Trio Madeira Brasil
Recorded 1998. Kuarup Discos.
Choro is instrumental music – the long, flowing melodic lines are played by a flute or mandolin, in a group which has a cavaquinho and guitars, as well as rhythm from a pandeiro. When choro turns to samba, the group may be augmented by more percussion instruments – and a lead singer (although several of the instrumentalists may sing along as well). But if we reduce the group playing choro, to make a sort of erudite chamber choro group, then we come to the Trio Madeira Brasil.
The Trio Madeira Brasil is made up of Ronaldo do Bandolim, who plays the mandolin, Zé Paulo Becker, who plays a normal 6-string guitar, and Marcello Gonçalves, playing the 7-string guitar. These are all un-amplified string instruments: the mandolin is high-pitched – four basic notes G, D, A, E with double strings – and a rounded sounding box. It is used for playing the melodic line in a sequence of single notes, hardly ever for chords. The 6-string guitar has more freedom, playing strummed chords, broken chords, and melodic lines, sometimes with the mandolin, sometimes alone. The 7-string guitar has an extra bass string, and this is used to anchor the harmonic structure, and play little fill-in phrases which lead from one part to another of the melody, as well as playing the chords and interchanges with the other guitar.The Trio are obviously outstanding instrumentalists, each one a virtuoso on his instrument. However, when you listen to them, you might think it were one instrument, such is their degree of cohesion. There seems to be a unity of musical spirit which gets them moving together – and one has to listen closely to pick out who is doing what. On their site www.triomadeirabrasil.com.br there is, on the Imagens page, a video showing them playing the first track on the CD. Interesting!
Of the 14 pieces on the CD “Trio Madeira Brasil”, the first two and last two are what we would expect from a choro group – a fast-flowing melodic line, and a strong rhythmic impulse. Here is the start of the second – Agüenta Seu Fulgêncio:
But the other tracks step outside this convention. Four are arrangements of pieces by Ernesto Nazareth, who was a popular pianist who lived (in Rio) from 1863 to 1934. His most famous job was to play in the foyer of the Odeon Cinema, though he later went to the Teatro Carlos Gomes, where he would demonstrate piano music and play his own compositions. He is described with some irony as “the Brazilian Chopin” – his music has nice melodies and harmonic changes, and strong syncopation in various characteristic rhythms. These compositions are played by the Trio with the melody alternating between mandolin and guitar, while the 7-string guitar plays the runs and chords of the pianist’s left hand. This is part of Guerreiro:
Other tracks include a nice setting of As Vitrines, by Chico Buarque, where the theme is played with unusual melodiousness for plucked instruments, one from Scott Joplin played like ragtime, and some tricky rhythms in Loro (Egberto Gismonti) and Corrupião (Edu Lobo). Here is part of Corrupião:
At times, too we are reminded of Flamenco guitar, as in Danza de la Vida Breve by de Falla.
The last track is Pixinguinha’s Um a Zero:
Unlike some of the other CDs I have commented on, this one is really very easy to get hold of. It was recently re-issued – go to www.kuarup.com.br and look for Trio Madeira Brasil among the artists listed on the right-hand side. Do your internet shopping, pay the modest price by credit card, and it arrives by post in short order! This is very competent work by an instrumental group playing good arrangements of pleasant music – and so (no big emotions this time)….