A great affection for fado music and its poetic lyrics, an appreciation for how a jazz palette can color the form, and a love of orchestral seasonings all influence this expansive outing from Maria Mendes. It's an effort that's far from the norm and right where the Portuguese vocalist lives and loves to be.
Teaming up with pianist/arranger extraordinaire John Beasley, Mendes delivers originals, fado favorites, and, for good measure, a new number written for her by the great Hermeto Pascoal. Each piece has its own character, but they're all bound by a sense of longing that has long served as a foundational aspect of fado. Supported primarily by a combo including Beasley on keyboards, Karel Boehlee on piano, and Jasper van Hulten on drums, Mendes flys, sways and soothes. And regardless of where she finds herselfin the 5/4 swing of "Tudo Isto É Fado," the sweeping atmosphere of "Dança do Amor," the vibrant and haunting spaces of "Verdes Anos," or the light-touch waltz of "Foi Deus"her voice complements the scenery.
While Mendes and the core band carry the album, and songs like the perky "Hermeto's Fado For Maria" and the aforementioned numbers show them to be a tight and sympathetic unit, additional personnel additions also prove valuable to the work. Vibraphonist Vincent Houdijk joins the vocalist, who's artfully overdubbed in places, for a winding duo performance on "Tempo Emotivo," and the Metropole Orkest appears on four tracks, giving the music a multi-hued complexion. A yearning sensibility underscores the rich sounds they add to songs like "Há Uma Música do Povo," which opens the album, and "Asas Fechadas," resting in the penultimate post.
While familiarity with fado, an understanding of the Portuguese language and an openness to cross-genre creations can enhance the experience of hearing this music, none are prerequisites for enjoyment. Priming need not be provided to understand the beauty of Close To Me.
Há Uma Música do Povo; Tudo Isto É Fado; Dança do Amor; Verdes Anos; Barco Negro; Fado Da Invejosa; Foi Deus;
Hermeto's Fado For Maria; Tempo Emotivo; Asas Fechadas; E Se Não For Fado.
Maria Mendes: vocals, percussion, compositions; John Beasley: keyboards, orchestrations, percussion, conducting;
Karel Boehlee: piano; Jasper Somsen: acoustic bass; Jasper van Hulten: drums, percussion
Metropole Orkest: chamber music line-up (1, 5, 6, 10);
Vincent Houdijk: vibraphone (9).
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