Sometimes a single form or idea can yield a broad range of interpretations and a surprising number of results. Pianist Tord Gustavsen, on Changing Places , examined a particular tempo and mood, investigating the subdivisions within, while trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, on Soul of Things professed each movement to be a different view of the same song. Mike Marshall and his group Choro Famoso (well, actually two groups) mines the depths of the Brazilian choro and comes up with an album, Mike Marshall & Choro Famoso , that demonstrates how far-reaching a single concept can be.
While there are two ensembles on the recording, the essential make-up is the same: mandolin, guitar, clarinet/saxophone and percussion. While the clarinet is not a typical instrument in some forms of Brazilian music it is common in the choro form and thus fits in well, contributing to the organic texture of the group, sharing solo and thematic duties with Marshall’s mandolin.
Much like Marshall’s previous album, Serenata: The Music of Hermeto Pascoal , Marshall has taken the subject matter and given it a smoother veneer, meaning that while this is clearly folk-based as is the traditional form, all the rough edges have been removed and the arrangements more precise. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; despite its light-weight approach the players are both capable and informed, and the record maintains its authenticity.
Marshall, known best for his groundbreaking “newgrass” work with David Grisman, chamber-folk work with Montreux and genre-busting group Psychograss, reigns in his virtuoso capabilities for the most part, although there is more fire here than there was on Serenata. On up-tempo tracks including “Noites Cariocas” and “Um Abraço Seu Domingos” he brings a certain sense of joy, never losing sight of their essence. “Choro Negro” shows his tender side, with trills and delicate tremolos coaxing the tender beauty of the piece.
An easy-going and playful record, Mike Marshall & Choro Famoso is another recording from Adventure Music with the goal of bringing acoustic Brazilian music to a larger audience. With engaging records like this one, they are clearly on the road to success.
Visit Mike Marshall and Adventure Music on the web.
Personnel: Mike Marshall (Mandolin), Carlos Oliveira (nylon string guitar), Andy Connell (clarinet, soprano sax), Michael Spiro (percussion), Brian Rice (percussion)