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Thanks to WBEZ for promoting and Steve Rashid for recording this week’s show at the Whiskey Lounge!

You can watch the entire two sets at:

January Two Genres Two Shows

Thurs. Jan. 15 Grant Ziolkowski Brazilian Trio

Live at the Whiskey Lounge @ 27Live, Evanston. $10

7:30pm. Live Video Stream presented by Steve Rashid!

Thurs. Jan. 8 Grant Ziolkowski Bluegrass Quartet

The Hideout, Chicago. $8

9:00pm. 3 BANDS: Big Sadie and the Wandering Boys

December Chicago Performances

Wed. Dec. 10 Grant Ziolkowski Brazilian Trio
Martyrs’ 8:00pm. We go on at 10pm! Details

Sun. Dec. 14 Wandering Boys (accompanying them on bass)
Schubas Acoustic Brunch 12:00pm

Mon. Dec. 29 Andrew Sa (accompanying him in on tenor guitar)
The Hideout 8:00pm

November Milwaukee Choro Concert

Fresh off performances and workshops with guitar master Rogerio Souza, Grant brings his trio of Chicago’s finest choro musicians for an evening of syncopated Brazilian mandolin and samba rhythms. With Heitor Garcia on pandeiro percussion and John Beard on 7-string guitar, the trio will bring this Ragtime-esque instrumental style to life. The repertoire will include the classics of Jacob do Bandolim and Ernesto Nazareth, along with forays into the jazz stylings of the new choro genre.

November 15 7:30 PM $25


Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, 1584 N Prospect Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202


September Update

Listen and Purchase Rodeway EP

The Martyrs’ release show was a promising first performance of the Rodeway tunes and I hope to continue to play and sing with the band in Chicago soon. After a brief respite in the bluegrass 24-hour  playland of Rockygrass, the rest of this month has been spent on the sands of the Brazilian choro.

I had the great privilege of playing a handful of shows the last week of August with Rogerio Souza and Edinho Gerber from Rio de Janeiro. Rogerio has been at the forefront of the choro resurgence in Brazil since the 1980s. Together with his brother Ronaldo, both of whom I met in 2013, he is considered one of the main torch bearers of the genre. After days of painstaking rehearsal (on my part), the performances in Chicago and Wisconsin began to pay off. Though rather small when compared to a life’s worth of music-making, my two years dedicated to the choro genre came into scope here, illuminating many of the strives I’ve made as a musician and showing how much work there still is to do.

Check out the videos of our performance on the Good Hope Island in the Milwaukee River, and stay tuned for more choro from Chicago in the next few months! While John Beard and I will play background tunes October 2 at the fine sushi restaurant, Wakamono on Broadway, some dedicated arrangement and recording effort is in the works!

Noites Cariocas Video

Lapinha Video 

Rodeway EP Now Available!

Listen and Purchase

Grant Ziolkowski Martyrs July 19

March Update

We saw the ground this week in Chicago for the first time since November. Time for a long-overdue post. The monthly choro jams have been picking up steam, now at our new home, Melao Restaurant. The next date will be Sunday, April 27 at 5:00PM. Check out Roda de Choro em Chicago on Facebook. Last month was particularly lively, with the addition of Brazilian mandolin/guitar titan, Renato Anesi, who is now living in Chicago. The virtuosity of authentic Brazilian choro musicians sets a high standard for the budding scene here and exciting things are to come!

On St. Patrick’s Day, I had to privilege to enter the studio and record five original instrumental tunes. This project is a chance for me to play with some of my favorite acoustic musicians in Chicago, while documenting some of the musical ideas I’ve long had on the back burner. We’re in the process of editing and mixing the project, but I could not have asked for a better engineer in Victor Sanders, or better playing from musicians Emma Dayhuff, Starr Moss, Patrik Ahlberg, Ben Sanders and Greg Cahill! One tune was a reworking of the first tune I ever wrote on mandolin (on a stump in the dark); another was a Nordic fiddle tune; some bluegrass in B; a slow waltz somewhere between despairing and cathartic; and a meandering tune in D that takes you Upslide and Down.

Stay tuned for more info on these projects as they exit the drawing room!

November Update

I was resigned to hunker down this fall, woodshed as the leaves change and prepare for recording in December- fingers crossed. Locally, Robbie Fulks put on a spectacular CD release show with all-stars Jenny Scheinman and Chris Scruggs. I can’t think of a performer, not to mention songwriter and guitar player, more comfortable in his craft, a sure-fire draw every time who knows he has nothing to prove. Weeks later, the democratically sanctioned Battle of the Jug Bands did prove a multi-generational freak fest in the chandeliered 1911 attic of Lula Cafe known as the Logan Square Auditorium.

