Que Há (Americano); No Coreto (Amorim); Nuvem que Passou (Inoue); Pardal Embriagado (Gomes); Reneddo o Passado (Freire).

Heartfelt, virtuosic, fabulous tone, complete understanding of how choro should be played, Joel Nascimento is a master bandolimist and at the height of his form on this CD. The recording was made in Japan in 1987, when Nascimento was 50, and he’s accompanied by Brazilian musicians, including the legendary Raphael Rabello on 7-string guitar. It starts off with a tight virtuoso arrangement of Jacob’s “Cabuloso” and Nascimento and Rabello just sparkle. Nascimento’s own “Primavera” is a bandolim showpiece, and his playing on “Iara” is rhythmically free and expressive with lyrical improvisation. If this doesn’t inspire you, then forget choro! I ordered this online from Kuarup Discos. Highest recommendation.

Evandro e Conjunto Roda de Choro
Tartaruga 001 (Japan, 1990). 54 minutes.

Musicians: Evandro, bandolim & conjunto Roda de Choro

Tunes: Atlantico, Trubilhões de Beijos, Odeon (Nazareth); Dengoso (Pernambuco); Linda Flor (Wougurer); 1 X 0, Sofres Porques Queres, Lamentos (Pixinguinha); Doce de Coco, Vibrações, Assanhado (Bandolim); Lingua de Preto (Lopes); Brasileirinho (Azevedo); Tico Tico No Fubá (Abreu).

It’s apparent in this live recording, made when he was 59, that Evandro is one of the very best bandolimists. Expressive, playing with great freedom, he gives each tune a personal twist, whether it’s an unexpected tempo or a surprising segue (he goes into the Broadway tune “Fascination” from the choro “Linda Flor”). His slow single-note playing is sensual, his fast pieces are clean and energetic, and his interpretations hold attention. His all-Japanese conjunto of cavaquinho, violão, and pandeiro provides solid musical accompaniment. Evandro is an interesting voice on the bandolim, a São Paulo influence, and a link between the style of Jacob and players of today.

His readings of Jacob’s compositions are more poignant than the original, turning in Jacob’s sunny outlook for a more nostalgic mood. There are two more CDs in this series. Evandro e Conjunto Roda de Choro – Tartaruga 002 (Japan, 1990), 42 minutes, is a studio recording that includes: Os Oito Batutas, Segura Ele, Naquele Tempo (Pixinguinha); Chorinho Na Praia, Benzinho, Gostosinho (Bandolim); and others. The performance is not quite as intriguing as the live recording, but his interpretations of Jacob are very classy. Valsas Brasileiras – Tartaruga 016 (Japan, 1993), 48 minutes, is slower in tempo and less commanding in performance, with the exception of Jacob’s “Feia” that just sparkles. I got all three in Japan from Sound-Ai. I just saw them on a German website, but don’t have any experience with ordering there.

In Memoriam – Jacob do Bandolim
BMG/RCA (M10129, Brasil, 1993). 54 minutes.

Musicians: Jacob, bandolim, accompanying musicians unidentified.

Tunes: Noites Cariocas, Simplicidade, Doce de Coco, Assanhado, Reminiscências (Bandolim); Brejeiro, Odeon (Nazareth); Lamentos, Ingênuo, Vou Vivendo (Pixinguinha); Flor do Abacate (Sandrim); Murmurando (Fon-Fon); Andrè de Sapato Novo (Correa); Não Me Toques (Abreu).

The recorded quality of the cuts on this CD varies dramatically. Some are recorded live in Jacob’s house, in a roda de choro, some are probably radio recordings. The quality of sound in the live recordings is somewhat coarse, but it’s the only CD I’ve found that presents a 9 minute version (unfortunately undated) of “Noites Cariocas” complete with audience comments and applause for the guitar and bandolim solos. Jacob improvises in his live performances, more so than on radio or recordings, so for the student of choro performance practice this and the 6 minute “Brejeiro” with its long improvised vamps are invaluable lessons. The accompaniment of his various conjuntos is interesting, and it’s nice to hear a fairly balanced recording that doesn’t put the soloist as far in the sonic foreground as some of the rereleases do. The performances of “Assanhado,” “Andrè de Sapato Novo” and “Não me Toques” are some of his most interesting, and Jacob is clearly playing live and playing hard. So although the CD sounds a bit harsh, it provides a missing piece in the puzzle of Jacob. I’ve had this CD forever so, unfortunately, don’t remember where I got it. I recently saw it listed on the CDNow website.

Prologo / Jacob do Bandolim
Omagatoki (SC-3142, Japan, 1994). 43 minutes.

