Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Choro Vivo - A Danish Choro Trio

Choro Vivo
Thanks to globalization and the internet knowledge about choro music has spread outside Brazil during the past fifteen years. Today there are musicians all over the world playing choro inspired by the great Brazilian performers of the past and present. Here I like to introduce a Danish choro ensemble from Copenhagen - Choro Vivo that has just released a debut CD.

Martin Heap, 7 string guitar, cavaquinho
Choro Vivo was formed by Martin Heap in January 2010. Martin Heap (b.1974) has studied guitar at The Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen and graduated in 2003. In 2001 he visited Rio de Janeiro for the first time and was inspired to explore and play choro. As a result, he stayed in Rio from 2004 to 2007 and studied with the renowned choro guitarist Mauricio Carrilho and was introduced to the Cariocan choro community. In 2005 Martin Heap produced a CD  featuring a choro ensemble named Choro Brasil Scandinavia that included himself and another Scandinavian guitarist besides three well known Brazilian musicians. The CD and the ensemble was presented in live performance in Copenhagen, July 2005 (- you can read more about Choro Brasil Scandinavia following this link ). Thanks to his many contacts in Brazil Martin Heap has organized a pioneering work in Denmark to introduce choro to the public, and his enthusiasm and initiative has so far also resulted in the formation of the trio Choro Vivo in 2010. The original formation of the trio comprised violinist Alexander Kraglund (b. 1985) and guitarist Bjarke Mulder (b. 1980) besides Martin Heap on 7 string guitar and cavaquinho. Today Choro Vivo has two new members replacing Kraglund and Mulder.

Martin Buono, guitar
Martin Buono (b.1986) has studied classical guitar at The Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen and graduated as soloist in 2014. He is the one part of the prizewinning Copenhagen Guitar Duo excelling in the classical guitar repertoire. Martin Buono has also studied flamenco guitar in Spain and is involved in other music projects besides Choro Vivo, learn more at his official website, here 

Marco Spallanzani, bandolim
 Marco Spallanzani is from Modena, Italy, but has been living in Copenhagen since 1985. He has studied guitar at the rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen and graduated 1992.Besides playing guitar Marco Spallanzani is a composer, arranger and tutor, he also plays other string instruments than guitar and has specialized in playing bandolim in Choro Vivo. Learn more about his career and other projects at the official website, here 

Choro Vivo, CD front (Gateway Music, 2015)
The debut CD of Choro Vivo was recorded last year and released earlier this month by Gateway Music in a downloadable version, here and is also available in streaming audio at the website of Choro Vivo. The CD has nine tracks, the repertoire is devoted to well known classic choro compositions in arrangements by Choro Vivo. Some tracks have guest appearance by accordionist Fransesco Cali , percussionist Afonso Corrêa and Brazilian guitarist Glauber Seixas.

Choro Vivo with guest performers
The first track, 'Odeon' (Ernesto Nazareth), is the trio's interpretation of the well known tune and showcasting the bandolim as lead voice. Next tune is Pixinguinha's 'Um A Zero' featuring the trio extended with accordionist Francesco Cali, percussionist Afonso Corrêa and Glauber Seixas on 7 string guitar - the tune has great playing by all including solo exchange and improvisation by Spallanzani's bandolim and Cali's accordion. Then follows Anacleto de Medeira's 'Yara' by the trio showcasting Martin Heap on the cavaquinho as solo voice, Martin Buono on guitar and Glauber Seixas on 7 string guitar replacing Spallanzani. Next, two more classics by Pixinguinha, 'Os Oitos Batutas' and 'Naquele Tempo' - the last mentioned extended with Cali on accordion, while 'Os Oitos Batutas' adds Corrêa on percussion. A choro by Paulinho da Viola influenced by the guitar style of Canhoto da Paraíba, 'Rosinha, essa Menina' is next featuring great playing by Martin Buono and exemplary support by Heap and Spallanzani, and this is followed by an excellent arrangenment and reading of Villa-Lobos' 'Mazurka-Choro' by the trio. The two remaining tracks are devoted to a reading of Jacob do Bandolim's 'Feia' and E.Nazareth's 'Travesso' - the last mentioned has also been recorded in a live presentation uploaded at YouTube and is inserted below to give you an impression of Choro Vivo in performance.

