Fado interpreters can range from the more traditional to the experimental. In the latter realm is Portuguese-born, French-raised Bévinda (Bévinda Ferreire). Outubro, her tenth release, presents the singer in a live set from the January 2006 Suoni Migranti Festival (hosted by the Comune di Riccione, Assessorato alla Cultura, which collaborated in this CD's production). Bévinda's tight, fluid combo includes Philippe de Sousa (Portuguese guitar), Mathias Duplessy (classical guitar, vocals), Côme Aguiar (bass), Philippe Foch (tabla, percussion), and Nicolas Gorge (drum kit).
For a live set (with due thanks to the sound technician), the subtleties are many here, testament to the singer's considerable gift, her vocal intensity, and the easy rapport she has with her splendid ensemble. De Sousa, who co-wrote several numbers with Bévinda, is superb on the Portuguese guitar (with its teardrop shape and six double-course steel strings over a moveable bone bridge, actually closer to a cittern), both in fado's traditional accompaniment mode and, more unusually for the genre, as a soloist (hear his lightly ringing "Pedras da madrugada," a contemplative solo instrumental break). Duplessy swings on guitar, and he too is a master of vocal nuance (e.g., "Jarkot" and "Dorme amorzinho," the latter with his keening, muezzin-like vocals on a striking Bévinda-Kamilya Jubran composition). The rhythm section lays down the groove, and altogether, this ensemble recording gives everyone plenty of room to work their individual spells.
At the fore, of course, is Bévinda herself, who blends a sultry French café sensibility with a feeling for the Orient, shot through with the fatalistic saudade so characteristic of fado. Her balmy contralto ranges from a restrained interpretation of "O grito" (an Amalia Rodrigues-Carlos Gonçalves composition, the only cover here, and a singular reading of a classic) to the pulsing "Mulher Passaro," all with an arresting gravity. A live video of the latter song (a different version than on this CD) is worth seeing on the artist's website, complete with a close-fitting blues harmonica solo by an unidentified harpist, one more example of the disregard this singer has for musical boundaries. Working against the tabla, Duplessy interjects some neo-classical Indian vocals with his rhythmic scatting, while Bévinda chants, moans, hisses, and snarls with primordial glee and a palpable aura of being born for the stage. The clip also gives a hint of the controlled mania the singer weaves through the relaxed overall musical temper so easily conjured and sustained by the ensemble. - Michael Stone
CD available from cdRoots