Rob Curto brings a workingman’s spirit to the bellows-craft of the accordion.
His sound is both elemental and sophisticated; drawing oxygen from his father’s great love of the music of Count Basie and Lester Young, informed by decades spent firing-up nightly Brazilian dance parties, and more recently defined by fingers forming detailed melodies that draw from the deep vein of Irish traditional music. Relentlessly following his curiosity and heart, Rob forges diverse strands of knowledge into a uniquely American style of Accordion-driven Roots music.
As a child, while his friends were listening to the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, Rob was spending long hours with his father Steve’s big band records, learning about syncopation, improvisation, and about the blues from Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Rob’s father took him for a piano lesson every Sunday morning with pianist and contemporary-music composer Gitta Steiner, and invited his old musician colleagues to the house for monthly jam sessions, with Rob playing piano and absorbing his elders’ experience.
At the age of 25, after years exploring and drawing poetic inspiration from various forms of American roots music, Rob discovered the accordion. He serendipitously came across a large outdoor show of the great Louisiana bandleader and piano accordionist Stanley Dural Jr. or Buckwheat Zydeco, at the steps of the American Museum of Natural History. Rob stood listening for an hour and a half, mesmerized and initiated into the world of the accordion and its traditions.
This opened up a lifelong journey and career which has included years living in Brazil and becoming known as one of the musicians responsible for bringing forró (the dance music of the Brazilian northeast) to an international audience; touring for 7 years with Latin Grammy winner Lila Downs; touring and recording with respected Klezmer musicians David Krakauer and Frank London; And playing extensively throughout the US, Canada Africa, Asia and Europe with his groups “Rob Curto’s Forró for All”, and “Matuto”, which was selected to showcase at WOMEX, and was chosen numerous times to represent the US State Department overseas.
Rob is a current recipient of the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant from the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, which provides funding to further deepen his study of the Irish button accordion alongside his teacher and mentor Billy McComiskey.