Sara Serpa: Mobile (2012)
Serpa's use of the texts is sparse and serves as a jumping-off point for the composer/singer to indulge vocal/musical flights of fancy inspired by the verse. This creative freedom allows guitarist Andre Matos and pianist Kris Davis the same structured/free reign. Rounding out the band are the two crack timekeepers, bassist Ben Street and drummer Ted Poor, who also contribute as soloists on the edge, when not providing a solid rhythmic foundation to Serpa's musically transformed thoughts.
Serpa structures her compositions freely but precisely around the texts and their hidden meanings. "Pilgrimage to Armanath," based on V.S. Naipaul's "An Area of Darkness," builds on an inner motif, layered with voice, acoustic guitar and Fender Rhodes. Evolving from wispy to dense, Serpa navigates her composition to a quiet close, the only one that makes sense. On "Ahab's Lament" based on Melville's whale book, is, in contrast, solidly structured over geometric lines and undulating waves of sound. Serpa has quite the bag of tricks, she does.
This music, for the better part, is dark and brooding, both vocally and instrumentally. This is no mean criticism; Serpa is serious about her composition and it shows. She walks that fine line between the over-composed and unruly freedom (like politics, where the two movements meet in the back of a circular spectrum. Serpa is searching, and her search continues to provide compelling and provocative music.
Track Listing: Sequoia Gigantis; Ulysses Costume; Pilgrimage to Armanath; Ahab's lament; If; Tarveling With Kapuszinsky; Sem Razao; gold Digging Ants; Corto; City of Light, City of Darkness.
Personnel: Sara Serpa: vocals; Andre Matos: electric and acoustic guitars (3, 6, 9); Kris Davis: piano, Fender Rhodes (3, 5, 6, 9); Ben Street: bass; Ted Poor: drums.
Record Label: Inner Circle Music
Style: Modern Jazz