Terra (World Connection)
After being pivotal in the recent fado revival - a blues-like genre native to Portugese capital Lisbon - with her honest and impassioned interpretations, Mozambique-born songstress Mariza dares to take the genre into a new direction by adding different instruments and influences on Terra. Continuing her love affair with Brazil - two previous CDs were produced by Caetano Veloso collaborator and composer Jacques Morelembaum - here she welcomes pianist Ivan Lins to perform on his jazz-inflected "As Guitarras" and the English-language "Smile," where Mariza reveals a softer side seldom heard from fado singers.
Mariza does not, however, abandon her roots. On "Ja Me Deixou," she sings of the joy of returning to her beloved Alfama - the Lisbon neighborhood where fado was born - after a long time away. She shares the spotlight with Cape Verdean singer Tito Paris on "Beijo de Saudade," a loving tribute to Paris' native island. On "Frontiera," Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes (Irakere) adds a Latin-jazzy feel to lyrics extolling the pride the Portuguese take in their small nation. "Tasco da Mouraria" is another departure - gone are the usual guitars, replaced by piano, bass, drums and trumpeter Carlos Sarduy's subtle but highly effective riffs.
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If you haven't yet discovered Mariza - who toured the States, including Houston, last year and is rumored to be doing so again in 2009 - do take the time to listen to Terra. It even comes with liner notes and lyrics translated into English, Spanish and French, effectively solving any language-barrier problem. - Ernest Barteldes