Sentimental, sophisticated all-Brazilian music

Carlos Calado
The choro assembles European styles (like schottische, waltz, minuet and polka), popular Portuguese music and African music. In the beginning, it was only an emotive, weepy way of interpreting the melody, and the practitioners were called chorões (weepers). Choro was shaped as a style only on the first decade of the 20th century, but its history dates back to the mid-1800s. The abolishment of slave traffic, in 1850, fomented the emergence of middle-class urban populations (usually African descendants), who formed the audience for choro. Concerning music structure, a choro is usually divided into three parts, following the rondeau formula (always repeating the first part after playing each of the other parts).

Many musicians and composers contributed for the establishment of the style, like flute professor Joaquim Antonio da Silva Callado and conductor Chiquinha Gonzaga, the first pianist to play choro. Another pioneer was clarinetist and composer Anacleto de Medeiros, who made the first recording of choro. These early albums reveal that improvisation was not in the recipe of the style, then.

The works of Ernesto Nazareth are essential for the constitution of the choro language, ignoring the limits between popular and classical music. Composer of standards like Odeon, Apanhei-te Cavaquinho and Brejeiro, he also wrote Brazilian tangos and waltzes. Nazareth’s sophistication was so ahead of his time that his works were only incorporated to choro’s repertoires in the 40s and 50s, when Jacob do Bandolim and Garoto recorded his music.

Also regarded as a genius, Alfredo da Rocha Vianna Filho, or Pixinguinha, was essential to define choro’s final format. What he did was to blend Afro-Brazilian and rural music with choro’s polkas, tangos and schottische echoes. Pixinguinha and his back up band, Os Batutas, endured a six-month season in Paris in 1922, causing a fuss among the Brazilian press and musicians. Two of his innovative songs – Lamento and Carinhoso, both recorded in 1928 – were also unwelcome by the critics: instead of having two parts, they had three, and that was understood as an unacceptable influence from the jazz.

Another choro heavyweight, Jacob Pick Bittencourt, a.k.a. Jacob do Bandolim (Mandolin Jacob), was famous not only for being a virtuoso, but also for the musician meetings that he promoted, as well as the importance of his compositions, such as Remeleixo, Noites Cariocas and Doce de Coco. Fellow choro composer Waldir Azevedo overcame Jacob’s commercial achievements, tanks to his pioneering cavaquinho (tiny, 4-string acoustic guitar) skills and to the popular twist of his songs, like Brasileirinho, released in 1949.

Big band language
One of the best examples of the union between jazz and choro can be found in the works of maestro and arranger Severino Araújo (from Pernambuco, NE), who decided to adapt sambas and choros to the big band structure soon after moving to Rio in 1944. Leader of the Tabajara Orchestra, he recorded many of his own choros, like Espinha de Bacalhau and Um Chorinho na Aldeia. Maestro Radamés Gnattali is another brilliant follower of the fusion of choro and jazz, having worked with excellent musicians like guitarists Bola Sete, Laurindo de Almeida and Garoto. But Gnattali deepened his jazzy approach to choro with two saxophonists: Zé Bodega and Paulo Moura, whose repertoire is partly dedicated to choro.

Rio de Janeiro is the definitive capital of choro, but not because musicians would lack brilliancy in other parts of the country, although all of them would have to head to Rio sooner or later. That was the case with guitarist João Pernambuco, who traded the northeast for the southeast in 1904, and whose technique was so remarkable that he still has a following to this day. Also coming from the northeast, saxophonist Severino de Carvalho, a.k.a. Ratinho, left Paraíba for Rio in 1922. Luís Americano came from Sergipe (NE) to play the clarinet and saxophone with pianist and maestro Radamés Gnattali in the 20s and 30s. Mandolin expert Luperce Miranda, from Pernambuco, played cavaquinho, and settled in Rio in 1928. Also remarkable is Francisco Soares de Araújo, a.k.a. Canhoto da Paraíba, a left-handed guitarist/composer that does not switch the strings’ positions, in the best Jimi Hendrix fashion.

São Paulo was also a center for the development of choro, and home of exquisite guitarists like Armandinho Neves, Antônio Rago and specially, Aníbal Augusto Sardinha, a.k.a. Garoto. The latter was a true virtuoso who accompanied Carmem Miranda in the U.S. in 1939. The straight contact he had with jazz, then, influenced his works, including his choros, which today are played by guitarists around the globe.

Artists like Paulinho da Viola and the groups Época de Ouro and Novos Baianos helped resurrect the style in the 70s. New groups and clubs appeared across the country. The newfound interest also favored the re-discovery of veteran musicians like Altamiro Carrilho, Copinha and Abel Ferreira, besides revealing new talents like Joel Nascimento and Déo Rian. The most magnificent newcomer was guitarist Rafael Rabello, who died in 1995 at the age of 32, but left an extensive amount of recordings.

In the 80s, new musical connections were made with choro. Groups like Camerata Carioca and Orquestra de Cordas Brasileiras would mix in Bach, Vivaldi, Villa-Lobos and contemporary tangos by Astor Piazzolla. On the other hand, influential composers/writers like Paulinho da Viola, Chico Buarque and Hermeto Pascoal started flirting with the style. In the past decade, choro was once again revived, this time by the hand of guitarist/composer Guinga, allied with veteran writer Aldir Blanc. Rildo Hora (harmonica), Nailor Proveta Azeveto (clarinet/saxophone), Antônio Carlos Carrasqueira and Dirceu Leitte (flute) are some of the musicians who currently add a considerable amount of choro to their repertoires.



Corta-Jaca (Chiquinha Gonzaga) – Abel Ferreira
Brejeiro (Ernesto Nazaré) – Regional de Evandro
Apanhei-te Cavaquinho (E. Nazaré) – Arthur Moreira Lima
Carinhoso (Pixinguinha e João de Barro) – Orlando Silva
Tico-tico no Fubá (Zequinha de Abreu) – Dominguinhos
Lamentos (Pixinguinha) – Paulo Moura
Um a Zero (Pixinguinha) – O Trio
Vou Vivendo (Pixinguinha e Benedito Lacerda) – Pixinguinha e B. Lacerda
Tristezas de Um Violão (Garoto) – Paulo Belinatti
Espinha de Bacalhau (Severino Araújo) – Orquestra Tabajara
Remexendo (Radamés Gnattali) – Radamés Gnatalli
Suíte Retratos (Radamés Gnattali) – Chiquinho do Acordeon e Rafael Rabello
Noites Cariocas (Jacob do Bandolim) – Jacob do Bandolim
Doce de Coco (Jacob do Bandolim) – Jacob do Bandolim
Na Glória (Raul de Barros e Ary dos Santos) – Raul de Barros
Chorando Baixinho (Abel Ferreira) – Abel Ferreira
Fogo na Roupa (Altamiro Carrilho) – Altamiro Carrilho
Brasileirinho (Waldir Azevedo) – Waldir Azevedo
Visitando o Recife (Canhoto da Paraíba) – Canhoto da Paraíba
Cheio de Dedos (Guinga) – Guinga