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December 2001

Caetano Veloso
Omaggio a Federico e Giulietta
Nonesuch Records

Brazil's beloved, romantic iconoclast Caetano Veloso has been on a creative roll in recent years, expanding his musical vision rather than resting on plentiful laurels. That much was clear just on his recent, idiom-cross-stitching masterpiece, Livro. Veloso's Omaggio a Federico e Giulietta (Nonesuch 79599; 70:17) is both a departure from his musical flow and a validation of his fundamental artistry.

This project grew out of Veloso's professed love of Fellini, and particularly the films made with his wife, Giulietta Masina, including La Strada, Nights of the Cabiria and Ginger and Fred. Veloso wrote a tune entitled "Giulietta Masina," which is heard on this emotionally low-key 19-song presentation, recorded live in San Marino in 1997. Still, the concert was less about specific Fellini references than a very personalized homage to the spirit of the great Italian director's work. Veloso chooses material as diverse as "Ave Maria," Jobim's "Chega de Saudade" and "Let's Face the Music and Dance" (in reference to Ginger and Fred). Obviously, the music of Fellini's right-hand composer, Nino Rota, played an integral role in the films' character and special blend of lyricism and experimentation, but Veloso wisely chooses only a couple of memorable Rota themes here, to frame the tribute. It begins with the haunting chromatic theme of Rota's music for La Strada, to which Veloso added Portuguese lyrics. At the end, he sings a wordless version of the Rota theme, "Gelsomina," a movingly bittersweet finale, a gentle tip of the hat between important artists.

Originally published in December 2001
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