Friday, December 24, 2010

Oh, the holidays

Performed the holiday gift-wrappping duties while while listening to, in order, Beverly Sills (The Great Recordings, Deutsche Grammophon, CD 1), Joan Sutherland (The Greatest Hits, London/Decca), Renata Tebaldi (Arias and Scenes, ODP), Beverly Sills (CD 2) and Mariza (Fado Tradicional, EMI). Each a big winner.

We're trying to get all of them for ICP (Insane Callas Posse).

The gegalowz would be so down with that.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mariza, Fado Tradicional, EMI

In the edition I own of a wonderful book Fado Português: Songs from the Soul of Portugal the picture facing the index is a picture of the legendary fadista Amália Rodrigues performing at a traditional fado bar accompanied by a Portuguese guitarist. Place Mariza in this picture instead and that is what you get with Fado Tradicional. I could witness such a performance, never see another and be satisfied.

Her previous CDs have included cuts like this, the voice that soars, implores and makes one think of Maria Callas here and Ella Fitzgerald there in concert with only the traditional fado accompaniment of Portuguese and Spanish, or classical, guitars (plus, sometimes, a bass guitar). As often, however, we have heard her accompanied as well by a symphony, African drums, a blusey, jazzy trumpet and her singing has reflected all of this (and more), although always fado as its core.

On this CD, fado is the main dish, spiced by her range of influences, but fado as Amália, and many others, as fervently if not as fabulously or famously, have served it up in the little tavernas of Mouraria or Alfalma. You feel them, the bars and the singers, in traditional tunes, traditionally rendered, like Promete, Jura (Promise, Swear), Rosa Da Madragoa (Rose of Madragoa) and Desalma (Soullless). Still, perhaps even more so, amidst the simplicity of the rendering and of the array of instruments surrounding her, I marvel at the command she has of that voice (check out Mais Uma Lua, Another Moon, or Dona Rosa) and gain in the process a new appreciation of her skill as a fadista. Essential Mariza. Essential fado.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Maria Callas, 100 Best Classics, EMI

So right now you can buy this 6-CD set on Amazon for $9.94 and I cannot conceive of anyone who is financially able not being tempted to do so. I don't care whether you like rock, rap, country, folk, reggae, salsa, tejano, fado, the blues, jazz, whatever. I don't care if you don't know a thing about opera or think you hate it.

You will spin these discs and you will sit there and you will think, or even say out loud, the gods surely designated this woman as a singer because there is no other explanation for it. And there isn't one track less than "wow" in the whole collection--100 cuts, never anything below stellar. That's unnatural.

Earlier today, I was listening to a Thelonious Monk CD titled The Transformer in which we get to hear Monk teaching himself the tune I'm Getting Sentimental Over You and then remaking it as his song, still something like the original and, yet, so much more. This is what Maria Callas does in all 100 songs in the collection here cited. Makes you glad to have ears and to be alive to use them.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Henry doodles, and I love it

2010 holiday email card from the great Henry Grimes. I look forward to these every year and to whatever music Henry produces in the year following.