By Anton Garcia-Fernandez.
Mariza has embarked on a tour of the United States and Canada that will not be finished until May, and last night she appeared at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Accompanied by a lineup that included Portuguese guitar, piano, trumpet, classical guitar, bass, and percussion, at the end of her two-hour concert, she got a standing ovation. And deservedly so, because she put on a magnificent show: her mournful voice sang of unrequited love, fate, her childhood, and her homeland, and her backing musicians provided the perfect accompaniment. For many, it was an evening of discovery; for others (and there were definitely many Brazilian and Portuguese immigrants in the audience) it was a unique chance to enjoy the music of one of the foremost names in present-day fado.
As evidenced by most of her records, Mariza’s approach to fado singing is somewhat modern, a combination of influences culled from jazz, pop, African rhythms, and Latin American music. At times she clearly strays from traditional fado, but she has a vast knowledge about its tradition and is extremely respectful of it. Thus, she mixed songs from her latest album, Terra (“Já Me Deixou,” “Rosa Branca,” “Tasco da Mouraria,” “Vozes do Mar”), and more traditional-sounding tunes such as the Southern Portuguese air “Feira de Castro.” One of the highlights of the evening was a rhythmic, percussion-laden reading of Amália Rodrigues’s classic “Barco Negro” that had the audience on their feet.
Clad in a beautiful black dress, Mariza has a powerful, dramatic stage presence, and last night she seemed perfectly in tune with her extraordinarily gifted musicians, which added to the overall charm of the concert. She also introduced some of the songs in very good English, reminiscing about her life and instructing the audience on the meaning and long history of fado. The performance was divided into two parts by a lovely guitarrada, that is, an instrumental fado that allowed Mariza to showcase the abilities of her wonderful musicians. Toward the end of the evening, she even gave a tip of the hat to the Great American Songbook with a yearning version of “Cry Me a River,” a classic made famous by 1950s songstress Julie London. The final surprise was still to come, though: Mariza pulled up a chair and called her guitarist and her Portuguese guitarist, and together they sang a few quatrains from traditional fado songs like “Zanguei-me Com Meu Amor” and “É Tão Bom Ser Pequenino,” unplugged and with no microphone, turning the Schermerhorn into a Lisbon fado house for a few minutes. A fitting finale for a fabulous evening that will be hard to forget.
Nashville, March 10, 2009.