Last year a stroke sidelined the grand dame of Cape Verdean music, spelling fears for her career and worse. Fortunately Cesaria Evora, 68, has returned to health; as if to counter the danger of slowing with time, “Nha Sentimento’’ is the most up-tempo record she’s ever made.
Most of the songs are coladeras, a jaunty style that invites the kind of easy dancing one might do at dusk in a town square. From the outset on “Serpentina,’’ Evora and her vastly experienced band, led by pianist Nando Andrade, set a palette of relaxed guitarwork, warm string passages, horn exclamations, and darting, sinewy drumming by percussionist Tey Santos that carries the record through its moods.
These are thoughtful, but instead of the laments that saudade - that deep island melancholy - can provoke, they possess serenity, consolation (“Zinha,’’ written by Evora favorite Manuel de Novas for an old flame), and celebration (“Verde Cabo de Nhas Odjos,’’ an ode to the islands). There are mornas, too - the slower ballads listeners associate with Evora - and here a subtle Arab-Andalusian feeling enters. Evora solicited string arrangements from Egyptian conductor Fathy Salama, and they blend perfectly on “Sentimento’’ and “Mam’Bia É So Mi,’’ adding cinematic grandeur and Old World formalism to the Atlantic rhythms.
Evora travels this landscape with customary warmth and emotion. Time, or perhaps the album’s sound mix, may have rounded her textures a little, but in life, as in her art, she is keeping the pace. (Out now digitally and on CD Jan. 12.)