Then I got the call. Within a week, I was riding a vintage Pullman car, from Chicago’s Union Station on the City of New Orleans train. The Night Train to Memphis. To NOLA. The Great American Zipper. The Southbound Odyssey. Bringing its fruit to market. That Song my dad liked. No railroad blues and paper bag-bottles here though. This was Pullman sleeping car porters: first class. This was white table-cloth and buttons all the way buttoned. This was bottomless Scotch pours. This was booths and banquets and blue chairs with the smell of Dwell and 1950s steel glass holders- communal and spill proof. This was made for TV. Stay tuned for footage from the trip on CBS Sunday Morning. Aaron Dorfman, Jackie Rae and myself provided the club car entertainment courtesy of the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Reemerging from my camel wool cot, we had entered the South. When you ride the night, you have to earn the morning. Shadowy cotton fields gave way. The air thickened. Mississippi rusted red pickups (or is that song again?) begot gnarly green Alligator swamps. Eighteen hours in, as the sleepless night and southern sun first grew tiring, we were weightless, flying over Lake Pontchartrain, blue above, blue below, that long bridge to our right and one rocking evening ahead.

New Orleans is another country. It’s like being in Rio de Janeiro, just with freckled divorcés from Carolina stumbling over you, spilling their be-strawed neon green beverages. It’s like New York City in a kiddy playground. It’s a steel-framed adult playground, scaffolding the trees: ropes and ladders and satellites suspended 40 feet in someone’s back yard. Teenagers sneaking their first Menthol. Rock and roll like before Katrina. Like 1991. Another adult playground and the other bridge that makes you sick thinking about it and a Vietnamese ghost town whose submerged strip malls are still under water. Another delta destroyed. Where you learn to breath fire, even if it singes your beard, blackens your lubricated teeth.

In other news, Brazilian choro music is alive and well in Chicago. Julie Koidin debuts her English-version book at Instituto Cervantes this coming Monday Nov. 18, and we will be taking our twin-mandolin roda out of the basement Sunday afternoon, Dec. 1 at Sabor Express.

Stay tuned for new music as I adjust to C string fever: my 5-string J. Bovier electric mandolin has finally been amplified and I just sent payment for a 1947 Martin tenor guitar!

August Update

Summer is almost over, and last week marked a musical high point for me here in Chicago. The Henhouse Prowlers released their new album, Breaking Ground, which you can buy here.  The CD release was a huge success at the Old Town School of Folk Music, and the album recorded last December represents my last official contribution to the band. You can listen to a few tracks off of it here on the site, including one I wrote entitled “Den of Sin.”

The morning before the Prowlers show, I performed with Paulinho Garcia and Julie Koidin at Brasil Fest Chicago. Brasil Fest was a sun-and-drum soaked three days out on beautiful Logan Boulevard – a celebration of all things Brazilian in Chicago from music, to dance, to percussion, soccer and food. It was great to play with Paulinho, a stalwart in the Brazilian samba and jazz scene in Chicago, and Julie, who is the authority on all things contemporary in choro music, as documented in her book.

Keeping the bluegrass flame alive, while working with a choro ensemble here in Chicago just makes me excited for what is to come. Stay tuned for two demo projects later in the fall, one of original acoustic music, and one of samba-charged choro music, or simply Brazilian mandolin music if you’re a purist.

Additionally around the corner here is the World Music Festival, which is a mostly free two-week event spread throughout the city. Additionally, the Old Town School and Constellation continually schedule great bands from genres across the board

June Update

Grant here…

I play and teach mandolin here in Chicago. I have recently stopped touring with bluegrass journeymen, the Henhouse Prowlers, but not before recording on their upcoming album Breaking Ground. After taking a step back from the bluegrass world, I traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to study choro music privately and at the Escola Portatil de Música. It’s no mystery that Brazilian music is a joyful sea of advanced rhythm and harmony, but I was struck by the pervasiveness of this down to the most public level. The citizen percussionist is ubiquitous, and bar flies will break into song with others immediately joining in at any given time. Informal jam sessions around tables littered with 24oz beer bottles could rival the quality of any first-rate “Latin jazz” band in major U.S. cities. Needless to say, “professional” musicians in this playing field are on a level unto themselves, intuitively channelling the richest of rhythm, harmony, tradition and tone.
There is a small, but enthusiastic choro scene here in Chicago, and I hope to cultivate this music as much as possible here. With this site, I aim to keep a log of musical ongoings here in Chicago – as a witness, participant or ponderer.