Just one complaint about Ana Moura’s performance Saturday in the Morris Center: It was too short.
Granted, this had been advertised as a double-bill, with a classical set by clarinetist Patrick Messina and company taking up the second half.
But I was there to hear Portugal’s leading fadista and her band, who have been touring the globe with a new kind of fado – a variation on traditional Portuguese folk/blues – and I left at intermission.
One hour of Ana Moura, an exquisite vocalist and riveting performer, was simply not enough.
She sings in a passionate alto, a sometimes husky sound that can rise effortlessly and without warning into the upper reaches. Applied to dynamic music performed by a mostly acoustic band, she seemed to invoke long-gone love affairs both good and unsatisfactory, and the darker things that live in the hearts of the Portuguese people.
Since I don’t speak the language, I assume that’s what Moura was singing about.
In whispered, halting English, she told the afternoon crowd that the Morris Center – at the least the candle-lit rows of cabaret tables closest to the stage – reminded her for the intimate “fado houses” in her homeland.
Moura then asked for the public address system to be shut off, so she and the band could reproduce the atmosphere in these places. She put her microphone down, and they proceeded to perform a smoky ballad without any amplification. The sound still filled the small brick building. The effect was stunning.
At one point, she left the stage while the band played a lengthy instrumental piece. The standout performer in the excellent and understated ensemble was Angelo Friere on guitarra, a special Portuguese acoustic guitar.
Moura returned and they all burned through her emotional rendition of Joni Mitchell’s aching classic “A Case of You,” the only song performed in English for the duration.
She closed with “Desfado,” the sprightly and impossibly catchy title tune to her newest album, which has a central riff that’s very close to “Guantanamera.” The band kept playing for a bit after Moura had waved and left the stage, and I caught them slipping in a few bars of that Cuban pop classic before they finished. They’d heard it too.
And that was that. Over too soon.
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