Carmen Souza ‘Live at Lagny Jazz Festival’ CD + DVD (Galileo/Jazz Pilon) 4/5

Carmen-Souza-02Cape Verdean singer, guitarist and pianist Carmen Souza differs from her more illustrious fellow national singers in that she is a major devotee of jazz rather than morna, or any of the other local music genres. In terms of her vocal delivery, which is extremely wide-ranging, there are hints of Blossom Dearie with a deeper Dee Dee Bridgewater influence while the jazz piano-singer role reminds one in part at least of a young Tania Maria. Over the last few years Souza has quietly built up her impressive portfolio and this excellent live recording is taken from a festival in the north of France and contains both audio CD and DVD footage of the same performance. Assisted by a pared-down trio of pianist Ben Burrell, electric and acoustic bassist Theo Pascal and drummer/percussionist Elias Kazomanolis, the emphasis is very much on Souza and she delivers with aplomb. Jazz fans will be fascinated by the idiosyncratic approach on ‘My favourite things’ with wordless scatting halfway through while the opener, a medley of original numbers, ‘Protegid/Manha 1 de dezembro’ is both catchy and inventive with Souza operating on guitar and piano. A real treat and album highlight is a rendition of ‘Song for my father’ which of course the late great Horace Silver wrote. There is, in fact, a special link with the Cape Verdean Isles in that Horace’s father was born there and the pianist was always quick to acknowledge his family roots. The version here is sung in Portuguese with some delightful percussive touches to embellish. For a complete change, Souza adapts a classic French chanson, ‘Sous le ciel de Paris’, that none other than Yves Montand immortalised. If the temp does not quite work as well as the original, it is a brave effort nonetheless. A breakneck speed greets the listener on Souza’s adaptation of Charlie Parker’s ‘Donna Lee’ which seems to be a favourite of hers and the shuffling percussive accompaniment merely enhances the listener’s enjoyment. A studio album by Carmen Souza was reviewed by this writer several months ago and showed promise. This new live recording covers a good deal of music territory, sung in Portuguese, English and occasionally French and successfully straddles jazz and world roots and Souza would do well to remain in that groove because eventually it will pay dividends and a receptive audience will reach her.

Tim Stenhouse