Times Square Recordings
Here presenting lyrical male vocals reminiscent of Corsican singer Petru Guelfucci sans the latter's outbursts of power, Jorge Fernando was Amália Rodrigues' guitarist for six years and produced her final recordings. With prior Jazz and Pop interludes intersecting his performance career, Fernando's Velho Fado is not your typical Fado affair limited by narrow conventions and concerns over stylistic purity. Still, the spirit of the thing is uppermost on everyone's mind and the musicians attached to this venture are the crème de la crème of the genre: Cristina Branco's husband and ace Portuguese guitarist Custódio Castelo; Toni Pinto on classical guitar; Marino de Freitas on acoustic upright; Ricardo Dias on piano/accordion; Andre Sousa Machado on percussion, Manual Rocha on violin and Davide Zaccaria on cello. Add Argentina Santos, Andre Dequech and Cristina Branco as special guests and you're in for a truly special treat.
Aside from a bow to Fado diva Rodrigues with her famous "Lágrima" and Jacques Brel's "La chanson des vieux amants" transformed into an achingly sad Fado elegy sung in the original French, the remaining eight numbers are all original compositions and particularly fetching examples of the Portuguese Blues liberated from its neo-baroque stiltedness. There are touches of Parisian bistro life well outside the Brel tribute, the tangoesque strains of "Tantos Fados Deu-Mi A Vida" and ample evidence of advanced songwriter's craft. It simply finds itself enveloped in Fado predominantly by virtue of Castelo's crying guitar and far less so by adherence to classical patterns.
Rather than feeling misappropriated as so much world music is guilty of by superficially raiding other cultures' coffers, Fernando's deep immersion in the genre allows him to transcend its constrictions while remaining true to its innate glory. The affectedness is gone, the patterns of uptight conduct relaxed. What's left is a universal appeal to poetry and a rare gift for memorable melodies of tristesse and saudade, similar to Cesaria Evora's best work. With the current revival of more traditional Fado at the hands of Marisa and Mizia, Velho Fado is a very welcome breath of fresh air whose window could only have been opened by a deep insider of the requisite maturity, to say so much more with so much less just like that lion of Brazilian song, Caetano Veloso. Highly recommended especially for those unfamiliar with Fado. A better entry into this genre so dominated by female vocalists is hardly imaginable.