The Washington Post, CD Review >>
Dubbed the barefoot diva for her predilection for performing without shoes, Evora is also known as the Queen of Morna, the languid, sensuous music of her Cape Verdean homeland. Her latest CD, though, includes only three examples of that bluesy Luso-African hybrid, making room for an assortment of Cape Verde's jauntier, two-stepping coladeras. Such a departure might seem surprising coming from someone nearing 70, not to mention from a singer whose loamy voice and phrasing often draw comparisons to Billie Holiday. But the result is enchanting, a flicker of autumnal vigor akin to that heard on recent releases from members of Havana's Buena Vista Social Club.
The album's three mornas were arranged by Fathy Salama, former conductor of the Cairo Orchestra. Fleshing out traditional Cape Verdean guitar, percussion and horns with Egyptian pipes, strings and the zither-like kanun, Salama sets Evora's smoky vocals against lush, gauzy backdrops that call to mind small-club jazz and Gypsy swing. Salama's scores also highlight the rhythmic and lyrical kinship between Arab and Andalusian music, particularly on the mandolin-sweetened "Vento de Sueste."
The sprightly likes of "Esperança di Mar Azul" and "Ligereza" are typical of the record, the latter featuring the Bogotán accordionist Henry Ortiz in a playful musical call-and-response. Yet even at her most whimsical and effervescent, Evora's richly textured voice still manages to express the underlying wistfulness inherent in morna. Take "Fatalidade," a meditation on mortality. Its undulating groove notwithstanding, the song conveys gravitas equal to Sinatra's "September of My Years." 12/15/09 >> go there