Musicians: Jacob, bandolim; Tico-Tico, cavaquinho; Benedito, Cèsar Farias, Carlinhos, violões; Chico, percussion.

Tunes: Santinha, Tres estrelinhas, Implorando (Medeiros); Paulista (Santos), O Nó (Silva); Coralina (Pimentel); No Meu Tempo era Assim (Souto); Mersedez (Faria); Julieta (Alves); Carnaval Duvidoso (Azevedo); Sonhando so Luar (Sigueira); Sentimento Oculto (Pixinguinha); Sonhos (Menezes); Apanhei-te Cavaquinho (Nazareth).

A nice compilation of early recordings by Jacob. He announces each cut, which leads me to think it’s a group of radio recordings, but the notes are in Japanese so I haven’t been able to ascertain that fact. Three of the titles duplicate the CD of Radio MEC recordings, Choros, Valsas, Tangos e Polcas, but if they are exactly the same cuts then the Radio MEC CD has altered the balance as there is more percussion on this recording. Still, the playing sounds very similar, so I wouldn’t be surprised if these cuts were also part of the Radio MEC archives from 1959. It doesn’t really matter, as the sound is great and the playing is fluid and virtuosic. The ornamentation on “Tres estrelinhas,” which appears on both discs, is worth the price all by itself. I bought this at a Shinseido record store in Japan, but have seen Omagatoki online (see “Sources”).

Jacob do Bandolim – Original Classic Recordings Vol. 1
Acoustic Disc (ACD-3, USA, 1991). 67 minutes.

Musicians: Jacob with others, not identified

Tunes: Assanhado, Vibrações, Receita de Samba, Pèrolas, Alma Brasileira, Bonicrates De Muletas, O Vôo da Mosca, Benzinho, Faceira, Jovina, Caricia, Subindo Ao Cèu, Ciumento, Falta Me Você, Santa Morena, Sempre Teu (Bandolim); Andrè de Sapato Novo (Correa); Assim Mesmo (Americano); Vesper (Nazareth); Naquele Tempo (Pixinguinha); Cadencia (Maciel).

It’s all Jacob, all the time, and this is the CD that introduced him to most American listeners. David Grisman was bitten by the choro bug early and decided to share his discovery in a manner not possible for most of us, by releasing a CD of Jacob’s RCA recordings, made between 1955 and 1966, on his own Acoustic Disc label. Grisman includes a variety of tunes, from some of Jacob’s most famous to some I’ve found nowhere else. The performances on some tracks are more inspired than others, the notes and credits are spotty, and no other musicians are identified, which is a bit frustrating. Who is the accordion player, for instance? The sound can be quite harsh, especially tremolo sections, and at times the soloist is given undo prominence. But, by and large, this is a treasure chest of Jacob do Bandolim, easily available at your nearest record store.

The follow-up, “Jacob do Bandolim – Original Classic Recordings Vol. 2″ (ACD-13, USA, 1994), 65 minutes, shares many of the delights and faults of its predecessor. The musicians are identified on this disc (the accordionist is Orlando Silveira), the recordings date from 1952-1966, and the back-up ensembles include big bands as well as his usual conjunto. Tunes include: Sepeca, Mimosa, Noites Cariocas, Simplicidade, Reminiscencias, Doce de Coco, Forro da Galla, Biruta, Vale Tudo (Bandolim); Chega de Saudade (Jobim); Odeon, Floreaux, Brejeiro, Turbilfiao de Beijos (Nazareth); Lamentos, Ingênuo, Cochichando, Gloria (Pixinguinha); Mar de Espanha (Guuimãres); Tira Poeira (Pilfiar); Murmurando (Fon-Fon); Não me Toques (Abreu). These CDs are widely available, and you’ll find them at many CD stores and websites.

CDs featuring a single choro group

Mestres da MPB – Conjunto Época de Ouro
Warner Music Brasil (06300526-2, Brazil, 1995). 53 minutes.

Musicians: Deo Rian, bandolim; Damasio, Cèsar Faria, violões; Dino, violão de 7 cordas; Jonas, cavaquinho; Jorginho, pandeiro; and others

Tunes: Noites Cariocas, De Limoeiro a Mossoró, Diabinho maluca (Bandolim); Carolina (Buarque); 1 x 0 , Os Oito Batutas, Sofres Porque Queres, Naquele Tempo, Vasconcellos em Apuros (Pixinguinha); Choro Negro, Inesquecível (Viola); O Boêmio (Medeiros); Choro No. 1 (Villa-Lobos); Lembranças de Recife (Ferreira); Tupinambá (Nazareth); Flauta e Pandeiro (Lacerda); Evocação a Jacob (Castro); Saudações (Moura).

