From Americana to Irish music to Brazilian folk, the accordion can do it all.
At 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater, musician Rob Curto and his band, Rob Curto’s Forró for All, will perform “Roots Music from the Northeast of Brazil.”
Playing music throughout his life, the Long Island, New York native has traveled the world, exploring and perfecting his sound. Returning to his home state with his new group, Curto now has the experience to convey to audiences the meaning of his musical journey.
Curto said outside of some private lessons in his childhood, most of his musical training and inspiration did not come in a classical manner.
“I grew up with music,” Curto said. “I grew up playing jazz piano with my dad and his friends, that he had grown up playing with, and some other family members who play.”
Growing up and starting with jazz piano, Curto became interested in the idea of the accordion from other musicians, as well as his own family. Curto said he was a second-generation accordion player, after his grandmother had tried to get his father to play the instrument, as well.
“I had been living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and was walking around one day and it was the 100th anniversary of the (American) Museum of Natural History,” Curto said. “There was a big concert outside, and I suddenly see Buckwheat Zydeco playing, and I had been listening to his records at that time. So I knew who he was, and I knew what was going on right away. And I just watched that whole concert kind of in awe and saw the piano accordion.”
Following different kinds of accordion music, Curto said he eventually realized how universal the accordion’s appeal was. Curto began to find the accordion linking entirely different cultures together, from Irish music to his current Brazilian style.
After falling in love with the instrument and playing in different groups around the New York City boroughs, Curto began playing Brazilian music in small jam bands and clubs, ultimately moving to the country for five years to practice his craft.
Curto eventually formed his group, Rob Curto’s Forró for All, marrying the styles of classic Americana and Brazilian music to bring a small subculture of dance music into the mainstream.
“Forró, it’s this party music from Brazil, originally very rural and kind of isolated, even within Brazil,” Curto said. “Then in the 1940s and ’50s, it was popularized mainly by an accordion player named Luiz Gonzaga, who took the music to Rio and São Paulo, and presented it on the radio and eventually on records; and it was made into a national music, that kind of a dance craze in Brazil.”
Even with Portuguese lyrics, Curto said the music transcends language barriers, and provides a great energy that people want to engage with. Being engaged and sharing a deep connection to this music is important to being successful in playing it, Curto said. And while the music is complicated, it is powerful to listen to.
Curto said he is happy to play at Chautauqua, and to share the experience with a new group of people.
“We’re really grateful to be able to perform at the Chautauqua Institution, and we’re excited to play for the audience there,” Curto said. “It’s going to be a fun, upbeat show.”
Ready to play for the crowd, Curto said he only hopes people leave happier than they came.