Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Von Freeman, Inside Chicago Vol. 3, SteepleChase

I bought it for Vonski on tenor, and Dr. Freeman is always worth the price of admission. But I have to say Paul McKee on trombone and Ron Perrillo on piano really flesh this out and make it special.

On Blue Moon, which they render as wonderful, bluesy (appropriately) and soulful post-bop jazz, Brad Goode on trumpet adds a nice solo, too, followed by a standout romp from Mr. F.

Standards mostly (memorable runs through Star Eyes and What Is This Thing Called Love) getting extended treatment live at the Green Mill in 1993. As good as the solos are, the ensemble play is outstanding. I wish I'd been there, but this is the next best thing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lila Downs, El Alma De Lilia Downs, Narada

She may not be a fadista per se, but her interlude Homage to Lucília do Carmo in Carlos Saura's film Fados is a highlight of the movie and this CD is one highlight after another, none, maybe, and ironically, more magnificent than what she does with La Cucaracha, which begins as kind of heavy metal thing, meanders along a Tito Puente path, and then ends up as, basically, a Latin rap. In any event, it has little to do with the goofy song I, we, learned whenever.

Somebody was really thinking about the selection here. Everything before La Cucaracha builds up to it and everything after kind of builds on it, or sounds as if (see Diginificado or Arenita Azul). It's all, that is to say, good and, often, excellent, albeit unofficial, fado. Check out Paloma Negra and La Martiniana, which makes me think of Ai Mouraria.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ana Moura, Guarda-me A Vida Na Mão, World Village

Preso Entre O Sono E O Sonho and Porque Teimas Nesta Dor and Quen Vai Ao Fado interest me because she renders them in the fashion of Alfredo Marceneiro, probably my all-time favorite guy fadista. Now, this is not a commentary on her voice because Marceneiro had kind of a Frankie Valli thing going (think Big Girls Don't Cry, et al), so it's not like her voice is disconcertingly, manishly deep or anything.

I am thinking more in terms of delivery, which is kind of matter of fact, with a hint of irony. This thing happens to me, it is sad, painful, whatever, but that's life, eh? You live and you learn. It's a great long as you don't weaken. Whatever doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. Gal fadistas, let's face it, tend to be drama queens, Amália and Mariza, prime examples. Which is fine, drama is good, music that's as gripping as Hamlet or Death of a Salesman is good, more often than not with Amália or Mariza, great (see O Gente Da Minha Terra, Mariza). And Ana Moura, as on Guitarra or Ás Vezes or, most notably, Lavava No Rio Lavava can be dramatic, too. But the change of pace in much of this CD makes it special, and it's what makes her a special fadista.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Amália Rodrigues, O Melhor De Amália, Edições

Com Que Voz, 1970, is one of her classic LPs, and maybe her greatest. Her voice is in a mature but masterful shape, every trick in her considerable bag at this point still fair game. The guitarradas behind her, Fontes Roches on guitarra Portuguesa primary among them, are masterful and the arrangements by Alain Oulman, who was her guy from an arranging perspective, also are masterful. But who has a record player now, if you can even find the record? And the CD came out long ago, too, so try finding that for less than $100, used.

Or you can buy this 2007 compilation, which includes 7 of the 12 tracks from Com Que Voz, many tracks from other hard-to-find sessions and numerous best-of cuts from CDs you can still find (56 songs in all, mostly '60s and '70s, followed by '50s and a few '80s, so mostly prime decades for her). In fact, I might suggest these 4 CDs as the perfect collection of Amália if you are going to have just one. Then again, like the old potato chip commercial, try sticking with just one after this one. Not too easy, particularly after Maria Lisboa or the incredibly gripping Trova Do Vento Que Passa and Gaivota (Seagull) from Com Que Voz, the title track from which appears here as well, bordering on overwhelming. Com Que Voz, it means with what voice; her voice, and an addicting voice it was.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Rosa Negra, Fado Ladino, ARC Music

My opinion, the fadista here, Carmo, is quite good but not great, although Meu Amor, Meu Amor (My Love, My Love, and I came up with that translation on my own, without looking it up, which means my Portuguese is getting better) could change my mind.

That aside, the big thing is the instrumentation--trumpet, violin, piano, accordion, percussion and more--behind her, which seems to me to draw on European-style chamber music and Middle Eastern themes, which is fine, because fado has roots in said. (Check out Esta Pena De Ser Eu to see what I am talking about).

There are in evidence no guitarras, contrary to the fado tradition, and since this is supposed to be an example of novo, or new, fado, that's not bad. Still it is fado, whether Na Dança Do Meu Fado or the weird, dare I say Monkian, rendering of Barco Negro. OK, not, like, strictly traditional fado, but pretty darn interesting and maybe a nice entry for new-to-fado listenera.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Fado humor

Because if you really dig something, you need to be able to laugh at it, too, as a matter of perspective. Graphic novel and movie adaptation to follow.