Deo Rian was Jacob’s student and the bandolimist who replaced him in Época de Ouro, Jacob’s last and most famous conjunto. Deo’s playing is a tribute to his teacher, and impressive in its own right. “Noites Cariocas” kicks the CD off to a great start. It’s one of the best recorded interpretations of the far-too-many– fast, clean, and energetic, with the conjunto enthusiastically keeping pace. Rian’s playing on bandolimist Rossini Ferreira’s “Lembranças de Recife” is also impressive, virtuosic and expressive. Unfortunately Rian’s slow playing on most of the CD isn’t up to the same level. His sluggish tremolo detracts on pieces such as “Carolina” and his slow single note playing isn’t lyrical. A notable exception is Jacob’s “De Limoeiro a Mossoró” where Rian’s slinky, sensual bandolim is a perfect contrast to the punchy percussive accompaniment.

The addition of accordion and horns on some tunes, like ” 1 x 0 ” and “Sofes Porque Queres” works well and livens up the CD’s texture. Rian’s duet with accordionist Orlando Silveira on “Os Oito Batutas” is as good a performance of that piece as you will hear. Época is adventurous in their programming, but the Villa-Lobos “Choro No. 1,” that seems like a good idea, is just too slow and never really gets off the ground. All in all, this is an interesting, if uneven, CD.

Os Ingênuos play Choros from Brazil
Nimbus Records ( NI 5338, England, 1992). 61 minutes

Musicians: Edson Santos, 7-string guitar; Ailton Reiner, bandolim; Caucau, pandeiro; Lula Gazinèu, guitar; Jorginho Silva, cavaquinho; and others.

Tunes: Gostosinho, Noites Cariocas, Assanhado, Bole Bole (Bandolim); Vespers, Apanhei-te cavaquinho, Floreaux (Nazareth); Vou Vivendo, Segura-Ele (Pixinguinha); Delicado, Brasileirinho (Azevedo); Saxophono Porque Choras (Ratinho); Choro Negro (Viola); Tico Tico No Fuba (Abreu); Na Gloria (Barros); Uma Noite no Sumare (Silveira); Ternura (Ximbinho).

A nice recording by a group that has been around the choro scene since the 1970’s. Their playing is refined, and their choice of material is varied, although fairly standard. There is some lovely lyrical work on “Choro Negro,” and “Uma Noite no Sumare” is a nice surprise. The group adds trombone, trumpet, or soprano sax on some tunes to vary the tone color with good effect. The CD has good notes, in English, but beware, it also has two different covers. A picture of the group is featured on the English version, that I bought in the Virgin Megastore in London, and an Amazon-influenced print graces the cover of the U. S. version, that I bought at Borders. It’s also available from Caravan Music.

Dois Irmãos
Milestone (MCD-93203-2, 1991, Brazil). 38 minutes.

Musicians: Paulo Moura, clarinet; Raphael Rabello, guitar

Tunes: Rondo/Sampa (Veloso); Chorando Baixinho (Ferreira); Domingo No Orfeão Portugal, Tempos Felizes, Tarde de Chuva (Moura); Violão Vadio (Powell); Morena Boca de Ouro (Barrioso); 1 x 0 (Pixinguinha); Luiza Jobim, Um Chorinho em Aldeia (Araujo).

This CD is a real treat. Two of the greatest choro musicians, “two brothers,” spontaneously working out arrangements in the studio, and recording with the relaxed feel of players completely at home with their music. Pour a glass of wine, and settle back to listen and marvel at the players’ ease and perfectly matched virtuosity. Moura, the older master, is the reigning king of Brazilian clarinet in both jazz and choro, and Rabello, a younger prodigy, is a guitarist whose instincts allow him to accompany incandescently, without losing his star quality. The recording is made all the more poignant by the untimely death of Rabello, who seemed born to play choro, at the age of 33. It’s some of the best playing on record from either performer, and a masterclass in the elusive improvisational quality of live choro. I got it in a local jazz record shop. Highest recommendation.

Receita de Samba – Nó Em Pingo d’Água
Visom (VICD 00064., Brazil, 1996). 44 minutes.

Musicians: Mário Sève, sax, flute; Rodrigo Lessa, bandolim, guitar; Rogèrio Silva, violão; Leonardo Lucini, bass; Celso Silva & Leo Leobos, percussion; with guest artists.

Tunes: Assanhado, Biruta, De Coração a Coração, Remeleixo, Migalhas de Amor, Bole Bole, Alvorado, Feia, Receita da Samba, A Ginga do Manè (Bandolim).

