CD Review - Mariza 'Terra'

Fado is in good hands with Mariza.
Fado is in good hands with Mariza. (By Isabel Pinto)
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Friday, March 6, 2009

MARIZA "Terra" 4Q

ON HER NEW album, "Terra," Mariza sings "Fronteira," a lament for Portugal's isolation. With all the immense longing of her nation's fado tradition, Mariza sings of the Spanish lands that lie beyond the frontier and of the fish that lie beyond the Atlantic Ocean. The Portuguese lyrics were written by the poet Pedro Homem de Mello at a time when it was nearly impossible to escape that insularity, but Mariza, the reigning queen of fado music, has found a way to break down those barriers without destroying the identity of fado itself.

She has reached out to Spain, inviting flamenco guitarist Javier Limon to produce the album. Although flamenco and fado both sprang from the same stew of Iberian, Moorish, gypsy and African influences, there are crucial differences, as one can hear when Limon's nylon-string flamenco guitar trades phrases with Bernardo Couto's steel-stringed Portuguese guitar. A similar dialogue can be heard between Limon's guitar and Mariza's operatic mezzo, as the percussive phrasing of Spain meets the bluesy yearning of Portugal.

Mariza also reaches across the ocean to the former Portuguese colony of the Cape Verde Islands for a vocal duet with Tito Paris on "Beijo de Saudade." "Saudade," the key concept of fado, is often translated as "yearning," and both singers capture that feeling of wanting something you can't have and can't live without.

Mariza reaches to Brazil and Ivan Lins, who plays piano on his own "As Guitarras" and on Charlie Chaplin's "Smile." Argentine guitarist Dominic Miller and Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes also make appearances, but Mariza incorporates their new flavors without obscuring her roots in the poor neighborhoods of Lisbon where fado first flourished.

-- Geoffrey Himes

Appearing tonight at George Mason University's Center for the Arts (888-945-2468, Show starts at 8 p.m.

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