It's a thrill to learn that choro music is taken good care of and presented with due respect to and affirmative understanding of the Brazilian tradition by Choro Vivo - the future of choro in Denmark looks bright with the release of the trio's debut CD, definitly recommended!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Yamandú Costa - Tocata À Amizade

Yamandú Costa (Photo: Anderson Silva)
The New CD by Yamandú Costa Tocata À Amizade (Biscoito Fino) is a splendid example of a deliberate smoothing of the boundaries between classical art music and popular tradition. Generally, in the Western tradition erudite musical composition has enjoyed primacy of popular traditions, while it has not been pronounced in Brazilian music culture.Among other aspects, this means that improvisation or free musical expression has been severely limited within the framework of traditonel Western classical art music, although previously rudiments to consider improvisation as an essential aspect of musical expression have been applied to sudden musical forms. These include for the type of compositions, which are known as toccatas.
Sheet book front
The encyclopedia definiton of a toccata reads: Toccata (from Italian toccare, "to touch") is a virtuoso piece of music typically for a keyboard or plucked string instrument featuring fast-moving, lightly fingered or otherwise virtuosic passages or sections, with or without imitative or fugal interludes, generally emphasizing the dexterity of the performer's fingers.This msusical form has been developed since the late Renaissance and its best known example probably is J.S. Bach's  Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (BWV 565). His toccatas for organ are improvisatory compositions, and are often followed by an independent fugue movement. You can read more about this musical form and are further able to listen to examples, here 
CD front: Tocata À Amizade  (Illustration by Elifas Andreato)
According to the info at the Biscoito Fino website,  the new CD by Yamandú Costa pays tribute not only to musicians he admires, but also to the art of playing an instrument. Quote: "We, who play popular music, have this custom of meetings, evening parties, in which we exchange information, learn new songs. In this CD I wanted to make an allusion to this very common and very natural practice among us." The idea of recording the CD came from an invitation that Yamandú received from the Louvre Museum Auditorium in Paris. "They ordered me a piece, I wanted to show some of the popular music of Brazil, so I wrote the suite “Impressões brasileiras”, for about four years." The suite opens the CD and consists of four parts: 1-Choro-tango, 2-Valsa, 3-Frevo-canção and 4-Baionga. The suite is followed by two new compositions by Yamandú: Negra Baiarina and Boa Viagem, both are examples of informal toccatas. Next follow two compositions paying tribute to two major figures in Brazilian guitar tradition, Pedra do Leme by Raphael Rabello/Toquinho and Graúna by João Pernambuco. The CD closes with a reading and interpretation of Radamés Gnatalli's 'Suite Retratos' in four parts, named after the composers in Brazilian tradition each of them portrays: Pixinguinha - Ernesto Nazareth - Anacleto de Medeiros - Chiquinha Gonzaga. Yamandú explains: "In my view, this cousin of Radames' work perfectly portrays the dialogue between schools of classical music and popular. (...) We rehearsed a lot to get this much free result that is on the disc." The CD thus underlines the dialogue between classical and popular music in Brazilian tradition, and the title Tocata À Amizade further points to the fact that this dialogue is not with the intention of provoking a polite audience, but to emphasize the friendship between two equal musical expressions and further the friendship between the musicians who perform the music at the CD.In truth, a musical project based on fixed frames which allow for free expression and improviasation, a well known and respected approach within choro music and related, popular Brazilian genres.
Yamandú Costa Quartet in performance (photo by Paulo Cartolano)
All tracks of the CD were recorded in a quartet setting, and Yamandú (violão de 7 cordas de naylon) brings together musicians Rogerio Caetano (violão 7 cordas de aço), Luis Barcelos (bandolim de 10 cordas and arrangements of “Suite Impressões brasileiras” ) and Alessandro Bebê Kramer on accordion. - To give you an impression of the music featured at the CD, I'll insert some uploaded examples from previously recorded live performance by the quartet. Here is first a live presentation of Radamés Gnatalli's 4º movimento Retratos (Chiquinha Gonzaga) from the Suite Retratos

Next, here is a presentation by Yamandú Costa quartet of João Pernambuco's Graúna

Finally, to end this presentation of Yamandú Costa's new CD, here is the quartet performing Pedra do Leme by Raphael Rabello/Toquinho

The Tocata À Amizade CD is available for purchase as mp3 downloads at Amazon, hereand iTunes, here