Nó Em Pingo d’Água is a fusion group, straddling the line between MPB and choro for over 20 years. On this CD they present the music of Jacob do Bandolim in eclectic instrumentations and decidedly modern interpretations. They add a world of color to traditional choro, from counterlines on cello, to horn section call-and-response, to harmonica improvisation. They change instrumentation for every tune, incorporate modern jazz harmonies, include a variety of percussion, and sometimes transform the choro almost beyond recognition as part of the genre. But for all their unconventionality they clearly love the material and are presenting it with personal honesty and adventurous ears. The heartfelt sax melody on “Migalhas de Amor,” accompanied by an unusual conjunto of piano, electric bass, and a section of flutes, speaks with authority. Lessa’s bandolim sparkles on “Bole Bole” over an active guitar line and polyrhythmic percussion, moving easily from the written melody to jazz improvisation. While I wouldn’t recommend this CD to a listener trying out choro for the first time, for an aficionado or a jazz fan, it is a real treat. I got it from Caravan Music.

Chiquinha com Jazz – Antonio Adolfo
Kuarup Discos (ABCD 3002, Brazil, 1997). 41 minutes.

Musicians: Antonio Adolfo, piano; Claudio Spiewak, violão; Gabriel Vivas, bass; Ivan Conti, percussion.

Tunes: Atraente, Cordão Carnavalesco, Lua Branca, Angá, Gacho (Corta-Jaca), O Forrobodó, A Corte na Roca, Satan, Ismênia, Faceiro, Abre Alas (Gonzaga).

Subtitled “1847-1997, 150 Anos de Chiquinha Gonzaga,” this CD pays tribute to the woman who was an important force at the start of Brazilian popular music. Rather than present her pieces in their written versions, which sound old-fashioned today, Adolfo has decided to pay tribute by doing what Chiquinha herself did, interpreting the written music through the filter of contemporary performance practice. Thus these readings are more jazz than choro, and probably more Adolfo than Gonzaga. Adolfo’s tribute is informed by his nearly encyclopedic knowledge of the elements of various styles of Braxilian popular music. Adolfo’s book Brazilian Music Workshop, listed earlier as a resource, is an important tool to learning about MPB, but on this recording he is an interpreter not a historian. The final results lack many of the traditional hallmarks of choro, but unfold naturally, musically, and would be at home in any jazz club in the world. Not choro perhaps, but a delightful, suave CD, and an interesting look at Chiquinha’s music.

Choros from Bahia
Nimbus Records (NI 5404, Brazil, 1994). 55 minutes.

Musicians: Fred Dalton, trombone; Ailton Reiner, bandolim; and others.

Tunes: É do que há (Americano); Eu quero sossego (Ximbinho); Degenerado (Ferro); Agenta Seu Fulgêncio (Pixinguinha); Lagrimas de Namorados, Bodas de Ouro, Corintiano (Saraiva); Carolina (Buarque); Alma Brasileira (Freitas); Retrato en branco e preto (T. Jobim); Treme-treme (Bandolim); O meu Amigo (Silveira); Escorregando, Brejeiro (Nazareth); Um bandolim no samba (Ninquinho).

This is an enjoyable CD, featuring an unlikely combination of soloists that works well. Ailton Reiner is a polished bandolimist who can sweep through passages of 16th notes unscathed on “Agenta Seu Fulgêncio,” and then deliver the delicate samba-esque “Carolina” with heart. His “Treme-treme” is fast and punchy, and “Brejeiro” is swinging and sweet. Fred Dalton is a peppy trombonist in “Corintiano” and other tunes, who then shows his soulful side on Luis Americano’s “É do que há”. They get some help from musicians like Joatan Nascimento, trumpet, whose playing on “Degenerado” shows choro’s connection to Dixieland, and Rowney Scott whose gorgeous sax illuminates Tom Jobim’s samba “Retrato en branco e preto”. Choro spread north from Rio to Bahia, adding the influence of rural musicians to the urban music style. These contemporary Bahian musicians have created a eclectic CD, in repertoire as well as instrumentation, that blends its various influences skillfully to create a lively and personal sound.

Velha Guarda no Choro
Brasidisc (BRCD229 , Brazil). 41 minutes.

Musicians: Tôco Preto do Cavaco

Tunes: never mind

Forget this CD, or rather, remember its name so you won’t buy it. The title is the name of Pixinguinha’s famous choro revival group, so I thought it looked like a good bet on the website. But it’s dominated by a cheesy organ sound and a pop production aesthetic that is guaranteed to remind you of a very long trip in an elevator. There may be some good musicians in there somewhere, but they’re not identified, in fact there isn’t a single note inside the jacket. I got it from Caravan Music; don’t do the same.

