Friday, August 29, 2008

Movimento - Brasilian Movement

Being interested in Brasilian music tradition, I was delighted to have the opportunity to listen to the above shown cd by Nelson Latif, 'Movimento'. The cd was recorded in Amsterdam February-October 2006 and released 2007, and it was produced by Nelson Latif as his first solo issue. Nelson Latif is from São Paulo, Brazil, but has lived in Amsterdam, Holland, since the 1990s and taken part in various musical projects as a musician, both in Holland and Brazil.

The music on the cd is a great listening experience, as it blends many different elements of music tradition. You can hear fragments reminding of be bop frases mixed with traditional choro music, even flamenco inspiration and Middle-East music styles incorporating classical Indian raga - a true cross-over and World-Music project. Click on picture above to see tracklist and listen to audio examples from the cd in the Discography menu.

Nelson Latif, who plays acoustic guitar and cavaquinho, formed his musical identity in the jazz scene of 1980's São Paulo. With roots in choro and jazz, Latif merges Brazilian styles and a classical guitar technique with diverse musical influences. He started his studies at age fourteen. During the 90's he moved to Amsterdam and started performing on the cavaquinho, an instrument that has since become his trademark.
Nelson Latif returned to Brazil in 2001, where he formed Trio Baru with Fernando Corbal and Bosco Oliveira. Since then, Latif has performed as a soloist as well as in collaboration with various artists, such as the multi-instrumentalist Carlinhos Antunes, and Ustad Zamir Khan, sitar and tabla player, of a legendary Indian musical family. In 2005 Latif recorded the CD 'Choro, Samba e Afins', together with Dutch guitarist Joeri de Graaf. This recording started off the Choramundo Project, uniting musicians from Holland, Suriname and Brazil.
I found a couple of uploaded video performances by the Choramundo ensemble from a live-concert in Reicife, Brazil inserted below to give you an impression of the kind of music played by

First tune played by Choramundo feat. Nelson Latif (guitar), Joeri de Graaf (guitar) Praful (bansuri and saxophone), Pablo Nahar (double Bass), Jotta Erre (percussion) is called 'Brujeria' recorded live at the International Jazz Festival in Recife, Brazil, march 2006.

The second performance by Choramundo is from the same event, the tune performed is called 'Choramundo'