So be it

OK, these Beatles guys I discovered are just playing with me on Let It Be, their new CD. I mean, I Me Mine is a frigging hard rockin' tune but it has, like, this orchestra floating behind it. What the heck is that about?

Then you get this kind of bizzarre musical ditty and word play followed by the title track, a song clearly intended for a church choir on the one hand with some kick-tail wailing guitars on the other and lyrics, in either context, just dripping with meaning. Lucille Bogan would have no problem with Maggie Mae, although I'm relatively sure she wouldn't apply a Liverpudlian accent to it. Chuck Berry would dig One After 909. I can see Sinatra, or Billie Holiday, making hay with The Long and Winding Road.

The thing that worries me is that I don't know where these guys go from here. I mean, they can never get back to where they were earlier in their collective career and why would they? Like Miles Davis, only in a pop context, they're musical seekers and I'm inclined to think they're probably at the point where the next logical step is to start seeking beyond the context of the group. Which is kind of blue for you and me.

Amália Rodrigues, Live In Japan, Música Latina

May of 1986 and her voice is no longer one of the most perfect voices heard ever. Soon, it will sound more like 10 miles of bad road, albeit no less emotive. Here, it probably sounds like five miles of bad road, but still no less emotive. She makes me think of William Goldman's description of Bronko Nagurski, his career near an end, running yet. "This old man starts forward and they're braced and he jumps sideways at them, the old man flies at them and they parted like water and he was through and the rest of the game was nothing." She sings Don Solidon without the fluidity of her youth, sure, but she bowls you over nonetheless. Ricardo Gonçalves, Antonio Molicas and Joel Piñto on the guitarras behind her are stellar.

The wonderful music aside, the other thing I really love about this is her obvious rapport with the audience, which is Japanese, remember. She spins up Uma Casa Portuguesa and they immediately applaud. They know the song and they know her. She gets them to sing along more than once and speaks to them with some frequency, in English as a language in common. On Coimbra (April in Portugal) and Lavava, for example, the interaction is simply darling.

And now and then, as on Malhão, she throws down like it was 1950. See Uma Casa Portugesa, the CD not the song, from this Dutch label as well, which includes a set of 1945 recordings from Brazil and her Town Hall Concert in New York in 1990, a fascinating contrast.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Damn, and I always wanted to be a roustabout

The 200 best and worst jobs in the U.S. in 2009 based on five criteria -- environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. This according to a newly released study from job site I won't depress good friends of mine, and myself, by listing where newspaper reporting is ranked. But historian is No. 5 Prof. Dewar.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Mariza at Tasco Do Chico

If she had been there when I was, I wouldn't be here, because I would have jumped in the Tagus after, figuring, hey, how could life get any better.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Jokers, doing what they please...

That's these Beatles guys I discovered on their new CD Abbey Road, which must be some street in Liverpool, where they're from, although I have to say it pleases me, please, nonetheless.

So said, despite this being another one of the diversely odd collection of jags they're on since the unified theme they built on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. (Abbey Road is much like the white-covered The Beatles two-CD set, their last issue.)

Come together is a rock tune but with some surrealism to it, followed by the ballady tune Something and then Maxwell's Silver Hammer, which is an old-timey music hall ditty, assuming Rob Zombie was directing the show. I'm kind of thinking Octopus's Garden was left over from Yellow Submarine.

Then you get I Want You (She's So Heavy) and you're thinking, well, this is a bluesy thing continuing along the diversity path and it turns out it and everything after it, with a bit of a jarring transition (and there's some genius in that) to Here Comes The Sun are pieces of a musical mosaic, certainly from Mean Mr. Mustard on, including the wait-for-it track Her Majesty. It's all kind of stunning, not unlike, in a jazz context, Miles Davis' landmark Kind Of Blue, stuff so good you just let it be.

It's the guitarra stupid...

So a big reason I have fallen too much in love with fado music is the Portuguese guitarists behind so much of the best of it. In the tradition, a fadista, a singer of fado, woman or man, is backed by two guitarradas, players of the guitar, one a Spanish or classical guitar, which is basically your six-string acoustical model, the other a 12-string Portuguese guitar akin to a lute or mandolin, higher in pitch and more readily, it appears to me, played at high speed.

Which is how António Bessa plays in it impressively on Rapsódoa Portuguesa in the collection Fado from Membran Music, 10 CDs I bought on eBay for $14.95 and maybe the best value I have gotten from anything ever. (See also the great Jamie Santos on Danças Portuguesas or A Minha Guitarra.) Frankly, if I had paid $14.95 for the cut of Lenita Gentil singing Fado Para Este Noite (Fado For This Night) I wouldn't have felt at all bad about it. If you have any interest at all in learning anything about fado and see this for $14.95, or just like exploring different kinds of music, buy it.