Even before we set sail on what is truly one of the most exotic, intoxicating and whimsically romantic albums of the year, there are plenty of cultural-specific reasons to admire and embrace Tô Chegando – Almost There, the 11th album by Ted Falcon that serves as a wondrous showcase for the versatile violinist, mandolinist and composer’s vast artistry as he syncs up with both a São Paulo quartet and a larger ensemble in Los Angeles.
First, while the usual go to for Brazilian or Brazilian-inclined musician is bossa nova, Falcon dedicates his passion for the country’s music to the slightly lesser celebrated (but still popular) choro – and by bringing his violin mastery to the forefront, literally defines a new sound for a genre usually fronted by flute, mandolin, clarinet or sax. Perhaps even more importantly, Falcon’s immersion into all things choro grew from his natural curiosity that developed while establishing himself as an American jazz musician.
Moving to Brazil, he not only fell in love with the music and culture, he also married a Brazilian woman – and lived in Brasilia from 2008 to 2016, where he learned Portuguese, studied Brazilian music, taught workshops and, most notably this current project, took a shine to composing coros. While he’s lived back in L.A. for years now where he engages in all manner of activities as an educator and prolific performer, his musical heart is clearly, still and always, in Brazil.
The title of the album (which translates roughly to “I’m arriving”) is a clever way to impart to us listeners that Falcon is always learning more about this incredible musical form which originated in 19th Century Rio and is characterized by improvisation, subtle modulations and virtuosity (prominently displayed by Falcon and his many cohorts, including renowned clarinetist Anat Cohen, who blazes bright in a sly soulful dance with the violinist on “Into the Chorosphere”), and is full of syncopation and counterpoint.
Tô Chegando – Almost There is built on a foundation of four originals – including the snappy, quick witted opening romp “Quebra Galho” and the sassy, buoyant title track – Falcon recorded while living in Brazil in 2009 but thought were lost. When one of his friends and collaborators, Kip Hargrove, told Falcon he had given him a CD with all the songs, the violinist immediately went to work remastering the four tunes and building a highly adventurous, not to mention cheerfully exotic and infectious, journey around them. Falcon’s passion for other Latin forms emerges on tunes like the Cuban fusion dance “Salsa Samba (Salsamba), while “Sadie’s Waltz” and “Memories of Home” (featuring an uplifting string quartet) fuse his love of choro with more traditional sounds.