In the past decade, singer Cesaria Evora has concentrated almost exclusively on the national song form of her native Cape Verde Islands, morna--thought to be a hybrid of Portuguese fado, Brazilian modhina, and a local rhythm called lundum--but on her new Cafe Atlantico (RCA Victor) she channels a wider variety of the currents flowing through her birthplace, the port town of Mindelo. The record benefits from the orchestral arrangements of Jacques Morelenbaum, the Brazilian cellist and arranger most recently seen with Caetano Veloso this summer. With a light, empathetic touch, he heightens the beauty of her songs without turning them lachrymose and highlights the intersections of the various Latin, African, and European threads. The violin solo on "Perseguida" leaves behind a mournful trail of Argentine tango, and while the graceful ballad "Desilusao dum amdjer" features the same stately piano and buoyant cavaquinho (the sweet, ukulele-like instrument that's a staple of Tom Ze's music) as Evora's more traditional 1992 album, Mar azul (Nonesuch), it also incorporates a part played on the harplike West African kora. On "Beijo de longe," a flute-driven danzon recorded in Havana with Cuban musicians, Evora seems unable or unwilling to adapt to the more extroverted rhythms, crawling where she should be hopping. But she acquits herself elegantly on "Maria Elena," an old Spanish love song retrofitted with a bolero beat. The album is a fascinating and largely successful experiment, but the purity and power of Evora's croon--sad like Edith Piaf's but strong like Billie Holiday's--are best experienced live. Sunday, 7:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212. Peter Margasak
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Youri Lenquette & Eric Mulet.