View Full Version : Choro
I'm learning to play a song call "Iara" which is a lovely choro I found on Marilynn Mair's web site. It got me to wondering, what defines a choro? You often hear people like Mike Marshall introduce a song with "and now for a choro by so-and-so" but after hearing several from different composers, I'm not sure I can tell what distinguishes them as a genre or style.
Can anyone enlighten me on this?
Lovely music! Be careful, if you get to close you'll be chronically affected by the Choro bug like the rest of us!
Thanks for the link -- very informative. #My teacher and I worked on "Iara" last night. #He's mainly a bluegrass guitarist (though no slouch on the mandolin) and he loved it. #Maybe once we get that one under our belts we'll tackle some others. I see that there are a bunch of choro on the MandoZine site. Are there any you might recommend for someone at an intermediate playing level? Are there other good print sources of choro?
Try Desvairado. It is available in the Tabledit files on co-mando.com.
You can hear Chris Thile and Mike Marshall play it on Into the Cauldren and I think Grisman does a version on one of the Tone Poems CDs.
Choro is incredibly soulful, and technically fascinating stuff. I love Atrevido, and Fla Flu is a nice challenge (both at Mandozine). Desvairado is WAY too tough for me (lots of triplets of 1/16th notes...) but sure is a beaut.
Once you get those down I would recomend looking into purchasing one of the three choro brasileiro volumes from Luzo Brazil... There's enought in one book to keep a person busy for a while.
Great Link Ted. poor guy, I bet a year from now almost all of the tunes he plays will be AABBACCA.
Don't let the triplets prevent you from playing Desvairado. Just play it lots slower. You will be supprised at how quickly your hands will start to memorize the patterns they have to play. I don't play terribly fast but after playing the first of 3 sections every day for a couple of weeks it is starting to come together. Even played slowly (sometimes painfully slowly) this is a beautiful melody.
I bet a year from now almost all of the tunes he plays will be AABBACCA.
Yeah, John. Wasn't that a Beach Boys tune?
"Help me Rondo, help me get her out of my heart..."
Here's my non-technical, non-academic take on choro from what I've played and listened to. Call it choro Cliff Notes if you wish. First off, it's my opinion this music was originally created for dance. I call it fiddle tunes on steroids. AABB is common, but AABBAACC and other forms. Lots of use of diminished chords, lots of tension, lots of key changes and complex chordal arrangements. Common theme is minor to major or vice versa. The melodies are recognizable and typically followed but there's room for interpretation--similar to fiddle tunes. Where they leave fiddle style music is the common use of rich key changes, diminished chord use and chord forms more common to jazz such as II-V-I, etc. Most introductions to this style are via Jacob do Bandolim who I'd liken to the Brazilian Jethro Burns. We can thank Acoustic Disc for really propelling him as a household name in the mandolin community with the Jacob releases.
The real father I believe is considered a (surprise!) black horn player that went by the name Pixinguinha (peesh-in-gee-uh) who died in 1973. He was a real innovator who combined early jazz with latin folk styles and local rhythms. Easy to find pix of him on the web but I'll post one below. There are entire CDs of his compositions and Jacob played quite a few of them in addition to composing his own. I have one of those CDs and it's brilliant. The guy was a genius.
Although this music is played by mandolin players, much of it is orchestra music and doesn't even have a mandolin. Lots of trombones, saxes, etc. Jacob obviously didn't fit that mold. It's still an underground style in Brazil in my mind, much like jazz mandolin. Sure, there are people playing it but if you went to Brazil and asked someone on the street about choro you'd likely get a dumb stare. I travelled in Brazil in the early 1990s after hearing some of this via a bootleg tape from John Reischman and some stuff from a local Brazilian friend and after much searching finally found two guys playing a few choro pieces on guitars at a hotel bar in Iguazu Falls, which is a long, long way from civilization.
Brilliant music, perfect fit for mandolin and sort of a natural evolution if you're travelling the fiddle tune highway and would like to explore some jazz.
I've searched for Pixinguinha cd's on Amazon and such, but all I found were tribute to... and imports. What would be a recomendation for Pix?
Still have any of those bootlegs? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
Here are a couple of sites with information about choro music and recordings.
The Brazil Sound site lists several Pixinguinha CDs and includes links for purchasing them (through Amazon, oddly enough). The Pixinguinha discs might be listed under his given name of Alfredo da Rocha Vianna, Jr.
In my mind the choro form and style is a kind of Brazilian equivalent to classic ragtime music. Both form a kind of stylistic bridge between folk music and jazz. The structures of the music are very similar--typically AABBACCA--and the delicate balance between familiar melodic lines and demanding--almost classical--technique are similar, too.
Marilyn Mair's site has a nice article she wrote about choro with some links to additional resources.
Choro resources are still a little obscure, but far better than the fourth-generation tapes and raggedly photocopies of lead sheets that we were swapping back in the '70s.