World of Pixinguinha
Alfredo da Rocha Viana Jr., known to the world as Pixinguinha, pushed the boundaries of early-20th-century Brazilian choro, infusing it with ragtime and jazz and adding brass. Similarly, Brazilian bandolim player Hamilton de Holanda is redefining the context of his instrument as he explores and pays tribute to the legendary musician’s forward-looking aesthetic on World of Pixinguinha. Known for replacing the traditional eight-string bandolim for a customized 10-string version, de Holanda wears many hats beyond choro composer and interpreter. Much like Pixinguinha in his day, he is stirred by the possibilities that emerge when tradition is stylistically teased out of its corner — albeit with surgical precision — and collides with different realities.
On World of Pixinguinha, de Holanda’s polyphonic bandolim does just that, carrying melodies, rhythms and accompaniment single-handedly on his instrument, while engaging an eclectic mix of renowned jazzmen. The result is a stimulating take on Pixinguinha’s compositions, whereby individual sonic accents and sensibilities sculpt fresh sonorities. At times rhapsodic, in other moments delicate and stripped down, de Holanda is the quintessential master of ceremonies, laying down foundations on which the likes of Cuban pianists Omar Sosa and Chucho Valdés, trumpet titan Wynton Marsalis and French accordionist Richard Galliano are free to frolic.
“Um a Zero,” the crown jewel of the album, is a beguilingly brisk tit-for-tat between de Holanda and Marsalis, exuding charm and mischief. “Agradecendo,” a Gypsy jazz waltz, evokes a French bohemian ambience. Stefano Bollani tosses out dissonant chord clusters that crescendo on his piano in “Canção da Odalisca,” while de Holanda’s fado-inspired bandolim playing intricately weaves throughout. Valdés adds Cuban swagger on “Benguelê” as he volleys between calculated restraint and the loose cadence of tumbao. “Carinhoso” showcases Brazilians Odette Ernest Dias and Carlos Malta knitting diaphanously on flute and tenor sax, respectively, around de Holanda’s nimble finger-picking. It’s a beautiful end to an album brimming with elegance that does right by the master of many masters. —Lissette Corsa