Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ukulele Magic - Sweet Hollywaiians

CD front, Sweet Strings Rec. R-1360463
According to several sources, in his later career Oscar Alemán always had his cavaquinho with him in his live stage shows and played his "O.A. 1926" as a solo piece as part of the show. Some unissued Argentine recordings of his live-performance of this tune have been saved, here's the best and most elaborte arrangement from a radio broadcast c. 1955

The "O.A.1926" was recorded as a magnificient solo piece for ukulele by the Dutch string wizard, Ton Van Bergeyk, in 1976 for the Kicking Mule label titled 'Anno 1926', his version is close to the inserted, broadcasted take by Alemán himself. If you look up other versions of the tune at YouTube, you'll discover other versions by uke-players, one of best and most swinging is by a Japanese uke-wizard, Mario Takada, in a solo performance inserted below

Mario Takada is a member of the Sweet Hollywaiians string quartet from Osaka, Japan, specializing in 1920s and 1930s Hawaiian, swing, calypso, Italian instrumentals etc. and having released four CDs since 2008. A website introducing more info about this fabulous ensemble is available here - and the recordings are available from Amazon or/and CDBaby.

Sweet Hollywaiians
Last year the Sweet Hollywaiians has released a new short CD solely devoted to ukulele tunes, Magic Ukulele Waltz - containing most enjoyable playing and great tunes. The CD has an ensemble-version of "O.A. 1926" and a great version of GB Lobo's waltz "Criollita" plus five more excellently played tunes.

Magic Ukulele Waltz, Sweet Strings Rec., R-1360463
The CD is available for purchase here.  - As mentioned, the waltz "Criollita" by Gastón Bueno Lobo is also featured on the CD, a YouTube video by Mario Takada has the tune in a similar version, although a bit short, anyway, here it is

The title track of the CD, "Magic Ukulele Waltz", was originally composed by Roy Smeck and recorded at his Magic Ukulele LP album, since re-issued on CD. To end this small presentation of the mentioned ukulele CD by Sweet Hollywaiians, here is Mario Takada's version of the Magic Ukulele Waltz - enjoy!


If you are a fan of the Japanese string ensemble, Sweet Hollywaiians, then the latest CD with the title Magic Ukulele Waltz definitly should be a part of your collection of great music. The CD has seven tracks of excellently played tunes with the ukulele in front backed by the ensemble, the repertoire has new versions of classic swing tunes and a couple of waltzes - every track is a sheer joy to be listening to. - Highly recommended!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Record Debut of Laurindo Almeida

Laurindo Almeida
Choro, samba and other popular music genres of Brazil often seem to be categorized as 'Latin', when you browse through career profiles of artists in various sources available at the web or in short articles in printed books designated to give an overview of the musical background of a certain artist. This procedure seems to be the norm regarding musicians having their main career in jazz or popular music in the USA, however, the word 'Latin' does not state the tradition of the various musical sources supposed to be contained in the concept - in short, the 'Latin'-word is unclear and without a precise meaning, making the word easy to use by journalistst and writers appealing to a public more interested in the colour of the underwear of the artist than the musical background.

I was reminded of this, when I tried to look up information in English about the early career of Laurindo Almeida (1917-1995), the well-known Brazilian guitarist having his main career in the USA. In the general comprehension, Almeida is known as a 'Latin' guitar player, who had his breakthrough in the USA late 1940s as a member of Stan Kenton's big band, later in the 1950s he would be the first to inspire jazzmusicans to be interested in Brazilian music styles through a co-operation with Bud Shank, with whom Almeida made some now famous recordings in 1951,introducing 'jazz samba' to an American public. When Almeida moved permanently to the USA mid-1950s, his career spanned both jazz, classical and popular music - his work as a composer, arranger and guitarist during his American career is impressive, he made more than 800 compositions and participated in a great number of recordings - info about this chapter of his career is easily found in articles written in English. Anyway, here I like to put some focus on his early career in Brazil by pointing to his first recording under his own name, made 1938.

Laurindo Almeida (1917-1995)
Laurindo de Almeida was born 1917 in a small town in the state of São Paulo as a member of a large musical family. His father held an occupation as a railroad worker, but spent his leisure time as an amateur musician participating in serestas (- in English: serenade sessions). His mother was an amateur pianist, who taught Laurindo the basics of music, and a sister taught him to play the guitar in secret, an instrument he was attracted to already as a kid. At the age of 12 he would accompany his father and brothers in the serestas, by 15 he moved to São Paulo to seek his fortune as a musician and to take part in the political riots of the city. In 1932, he met and got aquainted with Garoto (Anibal Augusto Sardinha) while staying at a hospital, and they would later become partners, when Laurindo moved to Rio de Jainero and in 1936 joined as a staff musician at Rádio Mayrink Veiga. Garoto and Laurindo worked together as studio musicians accompanying various popular artist of the time, i.e. Carmen Miranda, and they also recorded together as a duo accompanying other vocalists and instrumentalists.

