Mike Marshall & Choro Famoso
Segunda Vez (Second Time)
Adventure Music, AM1090 2, (2014)

CD Review by Hermon Joyner


Through much of Mike Marshall’s career, he has demonstrated an interest in Brazilian choro music. He has done albums with Hamilton de Holanda, Jovino Santos Neto, and many other Brazilian musicians. He also did his first recording with Choro Famoso in 2004 and now 10 years later we have a followup album entitled, Segunda Vez, or Second Time. As noted in the liner notes, choro is now over 140 years old and remains a vital musical genre embraced by a new generation of young musicians in Brazil and all over the world. It’s no longer just a regional music, it is now a global movement, and Mike Marshall shares some of the responsibility for that growing awareness and popularity. Through his own recordings and the efforts of his record label, Adventure Music, he has helped put choro out into the world.

Marshall plays the mandolin, of course, and he is joined by three equally virtuosic musicians: Andy Connell on clarinet and soprano saxophone, Colin Walker on seven-string guitar, and Brian Rice on pandiero and other percussion. Marshall’s approach to playing is as fine as ever, though he varies his tone and technique on some of the tracks to come closer to the sound characteristics of the traditional Brazilian mandolin or bandolim. But on plenty of the other tunes, his tone is as rich and deep as ever, and his facility of technique is breathtakingly flawless, as well. Time and time again, Marshall demonstrates that he is one of the finest mandolin players alive today.

He shares the melodic duties with Connell, whose clarinet delivers in turn hooting, driving rhythms and soaring, gossamer runs. Connell is more than a match for Marshall and brings a near jazz feel to the music, though the clarinet is as much a part of choro as the mandolin is. Some of my favorite moments in this recording are when both Marshall and Connell share the melody, either in harmony or in unison. Colin Walker and Brian Rice function as the rhythmic and harmonic foundation of the music and they both perform perfectly in that role, though the occasional bass run of notes from Walker is especially thrilling.

The choice of music encompasses the history of choro, from Ernesto Nazareth’s 1913 “Tenebroso” to Mauricio Carrilho’s 2002 “Alumiando.” And one of my favorite Brazilian composers makes the cut as well, Moacir Santos, with two of his tunes, “Flores” and “Paraiso.” And it wouldn’t be a choro album featuring mandolin without Jacob de Bandolim, so three of his tunes are included here. In fact, this album both opens and closes with compositions from Jacob, which seems entirely fitting. It is because of the breath and diversity of tunes that Secunda Vez functions really well as an introduction to Brazilian choro. If you are, like me, a big fan of Mike Marshall, then that is as good a reason as any to pick up this album, but if you love choro, then this is a must-have recording. Secunda Vez is a fabulous experience and I can only give it my highest recommendation. This is one of the best recordings of the year.

Song List: Bole Bole; Simplicidade; Alumiando; E Do Que Ha; Mistura e Manda; Sensivel; Queira-me Bem; Sete Estrelas; Murmurando; Uma Noite no Sumare; Paraiso; Tenebroso; Evocacao de Jacob; Flores; Cine Baronesa; Sonhando; Bola Preta.