BIOGRAPHY

(b Rio de Janeiro, 23 April 1897/8; d Rio de Janeiro, 17 Feb 1973). Brazilian composer, flautist, saxophonist, arranger and bandleader. His father was an amateur flute player and cultivator of the old choro. Around the age of ten Pixinguinha played the cavaquinho and accompanied his father, who also taught him the flute. He participated in carnival band parades (1911–12), played in night clubs and in the orchestra of the Rio Branco cinema, specializing in musical comedies and operettas. His talents as a flautist were widely recognized and through this he formed his first significant group, Os Oito Batutas, with other important musicians of the period, such as Donga, China and Nelson Alves. Originally including flute, three guitars, singer, cavaquinho, mandoline, tambourine, reco-reco and ganzá, they were presented at the Cinema Palais in 1919 with a typically national repertory that included waltzes, polkas, tangos, maxixes, choros, modinhas and sambas. Within three years the group toured the major cities of southern and north-eastern Brazil, and finally abroad in Paris (1922) and Buenos Aires, also recording works by Pixinguinha, Donga and others.

In 1928 he co-organized the Orquestra Típica Pixinguinha-Donga, mostly for studio work, recording the famous samba-choro, Carinhoso. After working as an arranger for the Victor Talking Machine of Brazil (1929), he organized the Guarda Velha (1931) from leading Brazilian instrumentalists, and with whom he achieved his best work as a band leader, providing a coherent and effective ensemble structure while allowing room for solo virtuoso display. The band recorded dozens of albums and backed major popular stars of the period, such as Carmen Miranda, Mário Reis and Sílvio Caldas.

Pixinguinha’s own compositions number about 140 pieces, mostly choros, polcas-choro, sambas and a few carnival marches and waltzes, some of which won widespread popularity from the 1920s to 50s. He contributed substantially to the development of a genuinely national popular music and to an increased instrumental sophistication in orchestration and band arrangement.

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