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Tuesday Reviewsday: Teresa Cristina, Mariza and Luísa Maita

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Artist Teresa Cristina
Artist Teresa Cristina

For this week's Tuesday Reviewsday, music journalist Steve Hochman joins A Martinez in the studio to talk music from Brazil and beyond.

Every Tuesday we take a deep dive into the latest music you should be listening to - Tuesday Reviewsday!

This week music journalist 

joins A Martinez in the studio with releases from around the world.

Steve's picks!

Artist - Teresa Cristina
Album - Canta Cartola

Had enough of Brazil? Olympics burnout? Not us.

The sights and sounds still entice. On the latter front, three upcoming albums fill the bill, three women vocal gymnasts, if you will — two from Brazil itself and one from Portugal.

This isn’t so much Carnaval party music — but maybe you’re partied out. This, then, music for winding down and savoring those gold medal memories. Portuguese is such a musical language that even if you don’t understand a word, the parts of this live album, “Canta Cartola,” in which Teresa Cristina is doing song introductions, talking to the audience rather than singing, still sound lovely and sad and funny and all the things, judging from the audience’s enthusiastic reactions, they certainly are. But when she sings, well, it’s all that and more, far beyond the literal meaning of the words. Which, of course, most of us don’t know.

“Canta Cartola” documents a concert Cristina, one of the stars of current Brazilian samba, gave last year at Teatro Net Rio, interpreting the songs of Angenor de Oliveira, one of the key architects of 20th century classic samba, a much-beloved figure known affectionately as Cartola — “Top Hat.”

This is not the raucous Carnaval samba, with lithe lads and ladies shaking their (barely) feather-clad booties. This is a more somber brand, emotionally rich, both melancholy and hopeful, Cristina accompanied by, and in seamless sync with, acoustic guitarist Carlinhos Sete Cordas, each coaxing the contours from the material with nuanced grace and subtle power.

On some of the more lively pieces, “O Sol Nascerá” and “Corra e Olhe o Céu” among the highlights, the voice and strings flit and fly like sunbeams through swaying leaves. 

And those images are what came to mind even without knowing the translations of the titles: “The Sun Will Rise” and “Run and Look to the Sky.” Cristina has made her name mining the works of the classic composers of past eras, but the connections to such modern giants as Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil (whom you may have seen in the Olympics opening ceremony) are strong.

That is equally due to the strong traditions that have been at the core of generations of Brazilian music, platforms for some great creativity, and to the talents of the singer here.

Artist - Mariza
Album - Mundo

The title of Mariza’s new album, “Mundo,” means “the world” in Portuguese. And if sometimes it’s easy to forget just how big a player Portugal once was in the world — its colonial history including not just Brazil, but Cape Verde and big chunks of the African continent and parts of Spain — Mariza has made a point of tapping that legacy on her new album.

Of course, she doesn’t overplay that angle. That would be out of character for this star of fado, the smoky, muted, oft-melancholy national song style often (if misleadingly) called Portuguese blues.

Mariza (real name, Marisa dos Reis Nunes) embodies that history in many ways, having been born in Portuguese Mozambique, her mother being of partial African heritage. She emerged in the fado world when asked to perform a tribute to Amalia Rodrigues, the Queen of Fado, after her death in 1999. That launched Mariza to a career as one of her country’s most popular singers, and one of the most successful from there in the rest of the world, in turn embracing musical roots from other related cultures.

With “Mundo,” she vividly realizes that global embrace, all the while remaining firmly planted in her own world. She reaches from the repertoire of Argentina’s Carlos Gardel — the tragic legend of tango, dead in a plane crash at age 44 in 1935 — with “Caprichosa” to a dip into the related Cape Verdean morna style with “Padoce de Céu” to a couple of originals by the album’s Spanish producer, Javier Limón.

And with “Anda O Sol Na Minha Rua” she returns to Rodrigues’ beloved canon. For the most part, this is all in the expressively Iberian style, slightly jazzy, slightly folky, slightly flamenco, very torchy, often with the brittle, high-pitched Portuguese guitar, played by José Manuel Neto, as the sonic centerpiece.

“Maldição,” from another fado great of the past, Alfredo “Marceneiro” Duarte, evokes a Lisbon cafe of an earlier era. In both contrast and complement, “Paixão” (written by Jorge Fernando) adds lush layers to the inherent drama, Mariza soaring over the waves gloriously.

Artist - Luísa Maita
Album - Fio da Memória

Traditional Brazil drumming and downtempo electronics don’t seem on paper a natural mix. But on her new single, the title song of her upcoming album, “Fio da Memória” (due for Sept. 23 release), São Paulo’s Luísa Maita has created a perfect and distinctive integration of the old and new.

The title means “Thread of Memory,” and the whole album follows that thread in various tapestries, sensual Amazon dreamscapes all. It’s a mix Maita teased on her 2010 debut album, which earned her Best New Artist honors at the Brazilian Music Awards and later had two songs on the soundtrack of Richard Linklater’s groundbreaking movie “Boyhood.”

It also led to a busy international touring schedule and various other projects. But it took her this long to make a full follow-up, and as the cliche goes, it was well worth the wait. Most remarkable is how natural the sounds work together, crafted largely by her and co-producer Zé Nigro, a Brazilian bass and electronics musician.

Dubstep rhythms and effects are wielded with deft hands, never oppressive, the rhythms left with spaces that allow the subtleties of the electronics to come through colorfully, enticingly. The music, always, breathes. And through it all it the real thread — her voice, sinewy and strong. And yes, sexy. It’s Brazil, after all.

And the overall chilled approach sets up the bracing contrast of the more pronounced approaches on some songs that kinda rock, the drums more forceful, the guitars turned up, the bass more throbbing. On “Around You” and a few other songs, the rhythms slink and shimmy — the echo of the Carnaval parade gone by, or the first hints of the next one approaching. Here she is performing the song in New York.

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