Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Cesaria Evora – Nha Sentimento

Arguably Cesaria Evora’s best album. If this is her September song, it’s a hot September. Then again, the legendary Cape Verde chanteuse has been singing September songs for the past 25 years – she’s had plenty of practice. As with Portuguese fado, the mornas of her native land off the coast of Africa traditionally have a sad undercurrent, but there’s another level of melancholy here since her childhood friend and longtime songwriter Manuel de Novas died earlier this year after providing her with a few last songs, which are represented here. As Evora’s publicist memorably observed, Cape Verde is a “melting pot on a Bunsen burner.” Like other ports, its music has been enriched by generations of seafarers and the cultures they brought with them, perhaps explaining why Evora’s most recent work has been so widely traveled as well – previous albums have blended Cuban, Brazilian and African sounds into her signature ballads. This time around, she and her producers enlisted a crew of Egyptian musicians on several tracks, which, rather than Arabizing the music, adds the intriguingly ominous textures of oud and kanun (Arabic zither) along with ney flute and a string section. Vocally, Evora brings her signature style, resolute and understated with a tinge of smoke. She’s been called the Billie Holiday of Cape Verde and while stylistically the two singers don’t have much in common, neither ever had to turn up the volume to make a point.

Most of the songs here have a brooding minor-key melancholy. De Novas’ compositions typically favor latin melodies and rhythms, the first fast and swirling with almost a soca beat; another lit up by a simple, percussive electric guitar solo; and a warmly evocative, blues-inflected wee-hours piano ballad with a tricky false ending. The songs with the Egyptian orchestra share a stark intensity, especially the plaintive title track with the strings taking a graceful but ominous cascade down the chromatic scale and the stately tango Vento de sueste (Southeast Wind) with its reverberating kanun and violin.Ironically, Evora’s darkest vocal – and the one place on the album where she shows her age – is on the gorgeous Noiva de Ceu (Girlfriend from the Sky) with its lush bed of acoustic and electric guitars and vivid violin intro/outro. The rest of the album includes an upbeat, Afrobeat-inflected number, a couple of haunting, continental-flavored, accordion-driven tunes and a song that could almost pass as merengue. After all these years, Cesaria Evora is still pushing the envelope.

Advertisements

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment