Friday, May 30, 2008

SpokFrevo Orquestra

The excellent Brasilian big band, SpokFrevo Orquestra, will be on tour in Europe during June and July. The band was formated in 1996 and comes from Recife, Pernambuco (- North East of Brazil) and has specialized in performing up-dated arrangements of frevo - one of the most vital music traditions of the North East of Brazil. The SpokFrevo Orquestra is led by Inaldo Cavalcante de Albuquerque (- known as conductor Spok), who also accumulates the roles of saxophonist, arranger and music director. The band consist of 18 members, all highly skilled musicians - together they make music that not just invites, but drags the listener´s attention. The frevo is and has been closely connected with the carnaval tradition of Recife, Pernambuco, and the music of this orchestra will drag you into the mood of carnaval and having a party.

Last year was the official centennial of the frevo with a lot of celebration events, including oncerts and the carnaval of Recife, Pernambuco, of course. The SpokFrevo Orquestra was a part of it all and had great success with its performance. One of the concerts was recorded live and has now been released on both cd and dvd. Learn more about the contents by clicking the picture below.

The SpokFrevo Orquestra's official website (- also in English) has more information about the band, including a calender announcing the band's tour schedule.

I am proud to learn that the band will play the official opening concert at Copenhagen Jazz Festival on July 4th, without doubt a great take-off of the festival that celebrates its 30th season this year.

To give you an impression of the SpokFrevo Orchestra in action, I insert an uploaded video-fragment from the concert recorded at the mentioned dvd.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Gotas de Lágrimas

The shown sheet music extract has the title 'Gotas de Lágrimas' and is considered one of the most famous works for solo violão in the Brasilian guitar tradition. The tittle of the composition means in English 'Teardrops', and considering the fact that the music is a waltz, you can get an idea of the mood, if you to this put the reference to 'crying'. Teardrops usually are caused by crying, but - reflecting the meaning of the Portuguese 'choro' - you can 'cry' from sorrow or joy. Once Jacob do Bandolim stated that 'choro music' is a style of music expressing 'crying for joy', and with this reference, you have the - poetic - connextion to the choro music roots as a part of the ambigious meaning of the title of the composition, 'Gotas de Lágrimas'.

It's probably not a coincidence that this kind of playing with the meaning of words is a consciensous choice of title by the composer of 'Gotas de Lágrimas'. The piece was composed by Mozart Bicalho (1902-1986), poet, guitarist and composer of several challenging pieces for solo violão considered of the same high level as similar compositions by Américo Jacomino Canhoto and João Pernambuco in Brasilian guitar tradition. 'Gotas de Lágrimas' was recorded by Mozart Bicalho as soloist in 1930 for Odeon, and the record sold around 3 thousand copies that year - a very expressive number at the time. It was first presented by the composer in a radio broadcast and became popular with the public instantly, also among guitarists. In 1935 Dilermando Reis for instance was asked to perform the piece in a special radio feature, and later he would record 'Gotas de lágrimas' in 1963, when the piece had been published in written music.

Mozart Bicalho was born in Minas Gerais and lived for some time in Rio de Janeiro. Born in the city of Santa Barbara, district of Bom Jesus do Amparo, Bicalho was the author of the anthem of the city of Dom Joaquim composing lyrics and music. In 2001, was inaugurated in the city of Dom Joaquim a monument in his honor. Although less known by the general public, Mozart Bicalho is considered by many critics as one of the major Brasilian violonistas.

I found an impressive performance of 'Gotas de Lágrimas' on YouTube, enjoy Gilmar Martins playing this challenging piece for solo violão


Friday, May 16, 2008

The Music Of João Pernambuco

João Teixeira Guimarães (1883-1947), better known as João Pernambuco, is one of the founders of the Brasilian guitar choro style, and his compositions for solo violão are deservedly considered belonging to the core of classic choro, popular with guitarists, loved and admired by audiences in Brazil and elsewhere. Villa Lobos once said according Pernambuco's compositions that even J.S. Bach would not have been embarrassed to sign his name to them, a great recognition of João Pernambuco's genius, expressing true admiration by a renowned and worldfamous composer in his own right. Eventually, had it not been for Villa Lobos' admiration and enthusiastic assistance in helping to transcribe several of João Pernambuco's compositions in music, his work as a composer would not have been known outside his contemporary community of choro musicians and saved for posterity.

João Pernambuco was born in Jatobá, Pernambuco, in 1883, as a member of a large family (- he had 19 siblings). After his mother passed away in 1904, he moved to Rio de Janeiro to seek his fortune. Though he was illiterate, Pernambuco had vast experience in popular culture, which reflected very strongly on his artistic side. His musical knowledge soon led him to meet some of the best musicians in his era. He was a contemporary of Catulo da Paixão Cearense, Pixinguinha and others. It was Pernambuco's idea to form the Grupo Caxangá in 1912. The group had a series of Carnaval hits in the years 1914 through 1919. When Pixinguinha created his Os Oito Batutas ensemble, he invited almost all of the members of Grupo do Caxangá, and that led to ending Pernambuco's group. He was a member of Os Oito Batutas up to 1921, but left before Pixinguinha was offered a tour engagement of Paris in 1922 with his group. From then on Pernambuco worked on his own as a guitar teacher at one of Rio's famous instrument stores, the Cavaquinho de Ouro, a meeting point for choro musicians and other artists, who benefitted from his pedagogical teaching and willingness to share his work and experience. This led to his meeting with the great Paraguayan guitarist and composer, Augustin Barrios, and later Pernambuco was introduced in the upper class of Cariocan society to perform his compositions and show off his abilities as a self taught master of the violão. He had success with his performance, although the guitar/violão at that time was considered a low class utility for entertainment of simple workers only. Pernambuco had learned the instrument from listening to and watching street musicians in his native region, and simple low-class life was a part of his career as well - he earned his living as a blacksmith making shoes for horses when not teaching, composing and performing! He also had experience with the new media of the time, radio and recording. Together with fellow guitarist Zezinho (- later known as Zé Carioca) he recorded a dozen of his own compositions for Columbia in 1929-30. These 78 rpms are hard to find nowadays, but you have an opportunity to listen to some of them in the program by Fábio Zanon from Rádio Cultura, SP, devoted to João Pernambuco, to be reached clicking here

