Brazil Choro: Saxophone, Why Cry?

Choro ("crying, lament"), an instrumental music arising in Rio in the 1880s, drew on European salon and military orchestra music, and such popular imports as polka, schottische, tango and waltz, all generously injected with an Afro-Brazilian rhythmic feel. Rooted in the music of Carnaval, the affinity with samba is clear, but strains of Brazilian forro, Portuguese fado, the morna of Cape Verde, Argentine tango and early New Orleans jazz (Dixieland, minus the brass) are also audible. Woodwinds front the ensemble: clarinet, flute, and saxophone render the characteristic choro sound, melding with the miniature guitar-like cavaquinho, mandolin, piano, accordion, guitar, bass and a variety of percussion.

Cavaquinho master Paulinho da Viola is better known as a sambista, but he has led the recent choro revival in Brazil. For other aficionados, Waldir Azevedo defined cavaquinho style in a legacy of definitive choro compositions, including Pedacinho Do Céu and Delicado, heard here. If choro allows for less improvisation than samba or jazz, there is fluid virtuosity to spare in the work of classically trained pianists Radamés Gnattali and Roberto Szidon, clarinetist Severino Araújo, and mandolinists Déo Rian and Joel Nascimento. In more open, jazz-like settings, Severino Araújo and Os Chorőes (the studio-only supergroup) introduce muted brass and drums to subtle effect. Woodwind ace and prolific choro composer Abel Ferreira, who crafted his inimitable sound while backing celebrated sisters Carmen and Aurora Miranda, appears on six tracks, three with Os Chorőes. Finally, no choro overview could overlook saxophonist Pixinguinha, a looming presence in Brazilian music; many will recognize his Segura Ele and Lamento. This amply annotated compilation reveals the broad and charming range of choro, a genre that deserves a new generation of listeners outside of Brazil. - Michael Stone

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