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Portuguese pianist Júlio Resende intentionally obscures the line between his homeland’s deeply rooted fado music and jazz on his latest release, the aptly titled Fado Jazz. Bleeding into each other across nine tracks of mostly original material, the two genres pulsate and barrel forward, birthing something new in the process.
The bandleader evocatively substitutes the bittersweet, plaintive vocal stylings of fado with his multi-faceted instrument, pulling an entire nation’s sonic lament out of its fatalistic depths and tending its wounds while teasing out its tempestuous edges through the pluralistic prism of jazz. Accompanied by André Rosinha on bass, Alexandre Frazão on drums/percussion and Bruno Chaveiro on the pear-shaped, 12-string Portuguese guitar, Resende’s malleable keys unfurl in a search for the boundless beauty of that which is undefined. The spritely “Vira Mais Cinco (Para o Zeca)” kicks off the set with piano and opalescent guitarra portuguesa, the lute-like instrument that is part of the traditional fado lineup, knitting together a pirouetting melody anchored by Frazão’s crisp, measured drumming.
Resende isn’t bound by saudade, the idiosyncratic blend of nostalgia and yearning that permeates traditional fado, although subtle undercurrents can be heard in the album’s ballads, “Lira,” “Este Piano Não Te Esquece” and “All the Things-Alfama-Are.” Instead, he uses it as a point of reference, eschewing the all or nothing aesthetic of fado for a multi-layered approach that points to a broader palette of human emotions. “Fado Blues (for Deolinda)” brims with a slow burn more reminiscent of the Mississippi Delta than Lisboa, while the samba-tinged backbeat of “Fado Maior Improvisado” conjures images of revelry in Rio as it crescendos in freewheeling improvisation. Resende inches closer to fado’s conventional torch song melodrama on “Profecia,” albeit through the irreverent voice of Portugal’s latest fado futurist, Lina Rodrigues. And while there are traces of longing and melancholy as she sings of the illusion of a lost love re-emerging, the surrender in her voice makes the despair feel decidedly more ephemeral.— Lissette Corsa