A Vivoscene Feature by Jason Motz
What does it say about an internationally acclaimed jazz singer who does not yet have a biography on the“> BBC’s music site? It says that the BBC is about as hip to world music as Pigpen is to hygiene.
Here’s the deal folks: Carmen Souza is the Cape Verdean Norah Jones. (Get with it, Beeb!) With four albums to her credit, Lisbon-born and London-based Souza is fast-becoming a stellar recording artist, an in-demand live performer, a pinnacle of the international music scene and a class act brimming with distinct talent.
To be fair to Carmen, however, the best way to discover an artist is on the stage, not some encyclopedia or wiki. North American jazz fans will get their chance this summer as Ms. Souza and her cracking band tour the jazz festival circuit in support of the recently released album, Kachupada. The tour that began June 4 in New York City, will bring Souza to five of Canada’s jazz bashes: in Vancouver on June 22nd, in Victoria on the 23rd,Ottawa on the 25th, Toronto on the 26th and, finally, the grand-père of Canadian jazz festivals in Montréal on July 2nd.
Souza encompasses a talent that belies geography, linguistics, gender, and ethnomusicology. Or as Village Voice scribe Richard Gehr says: Souza’s live performance is “a foaming polyrhythmic puddle of unceasing acoustic amazement.” A gifted pianist and guitarist, Souza is at her commanding best when she opens her mouth to sing, unleashing a soul of immense beauty and power. At turns coquettish (“Manhna De Dezembro”), funky (“Luta”) and lyrical (“Terra Sab”). She adorns the Coltrane staple, “My Favorite Things” (perhaps the last jazz number you ever want to hear covered again) with a sexy delivery that recalls Macy Gray.
Sprinkling her live set with original compositions and traditional fare, Souza offers an eclectic sonic platter with African textures as the protein simmering in Portuguese flavours. Like its flavourful culinary namesake, Kachupada is a veritable stew with traces of soul music, gospel and Latin jazz. If you need some exotic sounds for your summer, Kachupada will gratify and satisfy you, from booty to your soul. Souza is no mere follower of Cape Verdean legend Cesária Évora, the Queen of Morna, but a spiritual descendent who evokes Évora and furthers the jazz tradition from Ella Fitzgerald to Nikki Yanofsky.
Watch a live, intimate performance of the breathtaking number “6 On Na Tarrafal” here.