Mar de Setembro


by Derek Bermel

Mark Swed, LATimes Blogs, May 16, 2011:

“Mar de Setembro” is a short set of five songs to texts by the late Portuguese poet Eugénio de Andrade and written for the Brazilian jazz singer Luciana Souza. Bermel, who is LACO’s composer in residence, has produced a small gem.

The poetic imagery focuses on sweet lips and kisses: the moon’s “golden kiss,” the September sea’s luminous “sky, lips, sand” and the water nightingale’s “memory of lips.” In the fourth song, “Hidden Waters,” lips are “Thirsty still for other lips.” From the last song, “Fruit,” spill "peaches, pears, oranges, strawberry’s cherries, figs, apples, melon and honey dew," which are, for De Andrade, “music of my senses” and “pure pleasures of the tongue.”

Bermel takes De Andrade at his word, with dreamy music of the senses and pure pleasures for Souza’s tongue. The orchestra laps like waves of the ocean. The Brazilian singer, amplified and unusually laid back (she was said to have been ill on Sunday) handled irresistible melodies with easy flowing grace and unerring musicality.

The first song, “What Moonlit Voice,” was sung in the dark, with only an aquaphone (water-filled and mellow) as accompaniment. In the third song, “Song,” Souza's chesty, wine-red lower register was nudged by a tickling xylophone expanding on exuberant bird song. “Fruit” hints at tango and fado. A violin cadenza tumbles from high to low, and then to the tempo of a distant waltz, Souza sang in low and swaying melody, “oh, tangerines, oh, tangerines,” that you could all be taste.'

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