Rob Curto is an accordionist, composer, and pianist based in Philadelphia and New York City.
Curto has a prolific career touring and composing, gaining notoriety for his mastery of the piano accordion, exciting harmonic blends, and general musicianship across genres and musical boundaries.
He is a founding member of the "Brazilian Bluegrass" band Matuto,which gained a following across the US and Canada, was selected to showcase at WOMEX, and toured extensively across Africa, Asia, Europe, and other areas, chosen to represent the US State Department overseas.
He has released several CDs and EPs as a band leader and is a prolific composer/arranger, including his latest musical project, the unabashedly accordion-centric American roots band, Fish Harmonics, featuring smokin' accordion along with bass fiddle, groove-oriented drumming, and old-timey strings. Fish Harmonics' debut EP, ONE, is available streaming in all the places.
His musical collaborations include performing and recording with Latin Grammy award winner Lila Downs, Klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer, trumpeter/composer Frank London, Punjabi Indian singer Kiran Ahluwalia and icon of Brazilian Forró, the great accordionist Dominguinhos. He is widely regarded as forró’s foremost ambassador in the States. An early devotee of North American swing music, bebop piano, funk, rock, and blues, he has combined these influences with his mastery of their Brazilian counterparts forró, chorinho, samba, maracatu, and frevo to produce stunning new results. He spent years living and playing in Brazil, completely absorbing and interpreting the country’s musical traditions.
Since relocating to Philadelphia, Curto has developed an interest in Irish button box, adding B/C button accordion to his repertoire. He studies with NEA National Heritage Fellow and multi-All Ireland Champion, Billy McComisky, and occasionally with John Whelan and PJ Hernon. Curto is profoundly interested in the (relatively) recent history of accordion in traditional Irish music, a passion that has brought him zig-zagging around West Kerry and Co. Sligo, joining sessions and absorbing tradition and tunes.
Curto has many compositional credits, including his own albums as well as TV (Bear in the Big Blue House), documentaries (The Same Heart), independent compositions, and other commissions for theater, film, and commercials.
"They say that hereditary traits skip a generation. My grandmother, who was from a small village on a mountain in Sicily, hoped my father would play the accordion. His response as an Italian-American kid in the 1940's was a resounding 'No!'. He went on to play the tenor saxophone, passing his love for the dance music of mid-20th century America to me. While other kids were listening to the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, I was wearing out the grooves on my dad's Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra records.
Times changed, the digital age brought the world together in unprecedented ways and soon enough my grandmother's accordion dream became my reality. My passion for culture, history, language and people combined with a love of melody, groove and harmony to create a music that is truly my own.
Subsequent journeys to Brazil and around the world with my 120-bass piano accordion as a passport blessed me with a much-needed musical renaissance and ultimately connected me with a broader community of musicians, artists and humans than I might ever have imagined.
I've jammed with Dominguinhos, heir apparent to the King of Baião, Luiz Gonzaga, drunk cachaça with the great button accordion master Arlindo dos Oito Baixos at his backyard forró in Recife, Pernambuco, performed in Argentina with collaborator Lila Downs and the late great Mercedes Sosa, rocked away the night with David Krakauer and an amazing community of Klezmer musicians in Helsinki, Finland, and helped create an international presence for Northeastern Brazilian music through an underground party in New York City every Wednesday night for 2 years. This has been an amazing ride and I'm grateful.
The story of the accordion involves long journeys, unexpected connections, sublime mixtures and grand emotions. I hope, through my work, to be part of that story, and as this instrument has supported and carried me forward, to return the favor."