Portuguese guitar master Carlos Paredes reissued | Bleader

Portuguese guitar master Carlos Paredes reissued


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Carlos Paredes is generally considered the greatest practitioner of the Portuguese guitar, a lute with six pairs of steel strings that's the key instrument of the nation's musical form, fado. Paredes, who died in 2004 at age 79, emerged from a famous musical family—his father Artur also played the instrument, modifying it to give it greater sustain and a softer attack. Still, it was Carlos who really made a mark, as a key exponent of Coimbra fado, named for the city his family was from—a gentler, more romantic strain of the style than the one played in Lisbon.

Carlos wrote music for fado's greatest star, Amalia Rodrigues—when she first saw him perform, his music overwhelmed her emotionally to the point that she felt like hitting him—but his own work moved well beyond the style (in 1990 he released a gorgeous duo album with jazz bassist Charlie Haden called Dialogues). He didn't make many records, but when he entered the studio he made it count. Two of his earliest classics have recently been reissued on vinyl by Drag City, making their first appearance in the U.S. Most of the tracks from the two albums were released on a compilation CD called Guitarra Portuguesa by Nonesuch Explorer in 1989.

Guitarra Portuguesa dates from 1967, and it's a gorgeous collection of instrumental duets with a standard acoustic guitar. The album includes "Canção Verde Anos," a theme Carlos wrote for the 1963 film Os Anos Verdes, a key work in the Portuguese New Cinema movement that earned the condemnation of the ruling fascists; you can hear it below. All 11 pieces have a remarkable bittersweet lyrical quality, at once pulsing with vitality and oozing with pathos. Four years later Paredes released Movimento Perpétuo, an album marked by the same emotional power but distinguished by more elaborate forms and, on two pieces, the flute playing of Tiago Velez. One can't help but hear similarities to fado, but not only is this stuff instrumental—fado is dominated by the human voice—but there's also a technical wizardry and melodic generosity that set it apart from any other tradition. Both recordings are breathtaking.

Carlos Paredes, "Canção Verde Anos"

Today's playlist:

Der Rote Bereich, 7 (Intakt)
Corb Lund, Losin' Lately Gambler (New West)
Scott DuBois, Black Hawk Dance (Sunnyside)
Joyce Moreno With João Donato, Aquarius (Far Out)
Newspeak, Sweet Light Crude (New Amsterdam)

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