Teresa Cristina: Canta Cartola

It’s like listening through the walls of a conversation between lovers. The music is gracious, indulgent, and enchanting.
Teresa Cristina
Canta Cartola

Brazil’s best-known samba singer, Teresa Cristina, pays tribute to the pioneering master Cartola in a concert in Rio from November 2015 on this CD/DVD set. It doesn’t matter if one can understand Portuguese (song translations are included in the liner notes) or if one has an understanding of Brazilian musical traditions to appreciate this album; Cristina and seven-string guitarist Carlinhos Sete Cordas create a beguiling mood through smooth, tropical-inflected music that works on several subconscious levels, as well the more conscious strata. It’s like listening through the walls of a conversation between lovers. The music is gracious, indulgent, and enchanting.

Those unfamiliar with Cristina and Cartola may find that the cuts on the CD sound alike because of their Brazilian inflections. However, a more careful listen is rewarding because it shows the many sonic differences from cut to cut. Cristina has an open and expressive voice. Even when singing “Ay ay ay ay”, her sighs flow like liquid through the air, as if we all are sharing the same breath. She spreads happiness with an ache of tenderness as if to acknowledge life’s riches in the face of its foibles. Likewise, Cordas’ angular acoustic guitar accompaniment frames here vocals in surprising ways, never letting her linger too long on any particular note without pushing her forward. It’s a balancing act that keeps the interplay consistently interesting.

Cartola’s songs, such as “As Rosas Não Falam” (“Roses Don’t Talk”) and “Ao Amanhecer” (“At Dawn”), work as poetry both as sung and in translation. Christina poignantly sings lines such as “E quam sabe; sonhar as meus sonhos” (“Also, who knows, to dream my dreams”) like she’s a Brazilian Billie Holiday so that when she drops the last words — “Por fin” (“Finally”) — Christina’s ode to lost love carries the full bittersweet essence of the feeling. It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Cristina’s inhabiting of Cartola’s spirit vividly comes off in the video, too, as her facial expressions and body gestures reveal her enthusiasm and spirit. She charmingly engages the audience, who at times joins in on familiar songs—particularly “Sala de Recepção” (“Reception Room”), which celebrates Cartola’s roots. Cristina covers a wide spectrum of feelings without ever getting sappy or silly; many of the tunes are happy, and the joy of the narrator strongly comes across, as does the sadness of the more melancholy tracks.

Cristina and Cordas save the best for last with the declarative “O Sol Nascera (A Sorrir)” (“The Sun Will Rise {Smiling}”), which optimistically affirms that while past love may have brought pain, the performers believe in romance and the future. Cristina sings with a bright voice, articulating each word, while Corda hits the strings powerfully to show the resoluteness of the emotion. It’s one thing to announce that the sun will come out tomorrow, but it’s another to proclaim it. Again, the crowd joins in at the end to publicly assert they share the same attitude, allowing Canta Cartola to serve not only as a souvenir of a great concert, but also a way for those who weren’t present to experience the wonder of the night and the artists involved.

RATING 7 / 10