Choro Compilation CDs

Clássicos do Choro
EMI-Odeon (364 793398 2, Brazil, 1990). 61 minutes.

Musicians: Pixinguinha, Waldir Azevedo, Deo Rian, Joel Nascimento, Orquestra Tabajara, Radames Gnattali, Abel Ferreira, Gáo, Paulinho da Viola, Robert Szidon, others.

Tunes: 1 x 0, Lamento, Os Cinco Companheiros, Os Oito Batutas, Cochichando, Vou Vivendo. Sigura Ele (Pixinguinha); Brasileirinho, Pedacinho do Cèu (Azevedo); Noites Cariocas (Bandolim); Odeon, Duvidoso (Nazareth); Chorinho do Sovaco da Cobra, Chorando Baixando (Ferreira); Espinha de Bacalhau (Arújo); Urubú Malandro (Louro); Andre de Sapato Novo (Correira); Mimosa (Gáo); Deslizando ((Pesce); Mistura e Manda (Alves); Marambaia (Campos); Saxofone, Porque Choras? (Ratinho).

This has been my favorite choro CD for so long it’s hard to be objective. It was a gift, bought at a Brazilian grocery store, and is a wonderful and occasionally bizarre compilation of original recordings. It starts off with Pixinguinha’s brilliant contrapuntal saxophone on his own ” 1 x 0 ,” and later includes an even more complex version of “Os Oito Batutas”. Waldir Azevedo plays two virtuoso cavaquinho tunes with a colorful band, and the doleful clarinet of Abel Ferreira wails on his own “Chorando Baixando”. Severino Arújo and Orquestra Tabajara’s big band version of his “Espinha de Bacalhau” is rarely heard, especially not on a CD that includes Radames Gnattali’s weird synthesis of string orchestra, marching-band drums, accordion, piano, and electric guitar on “Urubu Malandro,” Gáo’s Hollywood-movie sound on his “Mimosa,” Muraro’s Latin-ragtime mix, and Sivuca’s virtuoso accordion. With 22 non-stop great, or at least wild, performances, this compilation is really out of the ordinary. I haven’t seen it elsewhere, so I can only hope you find it in a Brazilian grocery store near you. Highest recommendation. [Note: there are two CDs by this title listed on the CDNow website, but neither identifies tunes or a label, so it’s impossible to tell if one or both are actually this CD].

Choro 1906-1947, 2 CD set with book, Fremèaux & Associès
S. A. (FA 166, France, 1999). 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Musicians: Jacob do Bandolim (1947), Benedito Lacerda (1930-46), Luis Americano (1940), Pixinguinha (1911-46), Ernesto Nazareth (1930), Groupo Chiquinha Gonzaga (1921), Patapio Silva (1906), Joao Pernambuco (1929), Luperce Miranda (1934), Oito Batutas (1923)

Tunes: Flamengo, Gloria (Oliveira); Jurity, Myrthes (Lacerda); Tocando Pra Vocè (Americano); Andrè de Sapato Novo (Corrèa); A Vida è um Buraca, Segura Ele, Rosa, Os Oito Batutas, 1 x 0, Naquele Tempo, Página de Dor, Ingênuo, Vou Vivendo, Ainda Me Recordo, Sofres Porque Queres (Pixinguinha); Flauta, Cavaquinho, e Violão (Mesquita); Premiero Amor (Silva); Apanhei-te, Cavaquinho, Escovado, Brejeiro (Nazareth); Mistura e Manda (Alves); Minha Flauta de Prata (Meira); São João Debaixo d’Aguá (Almeida); Falena (Gonzaga); Interrogando, Sonho de Magia, Graúna (Pernambuco); Rato-Rato (Rocha); Abismo se Rosas (Canhoto); Treme-Treme, Remeleixo (Bandolim); Engomandinho, Caprichos dos Destino (Caetano); Tico Tico No Fubá (Abreu).

The French label Fremèaux & Associès S. A. has created the ideal compilation of historical recordings, beginning in 1906 with the virtuoso flute of Patapio Silva, and ending in 1947 with the first recordings of Jacob do Bandolim. The sound of the CD is bright and clean, and the performances are arranged in a musical sequence, not in chronological order, which increases listening enjoyment. The accompanying book has notes in French, most of them also translated into English, with amusing asides such as “Catulo da Paixo Ceárense (1866-1946) Symbolist poet, turgid lyricist, talentless composer, mediocre guitarist.” Luckily the justly-maligned Ceárense is not included on the recording, and is only being castigated for claiming authorship to some of Pernambuco’s compositions.

