Let others take up my madness
And all that went with it.
Without madness what is man
But a healthy beast,
A postponed corpse that breeds?
-from “Sebastian, King of Portugal”
by Fernando Pessoa (Richard Zenith, trans.)
I have three tracks to share with you on this rainy monday (it’s rainy where I am). Each from a different continent, they all have in common the Portuguese language, a tongue well-suited to song, unlike our coarse Germanic talk.
The first, a classic example of the Portuguese fado, was recorded in Mozambique somewhere around 1955 or 1956, during the reign of Portugal’s imperialistic Estado Novo. It is one of the earliest known recordings of Joao Maria Tudella, who would go on to become an internationally touring fado singer in the following decade. He is accompanied by Alves Martins and the famous Antonio Fonseca on Spanish and Portuguese guitars.
The next track was recorded in 1971 in Paris by Brazilian Bossa Nova singer Nara Leão. In marked contrast to the violent political turmoil of the preceding decade in Brazil, “Insensatez,” off Dez Anos Depois (“10 years after”), is practically Tylenol in song form. It is one of my favorite bossa nova tracks and exemplifies for me the sleepy melancholic characteristics of the genre.
The final track I submit to you closes the debut solo album of Portland, Oregon-born jazz bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding [myspace]. Only 24 years old at the time of this recording, she was selected by President Obama to perform at the Nobel prize ceremony in Oslo at the end of 2009 and has not surprisingly been receiving quite a bit of critical attention since that time. Her sophomore effort, Chamber Music Society (2010) [Amazon], is also excellent. Niño Josele joins her on “Samba em Preludio,” playing flamenco guitar.