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Sara Serpa & André Matos: Primavera

Robert Bush By

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Although there are (mostly) just two musicians on Primavera, the first recorded collaboration between Portuguese songbird Sara Serpa and guitarist Andre Matos—one couldn't ask for a more sonically lustrous offering. That's partially due to the result of judiciously applied multitracking, and to the intricate melodic sense of both musicians. There is nary an extra note or a false move on this album, and it frequently soars, as on the title track, where Serpa's layered vocals paint vivid pictures over the angular guitar constructs of Matos.

Leo Genovese turns in an ecstatic melodica contribution on "Rios," cranking the excitement factor up a few notches, and Greg Osby's soprano saxophone ornaments "Choro" with a serpentine mystery—but it's mostly Serpa's plaintive, yet gorgeous pipes and the smart instrumental prowess of Matos that make this disc so consistently engaging.

Serpa and Matos keep the 14 tunes on Primavera short ( the longest clocks in at 5:44 and the shortest is a mere 1:59.) Many are delivered in wordless melodies, although the sumptuous "O Guardador De Rebanhos," is sung in Portuguese, and "Vanguard," by Ran Blake and Jeanne Lee, in English.

Matos is an excellent string craftsman, his guitar is clean and deep, and he navigates between jarring intervals and sonorous chords with remarkable fluidity. It's hard to imagine three musicians achieving an orchestral impact—but that's exactly what happens when Serpa, Matos, and Genovese (on piano this time) dig into the bluesy, stop-time aesthetic of "Nuvem," which also affords Matos the chance to unleash his chops in a funky display that flirts with "outside" zones without losing the groove or the melodic thread.

Serpa's range is impressive, her intonation is flawless, and her melodic imperative hyper-creative, yet there is no showboating on Primavera. Each note resonates with a distilled purity. Vocal albums are not usually my thing, but Primavera is enthusiastically recommended.

Track Listing: Primavera; Tempo; Rios; Choro; Kubana; Song For A Sister; Caminho; O Guardador De Rebanhos; A Realidade Das Coisas; nuvem; Vanguard; Gardening; Se Me Va La Voz; Earth.

Personnel: Sara Serpa: voice, fender rhodes, piano; André Matos: guitar, electric bass, cymbal; Greg Osby; soprano saxophone (4); Leo Genovese; melodica, kosikas, bombo leguero, piano, toy guitar; Pete Rende: Prophet keyboard (7).

Title: Primavera | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Inner Circle Music

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