What you do hear is Jacob, still in his 20’s, launching into “Flamengo,” and Pixinguinha, at 32, blasting through a virtuosic “Segura Ele” on flute, followed by a recording of his 13-year-old-self just beginning his brilliant career. There’s lots of flute on this recording, as one would expect, since flute was usually the lead instrument in the early choro groups. The stylistic individualities of the performers presents a virtual compendium of choro performance in the first half of the 20th century. Highlights include Benedito Lacerda’s flute, in 1946, with an improvised contrapuntal underpinning by Pixinguinha on sax; Luperce Miranda’s 1930’s recording of “Naquele Tempo” showing his rich tremolo and facile ornamentation; Jacob’s first version of “Gloria,” already showing his sweetly tender performance style, and his first recorded composition, the cool, punchy “Treme-Treme”. I got it from Caravan Music for $30. If you’re looking for a historical compilation of early choro, this is it. Highest recommendation.

Noites Cariocas
Kuarup Discos (KCD40, Brazil, 1993). 60 minutes.

Musicians: Altamiro Carrilho, flute; Joel Nascimento, bandolim; Paulo Moura, Paulo Sergio, clarinets; Chiquinho, accordion; Ze da Velha, trombone; many others.

Tunes: Noites Cariocas, Vibracôes, Doce do Côco (Bandolim); Ainda Me Recorda, Carinhoso, Ingênuo, 1 x 0 (Pixinguinha); Aleluia (Carrilho); Chiquinha Gonzaga, Remexendo (Gnattali); Espinha de Bacalhau (Arujo); Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 (Villa Lobos); Jubileu (Medeiros); Chorando Baixinho (Ferreira); Urubú Malandro (Louro).

Recorded live in 1987 and 1988 at Rio’s Municipal theater, this CD is an hour of concert excerpts from some of choro’s best players. Combining standards with new compositions, the CD is a good introduction to the choro style. And it even has some unusual pieces for the expert, like Gnattali’s “Chiquinha Gonzaga,” a lively piece that gives Joel Nascimento a chance to shine. Paulo Sergio’s interpretation of “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5” with choro band may be untraditional, but I think Villa Lobos, a chôrão from his teens, would have dug it. Likewise, “Doce do Côco” on trombone is a listener’s treat. I’m not sure where I got this CD, I’ve had it so long. It’s available from Kuarup, and is frequently found in record stores.

Brazil Choro – Saxophone Why Cry?
EMI (Hemisphere 7243 4 96133 2 4, Brazil, 1999). 55 minutes.

Musicians: Pixinguinha, Waldir Azevedo, Abel Ferreira, Deo Rian, Joel Nascimento, Orquestra Tabajara, Chiquinho do Acordeon, Radames Gnattali, Paulinho da Viola, Robert Szidon, others.

Tunes: Sarau Para Rademès (Viola); Pedacinho do Cèu, Delicado (Azevedo); Saxophone Porque Choras? (Ratinho); Noites Cariocas (Bandolim); 1 x 0 , Lamentos, Os Oito Batutas, Segura Ele (Pixinguinha); Doce Melodia, Chorando Baixinho, Harold no Choro, Doce Mentira, Chorinho do Sovaco do Cobra (Ferreira); Ecos (Nascimento); Odeon (Nazareth); Espinha de Bacalhau (Arujo); Peè Ne Tábua (Carrilho); Chorando (Barroso); Mistura e Manda (Alves).

As Paulinho da Viola’s “Sarau Para Rademès” spills brightly from your speakers, the day suddenly looks better all around. Then Waldir descends in a virtuoso flurry of notes to pluck at your heart strings, and Abel Ferreira asks the CD’s title question with infinite soul. The tunes are a mix of familiar and unusual, and the performances are from the 1960’s and ’70’s. The familiar tunes are often presented by unusual interpreters, Radames Gnattali’s take on ” 1 x 0 ” gives it a whole new vista, and Waldir’s “Lamentos” gives the perennial a new color. Joel Nascimento’s “Ecos” is a stunning tune, beautiful played, and he and Ferreira have fun with the latter’s cheerful “Chorinho do Sovaco do Cobra”. This is a great compilation, equal to “Clássicos do Choro” in quality, breadth and variety. More importantly, it’s available. I got mine at Virgin Records, but it’s listed online now at Caravan Music.

Brasil – A Century of Song – 4 CD boxed set w/ book (English)
Blue Jackal Entertainment Inc., (CD5000-2). Over 4 hours.