Laurindo Almeida and Garoto in Rádio Mayrink Veiga studio, c.1936-37
(photo courtesy by Jorge Carvalho de Mello)
Together with guitarist Gastón Bueno Lobo and Garoto Laurindo had success with programs at Rádio Mayrink Veiga performing as Conjunto Hawaiano for some time, displaying a string ensemble influenced by the Hawaiian way of playing the (slide) guitar, probably inspired by the experience of Gastón Bueno Lobo, who had had success playing the Hawaiian slide guitar with Oscar Alemán in Argentina and Europe some years earlier in the Les Loups duo. In 1938, Laurindo and GB Lobo had a co-work as composers of the choro Inspiracão, which was recorded for Odeon on a 78 rpm with GB Lobo playing the lead on Hawaiian guitar accompanied by Laurindo on guitar and Tute, seven string guitar. 

The flip-side of this record (Odeon, 11649-A) contains the first recorded solo by Laurindo Almeida under his own name of his composition Saudade que passa, a waltz that reflects the tradition of choro as the background of Laurindo Almeida's musical language.

The inspiration from choro is also very significant in Almeida's later work, here's an example of a solo version of his composition Braziliance to end this intro to Almeida's mostly unknown record debut in Brazil - enjoy!


Laurindo Almeida is a well known Brazilian guitarist who had his main career in USA both as a composer, jazz guitarist and as a performer of classical guitar music. However, in general reference literature in English there is generally not much information about his early career in Brazil. This entry sets focus on his debut recording under his own name made 1938 in Brazil.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In Memory of Jacob do Bandolim (1918 - 1969)

Jacob do Bandolim
Jacob Pick Bittencourt - better known as Jacob do Bandolim - was born February 14, 1918, in Rio de Janeiro and passed away August 13, 1969, Rio de Janeiro. Jacob do Bandolim is one of the most important figures in Brazilian choro, and he has left a legacy of recordings and more than 100 compositions which will secure him a place among the best and most respected Brazilian musicians forever. He had his nickname after the instrument he devoted his musical skills - the bandolim is the Brazilian issue of the mandolin, - and he was the originator of a way of playing the bandolim, which has been adopted by countless other bandolinistas in Brazil and elsewhere. Jacob do Bandolim had a profound impact on generations of choro musicians - not only through his work as a musician and composer, but also as a researcher of choro and as a radio and TV host of programs devoted to choro and live performance by both amateurs and professional musicians excelling in this kind of music and related genres. Further, Jacob do Bandolim also arranged informal choro gatherings ( - rodas de choro) at his home and invited special guests to participate and help refining, sharing and evolving musical ideas, a tireless and demanding effort that at times would last for days and nights. All this work was a full time job, nevertheless Jacob do Bandolim had to support his financial income through a 'day job' as an insurance agent or street vendor until the State Govenment secured him employment as a civil servant with a steady income towards the end of his life. Jacob do Bandolim was a victim of a heart attack on August 13, 1969, he died on his way home from a visit to Pixinguinha's house where he had discussed and planned new musicial projects with his mentor and friend. - A more detailed profile of Jacob do Bandolim's career is available here and the official website in Portuguese devoted to everything regarding Jacob do Bandolim can be reached here.

Jacob do Bandolim, c. 1950
Jacob do Bandolim recorded his first session featuring César Faria e seu conjunto in October 1947, only two sides were recorded and released on a 78 rpm disc. A choro by Jacob, Treme-treme, was on the A-side

In 1951 Jacob do Bandolim started recording for RCA and was backed by musicians, who had been members of flutist Benedito Lacerda's ensemble, now lead by the cavaquinho player of the grounp called Regional do Canhoto

Jacob and Regional do Canhoto, 1950s
In 1951 Jacob recorded his choro Doce de coco with Regional do Canhoto, a composition that since has been part of the standard choro repertoire

Jacob recorded several sessions with Regional do Canhoto from 1951 to 1961, in 1957 he recorded the choro Noites Cariocas, an all-time hit since then associated with Jacob and the nightlife of Rio

In 1965 Jacob formated his most famous group, Epoca de Ouro, featuring members that had backed him since start of the 1960s under other names such as Jacob e seus chorões and Jacob e seu regional

Jacob and Epoca de Ouro, 1960s
Jacob and Epoca de Ouro had their greatest success with the 1967 recording of the RCA LP-album titled Vibrações, the title track of this album is another choro by Jacob, which forever is associated with him and the spirit of Brazilian choro

After Jacob do Bandolim's untimely death in 1969 the Epoca de Ouro ensemble dissolved, but the group reunited in 1973 and had a profound impact on the revival of choro in Brazil during the 1970s. The Epoca de Ouro is still an active choro ensemble today with new members in the group taking over and continuing a tradition and reliving a body of musical works associated with Jacob do Bandolim and his legacy.


