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Trio Surdina portrait In terms of the talent involved, the fabled Trio Surdina was a genuine Brazilian music powerhouse and can be considered foundational to modern Brazilian pop... The original lineup featured guitarist Anibal Augusto Sardinha, aka Garoto, a groundbreaking, influential stylist who died in the mid-1950s, along with bandleader-violinist Fafa Lemos and accordionist Chiquinho do Acordeon, who became a ubiquitous session player throughout the 1950s. '60s and '70s. The group was formed in 1952, as part of the house band for Radio Nacional, in Rio de Janeiro. They soon recorded several albums (at the dawn of the LP era) including tributes to samba-cancao songwriters Ary Barroso, Dorival Caymmi and Noel Rosa. The group soon disbanded when Garoto and Lemos followed Carmen Miranda to the United States, but apparently their record label retained the rights to the name, so new records came out under the Trio Surdina name over the next few years... Here's a quick look at that work...


Trio Surdina "Trio Surdina" (Musidisc, 1953)
The music itself is pretty syrupy -- I would, in my heathen-like manner, lump it in with the easy-listening and instrumental pop of the era, a bit effete and occasionally sedate, although there are a couple of tunes I liked, particularly the Garoto showcase at the end, a showy yet still classy rendition of "Malaguena." This disc didn't really grab me, but it's still cool to hear these three important musicians playing together... Plus, fans of Garoto in particular will want to check this out.

Trio Surdina "...Interpreta Noel Rosa E Dorival Caymmi" (Musidisc, 1953)
For whatever reason, this eight-song album, a dual homage to samba-cancao songwriters Dorival Caymmi and Noel Rosa, wowed me more than the Trio Surdina debut (above) which was released the same year... The performances are livelier and have more bounce and swing to them, and Lemos sings on most songs. The accordion is given more room to breath, and a stronger regional flavor comes through, flavoring these old samba songs with a bit of northern baiao. This is a fun little record, definitely worth tracking down!

Trio Surdina & Leo Perrachi "Ary Barroso" (Musidisc, 1953)
A richly romantic, pleasantly kitschy tribute to the great samba-cancao songwriter Ary Barroso. This features the original Trio lineup -- Garoto, Chiquinho Do Acordeon and Fafa Lemos -- with Leo Perrachi singing on a couple of tunes. Great stuff. Very corny, but in a delightful, nostalgia-filled way.

Trio Surdina "Ouvindo, v.1" (Musidisc, 1953)
Another sleepy, sugary, all-instrumental set... Too mellow and refined for me. I mean, yeah, I know this band featured Garoto and all, but his guitar is generally so buried under the syrupy arrangements, it's just not worth digging around to hear him playing, especially these days, when his solo stuff is more readily available.

Trio Surdina "Trio Surdina #3" (Musidisc, 1953)
This was one of those records that got stuck in my stereo -- I wanted to say mean things about it, but was having a hard time getting around to it, and after it played in queue a few times, it grew on me. Generally speaking, this is kind of noodly and lazy -- the opening tracks are languid and refined almost to a fault. But each artist gets in some sweet licks, and their overall professionalism and soulfulness wins out over occasionally tepid arrangements. The closing tracks are of particular interest: Garoto's "Meu Coracao" shows a bit of sparkle, and the English-language rendition of "Cow Cow Boogie" is a funny (if not electrifying) novelty number (wish they'd done it in Portuguese!) The closing track is best, a slow though subtle song called "Xodo," sung em Portuguese that stands out from the lazy meanderings of many of the instrumental tracks. I guess this was the group's swan song: Fafa and Garoto left to tour abroad, while Chiquinho do Acordeon was called on to anchor future editions of the group (see below). But for the original lineup? This was it.

Trio Surdina & Pierre Kolmann "Boleros Em Surdina" (Musidisc, 1958)
Apparently, by the end of the 1950s the name "Trio Surdina" had become the property of the Musidisc label itself, and like rock producer Don Kirshner would later do with the bubblegum bands of the '60s, Musidisc felt free to hire anyone they wanted to be "members" of the band. This particular edition seems to have featured some pretty obscure musicians, although "Pierre Kolman" is rumored to have been a nom-de-moonlighting for pianist Leal Brito. At any rate, this is another mellow set... Not too surprising, since it's all boleros.

Trio Surdina "Em Bossa Nova" (Musidisc, 1963)
(Arranged by Waltel Branco)

A pretty sleepy set from this long-lived ensemble... At this point, Chiquinho Do Acordeon was the sole founding member left, and he surrenders the spotlight to a violinist named Patane, and to a lesser degree to guitarist Waltel Branco, who is credited as the album's arranger. No great claim to fame there: this is one of the most listless bossa nova albums imaginable -- sluggish, uninspired, unexciting. You can skip this one.


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