Friday, August 22, 2008

Armandinho - Retocando o Choro

One of the characteristics of the traditional choro performance is the fact that the participating musicians usually are seated in a circle or around a table to create an intimate atmosphere and leaving the opportunity to watch each other while playing. This was the ideal setting for a roda de choro, and this is continued to this day in small clubs or at private gatherings whenever choro musicans get together to play for their own pleasure. You could say that the mentioned setting of a roda de choro is well suited for this kind of chamberish music that demands concentration, great technical skills and the presence of a common feeling to recreate the spirit of choro as a multi-voiced unity.- However, today a choro performance often takes place in a concert setting with the musicians placed on a stage fronting an audience, which usually excludes the possibility of a traditional roda de choro setting, as all participating musicians are supposed to be fronting the audience. On the other hand, the stage setting leaves the opportunity of individual solo performance a better chance to reach the audience, a fact to be taken advantage of whether it may be a classical symphonic orchestra with a soloist performing, or a band performing popular music with changing solo voices.
The world is a stage according to Mr. Shakespeare and especially a younger generation of musians has understood this dictum as a demand of acting as an individual soloist when the music plays, the success of a performance depending on the abilities of the individual fronting the audience and supported by a band in the background. The soloist's role has become the most important part of the act on stage. This is truly a phenomenon reflecting the ideological and social values of modern Western society, expected to be the norm by audiences and accepted as such by musicians, who go for a successfull career in music business. In fact, the success of a modern jazz or rock'n'roll concert seems to depend on the soloists' personal abilities, the reputation and stardom often applied to the musician's ability to invent and create surprising personal solos by mastering the instrument with special effects and unexpected improvisation skills. This is the constant demand resting on the career of individual musicians heading for a star role on-stage today.
When choro and choro performance had a revival in Brazil during the 1970s one of the problems to front by choro musicians was that the choro was considered to be the music of old folks with outdated values of social behaviour. The gap between a young generation looking for an indivudal platform in the world and the preserving of old values by the elder generation created a cultural vacuum, in which the choro easily was considered an anachronic left-over from a world of yesterday. However, devoted individuals among the young generation of families, where the choro had been a part of the cultural identity for generations, faced the challenge and tried to put the choro on stage in a new setting, considering the music to be just as appealing as rock'n'roll when performed by devoted musicians. One of the pioneers of the young revivalists of choro was Armandinho.
ARMANDINHO (Armandinho Macêdo) was born 1953 in Salvador, Bahia, in a musical environment - his father, Osmar, was the inventor of the Electric Trio (sound truck made famous in the Carnival of Bahia and later generalized throughout the country). He was taught to play by his father at age nine. He was already performing one year later with his own Trio Elétrico Mirim (Junior). After a stint amidst the Beatlemania craze adapted in Brazil as Jovem Guarda, he was hired by TV Tupi (Rio) and recorded his first album after winning an important novice show (Flávio Cavalcanti). His second single and first LP soon followed. In 1973, he recorded O Trio Elétrico de Dodô e Osmar with Caetano Veloso. In 1974, he was included in his father's Trio Elétrico, which was renamed Trio Elétrico de Armandinho, Dodô e Osmar. With Moraes Moreira as producer and singer, he recorded a series of LPs with the Trio Elétrico after 1975. In that year, he formed a group that accompanied Moreira, later being named A Cor Do Som, which performed internationally (in 1978 at the Montreux Festival, Switzerland, and in 1981 in New York, U.S.) and recorded several LPs with an innovative blend of choro, music from Bahia, and pop/rock. Based in early (around the '40s) prototypes designed by Dodô prior to the invention of the electric guitar, called the "pau elétrico," Armandinho designed the guitarra baiana, which is similar to an electrified cavaquinho. The guitarra baiana then became commercially produced by Dodô. In 1984, the Trio Elétrico performed in Rome, Italy, and, in the next year, in Toulouse, France. In 1986, they performed in France and Mexico and, in 1990, in Paris, France. In 1987, Armandinho shared a show with Raphael Rabello in Rio and, in the next year, played with Moraes Moreira in the U.S. In 1994, a live recorded show with A Cor do Som was awarded with the Prêmio Sharp (1996). In 1996, he also performed in the Jerusalem Music
Festival, Israel, and, with the Trio Elétrico in the Montreux Festival and Tübingen Festival (Germany). In 1997, he recorded an album with Raphael Rabello, Rafael Rabelo e Armandinho Em Concerto, and participated in the Free Jazz Festival (Brazil). In 2001, Armandinho performed in the Rock in Rio Festival with Pepeu Gomes. (excerpted from profile by Alvaro Neder in AMG)

Armandinho has been proclaimed by the Brazilian media as The King of Choro, The King of Mandolin, The King of Bahian Carnaval, and The Modern Jacob do Bandolim. His career has held a place in the history of Brazilian popular music as he bridged the gap between classical and popular music. Great mandolinist innovator, his music fuses the styles of Pixinguinha, Jacob do Bandolim, Waldir Azevedo, Radamés Gnatalli with the more recent artistry of Tom Jobim, Caetano Veloso, and Gilberto Gil, in addition to the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Ranked among the most important Brazilian instrumentalists in the Brazilian history, he has earned a place of honor alongside Pixinguinha, Hermeto Pascoal, Raphael Rabello, and Paulo Moura. (excerpt of profile on MySpace, learn more by clicking here

As an example of a performance by Armandinho I recommend listening to the shown cd with recordings from a live-performance in Rio de Jainero 2002. The music performed contains choro
classiscs in an updated version, appealing to a young audience of today used to attending rock'n'roll concerts. Learn more about the contents of the cd by clicking
I found a couple of live-performances on YouTube that shares the atmosphere of the mentioned
cd recordings. - Here's a performance by Armandinho and Yamandú Costa playing 'Apanhei-Te