Musicians: too varied to list

CD titles: “Folk & Traditional,” “Carnaval,” “Bossa Nova Era,” “MPB -Musica Popular Brasileira”.

Strictly speaking, this CD doesn’t belong in a choro listing because the only choro is “Noites Cariocas,” taken from the 1987 live recording available on a Kuarup CD of the same name. But for someone more broadly interested in Brazilian music, or for the choro aficionado looking to place the style in context, this set is an excellent resource. The CDs are available separately, but I recommend buying the whole set, for its interesting booklet and musical breadth. I got it from Luso-Brazilian Books for $48, and I’ve seen it in the world music section at Borders Books.

Pixinguinha – 100 Anos – 2 CD boxed set w/ book (Portuguese)
Som Livre, (1998, Brazil). 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Musicians: Caetano Veloso, Nana Caymmi, Paulinho da Viola, Baden Powell, Radamès Gnatalli, Camerata Carioca, Pixinguinha, Jacob do Bandolim, others.

Tunes: about 20, some famous, some unusual, some in multiple versions.

This tribute CD set, organized by Hermino Bello de Carvalho, is handsomely boxed in a tall format, with a book including photographs, an interview with Pixinguinha and essays on him, all in Portuguese. The first CD, titled “Sambando, Chorando,” is Pixinguinha’s vocal music, and the second, “Tocando, Tocando,” is instrumental. Like many tribute CDs, some of the performers present Pixinguinha’s music quite non-traditionally, so the CD is full of surprises. The instrumental CD features a section of Pixinguinha’s funny tunes, some with the master himself performing. A highlight for mandolinists is four live tracks of Jacob do Bandolim performing at the “Pixinguinha 70” concert in May of 1968. Well played, well recorded, beautifully presented, this is still an unconventional choro CD, one that may disappoint a listener hoping for an overview of Pixinguinha’s work. It’s a specialty item, and an excellent one, intended for Brazilian music aficionados interested in rare historic recordings and contemporary MPB performances. I got it through Caravan Music for $33.

Sempre Jacob
Kuarup Discos (MKCD-077, Brazil). 44 minutes.

Musicians: Orchestra de Cordas Brasileiras, Nó em Pingo d’Água, Dèo Rian, Afonso Machado, Joel Nascimento

Tunes: Alvorado, Ginga do Mane, Receita de Samba, Assanhado, Santa Morena, Simplicidade, Primas e Bordões, Bole Bole, Vibrações, Noites Cariocas.

This CD is a compilation of pieces from other CDs, so if you own CDs by any of the performers you may well already have this material. The CD “Noites Cariocas,” is represented by 3 tunes, Nó Em Pingo d’Água’s “Receita de Samba” is too, as is the Orchestra de Cordas Brasileiras, from their self-titled CD. It’s fine as far as a compilation goes, but personally I prefer one-group CDs for contemporary performers to get a more in-depth look at their work. And for an overview of Jacob I prefer his own recordings. Sound quality is impeccable, as expected from Kuarup, and this could be a good CD for a listener who wants to sample three groups for the price of one.

Choros – Sucessos Inesquecveis
EMI (493123 2, Brazil, 1998). 44 minutes.

Musicians: Pixinguinha, Waldir Azevedo, Abel Ferreira, Deo Rian, Joel Nascimento, Orquestra Tabajara, Paulinho da Viola, Os Chorões, Altamiro Carrilho, Lô Borges, Raul de Barros, Evandro, Carlos Poyares.

Tunes: Odeon, Brejeiro (Nazareth); Cinco Companeiros, Lamentos (Pixinguinha); Bentevi Atrevido (Pesce); Pedacinho do Cèu (Azevedo); Choro de Pai (Beto Guedes); Um Chorinho Pra Vocè (Araújo); Castigo (Rodrigues); Sentimento Oculto (Nola); Cabelos Brancos (Martins); O Choro (Borges); Flamengo (Oliviera); Chorando Baixinho (Ferreira); Soluçando (Silva); Paraquedista (Silveira); Urubú Malandro (Barro); Andre de Sapato Novo (Correira).

What’s that sound like a giant electric kazoo that comes in mid-way through Pixinguinha’s performance of “Odeon”? And is someone sawing wood near the microphone in “Cinco Companheiros”? These and other question remain unanswered by the CD’s slim liner notes. Some of these performances duplicate “Saxophone Why Cry?”. Some are unfortunately “modern” in a musak-type way, like “Choro de Pai,” or a night-clubby way, like “Cabelos Brancos”. Some are big-band cool, like Orquestra Tabajara’s “Um Chorinho Pra Vocè,” or cheerfully cheeky, like Evandro’s version of “Brejeiro,” but a couple of numbers aren’t enough to save this sort-of-creepy modern CD. Save your money; buy “Saxophone Why Cry?”. I got it at Tower Records, and Caravan has it online.

