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Cesaria Evora: Cafe Atlantico

In the short few years that the great, soft-edged fifty-something vocalist Cesaria Evora has become a world music sensation, her voice has made that transformation from being an exotic visitor from the obscure world of Cape Verde (off the coast of Senegal) to being a familiar flavor in the stew of general world culture. She has arrived, on our stereos, our concert halls, and our dreams. And so, hearing her new album, Cafe Atlantico (RCA 65401; 58:26), we get the comforting feeling of encountering a new friend, and sink into the understated world of her vocal style, rooted in the Cape Verdean “morna” tradition.

Cafe Atlantico was recorded in Paris and Havana, and benefits from slippery and sensuous string arrangements-by cellist Jacques Morelenbaum, noted for work with Caetano Veloso-weaving in and out of her band’s unique, soft-but-insistent pulse. Standout tracks include the undulant seduction of “Carnaval de Sao Vicente” and “Terezinha” and the sad, proud luster of “Desilusao dum Amdjer.” It is music, following the Portuguese socio-cultural trajectory from the Atlantic to the Caribbean, making a clear link between Europe and Latin America, with Africa in the wings. But mostly, it’s the voice that speaks to us, then as now.

Originally Published