Finally, from a TV-show, also featuring Yamandú Costa, here's a live-performance of Jacob do Bandolim's 'Assanhado'


Friday, August 15, 2008

Choro elétrico - Quatro A Zero

Traditionally choro performance has been closely related with the Regional, an ensemble using acoustic instruments like violão (6 & 7 cordas), cavaquinho, pandeiro for accompaniment and bandolim or reed (flute, clarinet or saxophone) playing the melody. Less often the piano or the accordion has been used as solo voices in the traditional choro Regional,however, notable exceptions being Grupo Chiquinha Gonzaga featuring the majestrina at the piano - or, from a later period, the Radamés Gnattali Sexteto featuring two pianos, accordion and electric guitar as alternating solo voices. Radamés Gnattali's ensemble was considered to be an experimental unit expanding the sound of the traditional Regional, the music performed also expanded the boundaries of the classic choro composition by incorporating other influences from various sources, erudite as well as popular forms including jazz harmony. Radamés Gnattali's influence as a renewer of the choro genre cannot be overestimated - his work as a composer, pianist, arranger and conductor had a profound effect on the conception of choro with performers like Jacob do Bandolim and later the Camerata Carioca featuring stellar instrumentalists like Joel Nasciemento, Mauricio Carrilho, Henrique Cazes and Raphael Rabello a.o. Also a younger generation of choro performers has been inspired by the experiments of Radamés Gnattali, an example is the quartet ensemble, Quatro A Zero.

The Quatro A Zero ensemble was formated 2001 by four students of music at the Universidade de Campinas with a common interest in choro. The group consists of Eduardo Lobo (guitar, violão sete cordas & bandolim), Danilo Penteado (electric bass and cavaquinho), Daniel Muller (piano & accordeon) and Lucas de Rosa (drums & percussion). Together these four musicians have renewed the conception of the choro genre by incorporating humor and musical influences from jazz and rock, but still with due respect and a deep understanding of the founding elements of the choro. The group has participated in various musical projects in Brazil and was elected second place in a prestigious musical contest 2004 - the same year their first cd was issued by Zabumba Records, 'Choro elétrico', shown below.

The music performed at the cd covers compositions like "Bolacha queimada" (Radamés Gnatalli), "O gato e o canário" (Pixinguinha), "Sarau para Radamés" (Paulinho da Viola), "O vôo da mosca" (Jacob do Bandolim), "Atlântico" (Ernesto Nazareth), "Os Carioquinhas no Choro" (Altamiro Carrilho), "Baile em Catamby" (Eduardo Souto), "Segura ele" (Marco César & João Lyra) and "Chiquinha Gonzaga", part of the Retratos suite by Radamés Gnattalli, further a couple of pieces by members of the group: "Choro infinito" (Eduardo Lobo) and "Conta outra" (Danilo Penteado). - The Quatro A Zero ensemble performs the mentioned titles with great skills and surprising sequences revealing humor and highly elaborated interplay - the group indeed acts as a unit, and the cd is recommended as a splendid example of the expansion of the traditional choro interpretation. - Learn more about Quatro A Zero and the cd from the group's official website (- in Portuguese only, yet) which also offers the opportunity of listening to sound clips from the 'Choro elétrico' cd, click here

I found a couple of fragments of live performance by Quatro A Zero from 2006 accompanying bandolimist Joel Nasciemento, inserted below. - Here's a performance of the choro "Entre Mil, Voce"

From the same live performance here is an incomplete version of Jacob do Bandolim's "Vibrações" - please, bear with bad image and audio qulity


Friday, August 08, 2008

Daniela Spielmann & Rabo de Lagartixa

Female saxaphone players are not very common, however, Daniela Spielmann is considered one of the best on the Brasilian music scene today. She is from Rio de Janeiro, began playing saxophone at 17 and was always interested in Brazilian music. Her style was influenced by the wind instruments most commonly used in choro, like the clarinet and flute. Besides the strong choro influence, her music also incorporates frevo, maracatu, samba, bossa nova and jazz. She studied harmony at Musiarte in Rio, attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston for an extension course, and graduated in Music Education at Uni-Rio. She has accompanied various Brasilian artists and contributed weekly music arrangements for a TV program besides being an integral member of the groups Rabo de Lagartixa, Mulheres em Pixinguinha and Sincronia Carioca. - You may find more info about Daniela Spielmann's career at her official website, click here