Choros & Chorinhos
Brasidisc 3 CD set: (BRCD006, BRCD199, BRCD266, Brazil). 2 hours +.

Musicians: Benedito Costa; Tôco Preto do Cavaco; Analdinho do Cavaco

Tunes: (see individual volumes)

This 3-volume set is subtitled “Cavaquinho Regional” and it features the cavaquinho in the soloist role. The 3 CDs were released separately and repackaged as a set that sells for $40. Volume 1 is Benedito Costa playing several choro classics including “Tico Tico,” Waldir Azevedo’s “Brasilieirinho,” and “Delicado,” Jacob’s “Doce do Coco,” Pixinguinha’s “Carinhoso,” Callado’s “Flor Amorosa,” and 10 other lesser-know tunes. The playing is good, the conjunto (no musicians’ names or instruments are given) is lively, but after awhile the arrangements start to sound repetitious, and the listener needs a break from the thin silvery tone of the omnipresent cavaquinho in both melody and accompaniment roles. Volume 2 is Analdinho do Cavaco on cavaquinho with some variety of instrumentation, including Francisco Neto on bandolim.

The pieces are a mix of familiar and unusual, and the arrangements are more varied than on the previous volume. “Barracão” by Luiz Antônio and Cavaco’s own “Dadá dá o Tom” are interesting tunes. Still, after a time, the unrelieved sound of cavaquinho grates on the ear. The third disc is the music of Martinho da Vila performed by Tôco Preto do Cavaco. The organ sounds suit the material a bit better on this CD than on their Velha Guarda no Choro, and the production, although high on reverb, is more natural, but I’m still bothered by the lack of authenticity in sound. The music of Vila is pleasant, down-home samba, but sounds like the vocal tracks are missing. This is decent background music, but no more. Unless you’re a cavaquinho player there’s not much to recommend this collection in a field packed full of really good recordings. I got it from Caravan Music.


[I’ve left the links in that still work. Now, in 2010, there are more resources available online]

Caravan Music — go to their page and click “Catalogue Search,” select “choro” from their list of styles and you’ll get a page of about 25 books and CDs of choro. They can be slow sending orders and run out of stock frequently, but they do have stuff that nobody else seems to get, and they will never forget your order. They will email you a month or more after you have placed it to see if you still want something they just got in.

Kuarup Discos — click on the English words you see on the website and you’ll get to an English page. They charge $15, plus postage, for their CDs, and are very quick and helpful. Order direct from them or you will pay a lot more for their CDs on other pages.

Luso-Brazilian Books — or you can call or email for a catalog: PO Box 170286, Brooklyn, NY 11217-0007, (800) 727-5876, Fax: (718) 858-0690, email hidden; JavaScript is required. They are fairly quick, but specialize in academic books, not music, so are a limited resource.

Musician’s Source — you can call them at 1-800-831-8323, or internationally: 813-715-1575. Source Marketing, 4838 Lane Road, Zephyrhills, FL 33541.

Omagatoki — a Japanese CD company specializing in world music. Their email is: email hidden; JavaScript is required. I haven’t ordered from them, but bought their CDs at a Shinseido store in Japan. They have Jacob’s “Prologo” and an Evandro CD “Memorias” listed on the page. I couldn’t find the “Choro Club” CD, but it’s probably there somewhere. Try emailing for information.

Sound-Ai — A small CD distributor specializing in mandolin recordings. The director, Akifumi Izumoto, speaks English. Fax: (078) 856-5806; phone (078) 811-5196. 3-14-22 Kamakogahara-cho, Higashinada-ku, Kobe-City, Japan 658.

CD stores: Borders, Tower Records, HMV, and Virgin Megastore will usually have a couple of choro CDs in stock. Look under world music, jazz, and/or Latin music. Also, online, CDNow has several choro discs listed, but they don’t give much information about what’s on them.

Online bookstores: Some of the general reference books from my choro history article are available at online bookstores. I ordered through the Barnes & Noble’s website, and Brazilian Sound was $20, and Musica Brasileiras (in English) was $25. Caravan Music now has Henriques Cazes book Choro – Do Quintal Ao Municipal (in Portugues) listed for $28, though I originally got it from Kuarup Discos.

Download a pdf of the original Mandolin Quarterly article: Choro Resources

Return to Choro Articles page.

Posted January 7th, 2000. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
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