Jacob do Bandolim is a name and figure in Brazilian popular music, who is closely associated with his instrument and the choro music tradition. Jacob do Bandolim sat new standards both regarding the consept of playing  the bandolim and in choro music history. It is now 45 years since Jacob's untimely death, but his legacy lives on and is taken good care of by countless followers of the tradition he initiated, not only in Brazil but worldwide. This entry gives a short view of some of Jacob do Bandolim's recorded musical highlights through his career.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Revival of a Tradition

Some years ago a New Orleans string band tradition that went back to the early days of jazz and beyond was rediscovered.

6 & 7/8s Stringband of New Orleans :  Bill Kleppinger (mandolin), Bernie Shields (haw 
guitar), Frank 'Red' Mackie (string bass), Edmond 'Doc' Souchon (guitar) ( Photo courtesy by Rick Mackie)

The Six and Seven Eights Stringband of New Orleans was a unique example of the New Orleans string band tradition thanks mainly to the fact that documentation and recordings of the ensemble existed and have been re-issued properly in recent years. The 6 & 7/8s stringband played original New Orleans jazz and popular tunes from the dawn of the 20th century on mandolin, guitar, stringbass and hawaiian guitar and sounded like this

Recently, while browsing a streaming audio service I found out that the New Orleans string band tradition is still kept alive by a group of New Orleans musicians headed by guitarist Seva Venet

Seva Venet
( photo by Zack Smith,
I listened to a CD with the title Seva Venet Presents The Storyville Stringband of New Orleans that was recorded live at a concert at The Pavillion of The Two Sisters, New Orleans in September 2009 and released on disc the following year.

CD front: Seva Venet Presents The Storyville Stringband of New Orleans
The CD contains eleven selected recordings from the live-concert (see tracklist at Venet's website) and the music performed is mainly traditional New Orleans jazz tunes played by an ensemble of various string instruments. Participating musicians are: Seva Venet (ldr, National steel guitar), John Parker (rhythm guitar, vocal), Matt Rhodie (mandolin, violin), Lars Edegran (tenor resonator guitar), Kerry Lewis (double bass) and Steve Blailock (electric guitar). The music reflects the style and consept of playing traditional New Orleans tunes on string instruments as documented by the 6 & 7/8 Stringband, however, the Storyville Stringband adds an up-to-date touch by including electric guitar in this live-performance. The first track of the CD, the band's version of Jazz Me Blues, has been uploaded by Seva Venet as acompanying audio in a YouTube video showing historic footage from Storyville, New Orleans

Last year Seva Venet released another CD featuring the Storyville Stringband titled My Bayou Home, this time a studio recording from May 2012 and with a few changes in participating musicians.

CD front: My Bayou Home
The CD contains fourteen tracks, eleven of them are original compositions by Seva Venet, two are Hawaiian tunes (Song of The Islands and the traditional Wela-Ka-Hao) and finally a traditional New Orleans song, Old Green River, known from the repertoire of the 6 & 7/8s Stringband. The compositions by Venet fit perfectly in as contemporary examples of the various influences that are combined in traditional New Orleans popular music, some of them flavoured with a Caribbean or latin 'tinge', others with a second-line brass band feeling transformed by acoustic string instruments. Every tune is performed with vigor and enthusiasm showing off a deep love and understanding of the roots and branches of New Orleans traditional music.

The Storyville Stringband of New Orleans
(photo by Zack Smith,
The participating musicians on the CD are: Seva Venet (ldr, National steel guitar, acoustic guitar, banjo, vocal), John Parker (rhtyhm guitar, vocal), Matt Rhodie (violin, mandolin), Sammy Rimington (banjo/mandolin), Lars Edegran (National triolian tenor guitar) and Jesse Boyd (double bass). Guest performer Greg Stafford (not on photo above) contributes vocals on the first track titled Downtown 2nd-line, an original composition and lyrics by Seva Venet.

The CD and the aforementioned live recording are both available for purchase at Amazon or CD Baby.

The Storyville Stringband was presented in a live-performance at Louisiana Music Factory March 2013 and part of the show was recorded and uploaded at YouTube. The band this time was a quartet composed of Matt Rhodie (mandolin), Jesse Boyd (double bass), Seva Venet (National steel guitar, vocal) and John Parker (rhythm guitar, vocal)


Guitarist and music researcher Seva Venet founded The Storyville Stringband of New Orleans in 2006, the band is inspired by the tradition documented by the famous 6 & 7/8s Stringband of N.O. and has revived this original string band tradition in live performance and recordings. The Storyville Stringband has released two CDs showcasting a broad repertoire of traditional New Orleans music including original compositions by Seva Venet performed on various string instruments by the ensemble. Every tune is played with vigor and enthusiasm showing off a deep love and understanding of the roots and branches of New Orleans traditional music. Highly recommended.

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