Rabo de Lagartixa (- which means 'gecko's tail' in English) was formed in 1993, the group consists of Daniela Spielmann (soprano sax), Jayme Vignoli or Alessandro Valente (cavaquinho), Marcello Gonçalves (7 string guitar), Alexandre Brasil (acoustic bass) and Beto Cazes (percussion). According to the notes at Daniela Spielmann's web, "The name of the group refers to the desire to create music that doesn’t sumbit itself to the standardization of the masses — you can cut off the tail of the gecko, but it will just grow back — and the rhythmic pulse of the group — the gecko’s tail continues to swing even after you cut it off". - The idea is to play choro in many different ways, taking advantage of the variations. Their first cd from 1998, 'Rabo de Lagartixa', is a splendid example of the group's repertoire in this choro novo style, click on picture below to learn about the contents of the cd.
You have an opportunity to watch a lengthy extract of a live concert performance by Rabo de Lagartixa from the group's US tour in 2002, follow the links in the video menu at Daniela Spielmann's website. - Below I insert another live recording from Brazil, a performance of one of the tunes on the mentioned cd, "Melodia Sentimental"


Friday, August 01, 2008

Bandolim Brasileiro - Dudu Maia

In contemporary tradition of choro performance the bandolim is still an essential solo voice, many people seem to identify choro with this fascinating instrument that was adapted and modified from the European mandolin by Brasil luthiers. Jacob Bittencourt (aka Jacó do Bandolim) helped shaping the instrument most commonly used, the eight string bandolim consisting of 4 pairs of strings that are tuned like a violin according to the following order: (from high to low) first pair E, second pair A, third pair D and fourth pair G. However, in recent years musicians like Hamilton de Holanda have experimented with a 10-string bandolim shaped with 5 pairs of strings. The fith pairs of strings are usually tuned in the key of (low) C, but a B-flat tuning of the pairs also appears. The ten-stringed bandolim gives the performer a whole new variety of harmonic and melodic possibilities.

Among contemporary Brasilian musicians using the ten-stringed bandolim in performance and recording Dudu Maia (picture) stands out as an excellent player, who - like Hamilton de Holanda - has created his own 'sound' and concept of the instrument. Dudu Maia served for five years as the bandolim professor of Brazil’s most respected choro school, the Escola Brasileira de Choro Raphael Rabello in the nation’s capital, Brasília. He studied with masters such as Hamilton de Holanda, Gamela and Alencar Soares as well as at the Universidade de Brasilia. He has performed with several renowned Brazilian artists and is today considered to be one of Brazil’s top bandolim players. In 2006 Dudu Maia completed a self-titled album commissioned by the Brazilian government. The cd (shown below) was released in October 2006 in New York City with an outstanding reaction from the public according to the official website of Dudu Maia (- bothe in Portuguese and English). Learn more about the contents of the cd by clicking here

The music on the shown cd is a fascinating listening experience, showcasting Dudu Maia's influence from the music traditions of Noth-East Brazil as well as choro. You have the opportunity to listen to extracts from the cd at Dudu Maia's profile on MySpace, click here

Dudu Maia has also uploaded several video performances at YouTube, below I insert one of them to give you an impression of the music played at the mentioned cd

In 2007 Dudu Maia released his second cd, a collection of compositions by the legendary pioneer bandolim player, Luperce Miranda. The cd is an excellent example of Dudu Maia's conception of the choro tradition and the music is a thrill to be listening to, perfomed by a quartet of highly skilled musicians that know their roots and relive the music of Luperce Miranda in a contemporary rendition - highly recommended!

You have the opportunity to listen to extracts of the cd following this link

To give you an impression of the music played on the shown cd, I insert a couple of uploaded video performances from YouTube. The first is a rendition of Luperce Miranda's "Picadinho a Baiana"

To end this, here is a rendition of Luperce Miranda's "Itapagipe"