On A History of Choro
, their first recorded collaboration, guitarist Rogério Souza, guitarist Edinho Gerber, and percussionist Ami Molinelli survey the musical history and evolution of choro, revealing its rhythmic and harmonic permutations and, in the process, create an album that is coherent in timbre and vision while marvelously varied in its nuances. According to Molinelli, “The intention for this album overall was to ensure that each song reflects a different musical style within the genre of choro and to showcase reinterpretations of more recognized tunes as well as lesser known compositions.”
The album’s 12 tracks present choro’s history in three blocks: the first representing the foundational block of the late 19th century through the first decade of the 20th century; the second representing the intermediate range of the music from 1910 through 1940; and the third representing the modern range from the 1940s through to the present day. Selections by composers such as Henrique Alves de Mesquita, Joaquim Callado (by all accounts the verified creator of both the choro style and name), Pixinguinha, Heitor Villa-Lobos, and Jacob do Bandolim, are here performed alongside original compositions by Souza and Molinelli.
“I met Rogério in 2015 when he was an instructor at California Brazil Camp. Soon after, my band Grupo Falso Baiano invited him and Edhino to do some shows as Duo Violão in California,” says Molinelli. “We did some West Coast dates, and those sparked an ongoing collaboration that included talk of an album that would present a track by track exploration of the various genres, rhythmic styles and elements of choro. Rogério said he already had material for a similar concept that he had been preparing for years, but with all the coordination and travel, it took us three years to receive a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission and record the album.”
The first single available from the album is Jacob Do Bandolim’s “Remelexo,” a Choro-Samba hybrid that doesn’t adhere to traditional choro form. Do Bandolim brought many samba influences into the music of choro and “Remelexo” is indeed more samba-swing than choro. The trio’s performance here is an accurate representation of the ways in which the genre continues to evolve, as Souza’s arrangement is a re-interpretation of Do Bandolim’s composition, which is already included in the ‘modern’ block.
The first and last tracks on the album—the Tango-Habanera “Ali Baba” written in 1872 and Molinelli’s Afro Choro “Cecelia no Choro,” written in 2018—provide a quick sense of the album’s trajectory and implications. The habanera rhythmic cell (which can be expressed as a 123-123-12 count across two measures) is the bedrock of several Afro-Atlantic genres that came out of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, including Cuban son and rumba, Argentine tango, Brazilian maxixe, lundu and choro—as well as strongly shaping U.S. ragtime, jazz and ultimately rock and roll. The trio’s rendition of “Ali Baba” revisits that moment when Brazilian musicians adopted the rhythmic cell of habanera and made it their own, blending it with local instruments and harmonic and compositional structures shaped by a Portuguese-Atlantic inheritance.
“Cecelia no Choro” explores the rhythmic feel of West African 12/8 bell and drum patterns that are represented throughout the African diaspora, including Brazil. “This particular choro,” explains Molinelli, is named after a West African woman, Cecelia, who was one of the first woman drummers and composers in Ghana. She fought to overcome cultural restrictions that had previously only allowed me to perform on the drums.”
Molinelli says that she is aware that there is a committed group and a growing American audience for choro and this album aims to highlight the nuances and evolution of the music. “We hope that this album serves as a contribution musically as well as a showcase for the various styles of choro,” she concludes. “When Grupo Falso Baiano formed in 2004/2005, there were a handful of choro groups in the US. That number has radically changed both here and throughout the world. I feel that this collaboration between me as an American, Rogério from Brazil and Edinho, who has lived in both the states and in Brazil, as well as the fantastic reception we’ve received on tours to the Southwest and Pacific Northwest reflects just how hungry people are to hear and learn about this music.”
Duo Violão + 1 will perform several shows in the Bay Area to showcase the music from the album, beginning with a CD release show on March 8 at The Sound Room in Oakland.
- March 8: The Sound Room, Oakland, CA
- March 9: Bird and Becket, San Francisco, CA
- March 10: California Conservatory of Jazz, San Francisco, CA workshop
- March 10: Timnatal
- March 13: San Francisco State, San Francisco, CA workshop and concert
- March 15: Old First Church Concerts, San Francisco, CA
- March 22: Community Music Center, San Francisco
- March 23: Maybeck Concert Hall, Berkeley, CA
- March 24: Community Music Center, San Francisco, CA Workshop
Special thanks to the San Francisco Arts Commission for their support.