My first encounter with the compositions of João Pernambuco was through listening to the execelent recordings by Turibio Santos of some of his most famous choros released in 1977 on the shown LP above (ERATO 9155). I still recommend these recordings as some of the best available performance of classic guitar choro by Pernambuco and other. The LP has been re-issued on a cd I'm told, but I have not been able to locate it, yet. However, the LP contains authoritative renditions of Pernambuco's choros 'Dengoso', 'Graúna', 'Interrogando', 'Pó de Mico' and 'Sons de Carrilhões' and is well worth searching for, if you haven't access to the cd re-issue.

In 1983 the choro ensemble No em pingo d'agua recorded some of Pernambuco's compositions in collaboration with pianist Antonio Adolfo to cellebrate the centennial of the composers birth. Earlier I have commented on these recordings, which are recommended and available in streaming audio from Canal Funarte, click here

In 1992 Caio Cezar recorded the shown cd, Caio Cezar interpreta João Pernambuco, vol. 1 (CARRILHÕES 107.177) (- released 1996), containing 11 solo renditions of Pernambuco's work, more info available from Discos do Brasil including sound clips, click here

In 1997 Leandro Carvalho, who learned erudite guitar technique from Turibio Santos, released his first cd devoted to João Pernambuco's music, João Pernambuco - O Poeta do Violão, more info on contents and sound clips at Discos do Brasil, click here

In 2000 Leandro Carvalho released his second cd with works by Pernambuco arranged for solo guitar as well as various ensembles . Click on picture below to learn details from information at Discos do Brasil

If you search for more info on João Pernambuco at the internet, I recommend a visit at a website in Italian/Portuguese devoted to his legacy, click here

YouTube has several videos uploaded with performances of music by João Pernambuco, I insert one of them below to end this small contribution on the legacy of one of the greatest composers in the guitar choro genre.

Enjoy a performance by an accomplished guitarist playing Pernambuco's 'Dengoso'


Friday, May 09, 2008

Canhoto da Paraíba (1926-2008)

A couple of days ago I learned the sad news that Canhoto da Paraíba (Francisco Soares de Araújo) passed away on the 24th of April following a heart attack. The choro music scene throughout the world has lost a legendary artist, who ranked alongside the greatest exponents of this Brazilian music style from the generation of Pixinguinha, Radamés Gnattali and Jacob do Bandolim.

Francisco Soares de Araújo was born 1926 in a family of musicians in Princesa Isabel, Pernambuco state (- North East of Brazil), and started very young to practise guitarplaying in a peculiar and not very common way. Becuse there was only one instrument in the house to share with his siblings, the lefthanded boy had to find a way to play the instrument without changing the position of the strings, but still played the inverted way! He developed a unique technique that allowed him to do so, and he was soon admired and famous in his neighborhood for being a unique and virtuosic master of the violão.

Canhoto began his career at Radio Tabajara of Joao Pessoa, in 1953, later he would move to Recife, PA, where his local fame would be extended, and in 1959 he was invited to Rio de Janeiro to take part in the famous roda de choros at the home of Jacob do Bandolim. He had success following the meeting with the cream of choro, he was admired for his abilities both as a musician and composer by the likes of Pixinguinha, Radamés Gnattali and Jacob do Bandolim. During his career Canhoto composed more than 80 pieces belonging to the core of choro and MPB, and he recorded three solo albums, "Único amor” (1968), “O violão brasileiro tocado pelo avesso” (1977) and Pisando em brasa” (1993), further he recorded with the Zimbo Trio in an album, “Instrumental no CCBB – Canhoto da Paraíba e Zimbo Trio” (1993).

In 1998 Canhoto had a cerebral ischemia that left the left side of his body paralyzed, preventing him from playing. He was taken care of by his family in Recife during his last years, and in 2004 he was granted a lifelong salary by the state in honor of his artistic career and importance as a culturel ambassordor of the Pernambucan music tradition. At his death last month the state govenour even decreed an official morning for three days in honor of this great artist.

In remembrance of Canhoto da Paraíba I insert a couple of videos, which show examples of his genius both as a musician and composer.

The first video is from a TV program, a portrait of Canhoto da Paraíba, where you can watch him playing in his unique style

The second video is from a roda da choro earlier this year featuring Mauricio Carrilho & Glauber Seixas playing "Tua Imagem", one of the famous compositions by Canhoto

To end this, I found an uploaded video with stills and music extracts from the cd by Canhoto da Paraíba, “O violão brasileiro tocado pelo avesso” (1977)


Friday, May 02, 2008

Choro das 3 on Radio UOL

Some time ago I promissed to review the first cd released by the choro group Choro das 3 when I had my copy in house, however, my ordered copy never showed up. My disappointment with the retailer's lack of service at this point, however, was put aside when I visited the new updated official webside of Choro das 3

Besides having a new design the websides also leaves the visitor with the opportunity of listening to the cd by this excellent young choro ensemble at full length from Radio UOL on the internet. Follow the link in the multimedia menu at the website to hear the cd.

It's a thrill to be listening to these joyous renditions of classic choro by Choro das 3, and I hope the listener of the streaming audio from Radio UOL will buy the cd, if possible, to support a talented ensemble that derserves support by all true lovers of choro.