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Sara Serpa / Ran Blake: Aurora

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Portuguese vocalist Sara Serp's follow-up to Camera Obscura (Inner Circle, 2010), with renowned pianist Ran Blake, retains the fresh and irreverent approach of their debut. A former student of Blake's the two never sound obvious or predictable, even when they are interpreting popular jazz standards. Their versions offer deeper and often innocent insights to some of these most memorable songs.

Aurora's 12 songs were recorded live in Serpa's hometown of Lisbon, and demonstrates the duo's highly personal taste and knowledge of the jazz repertoire, as would be expected from Blake. Throughout, Serpa and Blake stress a unique and profound understanding of the relationship between melody and words, as they rediscover the songs and themselves within the songs.

They perform "Saturday," a song associated with Sarah Vaughan, as a gentle give-and-take game between two voices. Two songs written for Abbey Lincoln—"When Autumn Sings" and "Love Lament"—offer mature and vulnerable perspectives on the issue of fleeting love, captured beautifully in both Serpa and Blake's fragile phrasing. Blake's emphatic and concise playing accompanies Serpa's emotional reading of Amália Rodrigues fado, "Cansaço," about the search for meaning in love and life. The playful interpretations of "Moonride," "The Band Played On" and "Fine and Dandy" emphasize Serpa and Blake's rare chemistry, one which enables the transformation of such humorous ditties into captivating mini-dramas.

Serpa's daring a cappella rendition of singer Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" is reserved and painful, strengthening the meaning of this iconic song's chilling lyrics. The wordless "Dr. Mabuse," a melody taken from film director Fritz Lang's score, has a mysterious, storytelling structure. Blake's piano solo of "Mahler Noir" is an impressive demonstration of his open and unorthodox sense of harmony and time. They conclude with a remarkable meditative reading of the melancholic "Last Night When We Were Young," suggesting a sense of making peace with their pasts.

A most beautiful musical and emotional adventure.

Track Listing: Saturday; When Autumn Sings; Dr. Mabuse; Cansaço; Moonride; Strange Fruit; Mahler Noir; The Band Played On; Love Lament; Wende; Fine and Dandy; Last Night When We Were Young.

Personnel: Sara Serpa: vocals; Ran Blake: piano.

Title: Aurora | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records

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