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Moacir Santos: Choros y Alegria

Tomas Pena By

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In 2002, music critic Ben Ratliff listed Coisas (2002) in the New York Times Essential Library's 100 Most Important Recordings. He posed this question: "Why is this man not famous? Ratliff was alluding to the fact that little was known about Santos' vast body of work, despite the fact that he is regarded by many critics and researchers as one of the most important and innovative artists in the history of Brazilian music. Thanks to the efforts of Adventure Music, the music of Moacir Santos is currently experiencing a resurgence.

Santos was born in 1926 in the back country of Pernambuco, Brazil. At the age of two, he was mimicking local bands, and by his teens he had mastered a variety of wind instruments to such a degree that he traveled with ensembles as a professional musician. During the 1950s, Santos settled in Rio De Janeiro, where he worked on National Radio for nineteen years, in addition to teaching music to artists like Sergio Mendes and others. In the '70s, Santos garnered international acclaim for the soundtrack to the film Amor No Pacifico. The movie premiere prompted his visit to the US and consequently his decision to stay there. After relocating, he quickly found work as a ghost writer in the Hollywood film industry and recorded three albums for Blue Note Records: Maestro (1972), which was nominated for a Grammy, followed by Saudade and Carnival. All three are currently out of print. Over the years Santos continued to compose while teaching piano, organ, and on occasion even slide trombone.

Choros y Alegria is the followup to last year's highly acclaimed Ouro Negro, a two-disc set that featured an all-star cast and revisited many of Santos' original compositions. The recording was highly touted by critics and fans alike, appearing on quite a few critics' year-end best lists. Choros y Alegria, which features fifteen never-performed compositions by Santos, is one of a number of upcoming projects in the works to honor Santos' upcoming 80th birthday.

In Portugese, the word "choros means "weeping or "crying, although choros is also an instrumental musical form that is characterized (in part) by improvisation, virtuosity, and usually one or more soloists. Santos takes the concept of choro one step further by applying the formula to a big band setting. Put another way, Santos uses a big band the way a painter uses a brush, painting broad or delicate strokes as the mood strikes. More importantly, at its core, his music speaks to the heart and soul of Afro Brazil.

If you're expecting to hear typical samba and bossa nova here, think again. Santos' large ensemble fuses innovative arrangements with native Brazilian rhythms and American jazz in an exciting, unpredictable manner. Better yet, the highly recommended Choros y Alegria makes for an excellent introduction to the music of Moacir Santos.


Track Listing: Now I Know; Another Thing; Paradise; Vain; Flowers; Longing for Jacques; Cleonix; Ricaom;From Bahia to Ceara; Excerpt No. 1; The Lemurians; Route; Lovers Samba; Merry-Go-Round; Felipe.

Personnel: Moacir Santos; Wynton Marsalis; Mario Adnet; Ze Noguerra; Ricardo Silveira; Cristovao Bastos; Armando Marcal; Teco Cardoso; Proveta; Trio Madera Brasil; and others.

Title: Choros y Alegria | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Adventure Music

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