Rio Con Brio

Rio Con Brio captivates audiences around the country with their intimate performance of the beautiful and esoteric Brazilian repertoire known as choro, the early 20th Century street music of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Influenced by equal parts Afro-Brazilian rhythms and the contemporary cafe music of Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, choro is both exotic and familiar, evoking in turn the carnival of Rio and the cafes of Paris.

Guitarist Mike Burdette and mandolinist Tim Connell exhibit finesse and passion in their playing, while displaying a sincere love of the choro repertoire and connection to their audience. An evening with Rio Con Brio is a delightful tour of European and New World music as experienced by the mandolin and guitar and as told by two soulful, intelligent, modern musicians – a beautiful intersection of Brazilian rhythm, classical technique and jazz improvisation.

Visit to learn more about Rio Con Brio.


Program Notes by Tim Connell

I formed Rio Con Brio with Mike Burdette eight years ago as a way to explore my new (and ongoing) obsession with the fascinating music of Brazil "choro" (pronounced "show-rue").  I first heard the music of Jacob do Bandolim while I was a student at New England Conservatory - an intuitive classmate saw my mandolin case and handed me two cassette tapes full of Brazilian mandolin music - Jacob's iconic recordings with Época de Ouro from the 1950's and 1960's.  

I fell instantly in love with this music - a groovy folky style, but with all of the harmonies and melodic fun of the ragtime piano pieces I had played as a child.  Years later I finally met musicians who could play this stuff, and play it at an extremely high level: Brazilians Danilo Brito, Hamilton de Holanda, Dudu Maia, Almir Cortes, and Americans Eva Scow, Ted Falcon, Jesse Appleman, Mike Marshall.  I dove deeply into learning this music, and have only scratched the surface at this point - choro is a deep well of gorgeous, intelligent compositions, fascinating groove and rhythmic play, subtle, melody-based improvisation and a looseness based on communication between musicians.

In lieu of individual song information, what follows is information about Jacob do Bandolim, Pixinguinha and Ernesto Nazareth, three of the greatest composers and performers of choro, and the primary composers of our CMSA sets.

Jacob do Bandolim, born Jacob Pick Bittencourt (December 14, 1918 – August 13, 1969) transformed the Italian-influenced style of Brazilian mandolin masters such as Luperce Miranda into a quirky, lyrical and deeply personal style of expression which continues to influence younger generations of choro mandolinists.

A perfectionist and devoted archivist of choro music, Jacob and his group Época de Ouro sought the highest levels of quality.  He required commitment and impeccable dress from his musicians who, like himself, all held "day jobs." Jacob worked as a pharmacist, insurance salesman, street vendor, and finally notary public, to support himself while also working full time as a musician.

In addition to his virtuoso playing, he is famous for his many choro compositions, which range from the lyrical melodies of "Noites Cariocas", "Receita de Samba" and "Vibraçoes" to the aggressively jazzy "Assanhado", which is reminiscent of bebop. He also researched and attempted to preserve the older choro tradition, as well as that of other Brazilian music styles.

Pixinguinha, born Alfredo da Rocha Viana, Jr. (April 23, 1897 – February 7, 1973) was a composer, arranger, flautist and saxophonist born in Rio de Janeiro. Pixinguinha is considered one of the greatest Brazilian composers of popular music, particularly within the genre of music known as choro. 

By integrating the music of the older choro composers of the 19th century with contemporary jazz-like harmonies, Afro-Brazilian rhythms, and sophisticated arrangements, he introduced choro to a new audience and helped to popularize it as a uniquely Brazilian genre. He was also one of the first Brazilian musicians and composers to take advantage of the new professional opportunities offered to musicians by the new technologies of radio broadcasting and studio recording. 

Pixinguinha composed dozens of choros, including some of the most well-known works in the genre such as "Carinhoso", "Cochichando", "Lamentos" and "Um a Zero".

Ernesto Júlio de Nazareth (March 20, 1863 – February 5, 1934) was a Brazilian composer and pianist, especially noted for his creative Maxixe and Choro compositions. Influenced by African rhythms and many musical styles like the Lundu and the Choro, he never fully accepted this influence, refusing to give popular names to his compositions.

 A musician of classical training, he classified his music as "Brazilian tangos", since the Argentine tango and polka dances were considered fashionable at the time. His piano repertoire is now part of the teaching programs of both classical and popular styles, as Nazareth once served at the boundary between these two worlds.

Nazareth's piano compositions have been adapted by choro string bands and many remain standards of the genre, including "Brejeiro", "Odeon" and "Floraux".

© Regina Mandolin Orchestra 2013