David Bowie’s Black­star and Lu­ciana Souza’s Speak­ing in Tongues

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - — Paul Wei­de­man

As the news of David Bowie’s death spread across so­cial me­dia on Jan. 11, long­time Bowie pro­ducer Tony Vis­conti of­fered a touch­ing trib­ute on his Face­book page. In it, he said, “[Bowie] made Black­star for us, his part­ing gift.” The al­bum, re­leased just two days be­fore his death, was al­ways clearly about a man con­fronting his mor­tal­ity — “Lazarus,” the se­cond sin­gle, fea­tures lyrics about be­ing in heaven and comes with a video that shows Bowie ly­ing in a hos­pi­tal bed. It was only af­ter his death that it be­came known that he had can­cer through­out the en­tire record­ing. This con­text can make it a tough lis­ten, but as part­ing gifts go, it’s a joy­ful, gen­er­ous one. The pro­duc­tion is rich and heav­ily jazz-in­flu­enced — the drums are ter­rif­i­cally loud, the gui­tars are rich with mood, glo­ri­ous squalls of sax­o­phone break loose, and high­lights such as “Lazarus” and the Por­tishead-like “Girl Loves Me” abound. Bowie’s hu­mor even re­mains in­tact, open­ing “’Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” with the line, “Then she punched me like a dude.” In­deed, one of the tragedies for fans is that this al­bum promised more years of ex­cel­lent Bowie mu­sic. In 1969’s “Space Odd­ity,” Bowie sings as a man trapped in or­bit, drift­ing away from Earth. Black­star of­ten sounds that way, too — one man sur­rounded by heav­enly son­ics, fi­nally leav­ing adrift a gui­tar solo, re­peat­ing the pointed ti­tle to “I Can’t Give Ev­ery­thing Away,” the fi­nal song of his ca­reer and life. Be­tween “Space Odd­ity” and this, Bowie gifted us with decades of magic, mu­sic, in­spi­ra­tion, and af­fir­ma­tion. Thanks for all of it, David. — Robert Ker LU­CIANA SOUZA Speak­ing in Tongues (Sun­ny­side) Jazz is all about “lis­ten­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion and di­a­logue,” Lu­ciana Souza says in a video in­ter­view about her new al­bum. That method­ol­ogy proves it­self beau­ti­fully in her work here with gui­tarist Lionel Loueke, har­moni­cist Gré­goire Maret, drum­mer Ken­drick Scott, and bassist Massimo Bi­ol­cati. On the opener, “At the Fair,” Souza’s sub­lime word­less singing is as syn­co­pated as the step­ping bass and tat-tat per­cus­sion. At Maret’s en­trance, ev­ery­thing gets funkier; he and Loueke, play­ing elec­tric gui­tar, lay it on thick. A stun­ning fi­nale ties the knot on the band’s bright, stim­u­lat­ing mix. Souza and Loueke sing gen­tly to­gether with his acous­tic gui­tar on “Hymn,” but the mood changes from melan­cholic to cel­e­bra­tory in the se­cond half. “Straw Hat,” which is en­livened by an African rhythm, has Souza ex­press­ing in an in­vented “lan­guage” that ac­tu­ally sounds Por­tuguese (she is Brazil­ian), and she adds flour­ishes of pure jazz scat. To­gether with fas­ci­nat­ing har­mon­ica work and Loueke’s out­landish syn­the­sized gui­tar, they fash­ion the al­bum’s most dy­namic track. “For me, singing with­out words means I can ar­tic­u­late my own hu­man­ity with just sounds,” Souza says — but on this al­bum she adds two songs com­posed around Leonard Co­hen po­ems. The first, “Split,” sounds like a des­o­late ur­ban land­scape (“and the lover will groan and the other will laugh”), and the po­etry is punc­tu­ated by stel­lar gui­tar and har­mon­ica so­los, and more of Souza’s scat­ting. This is a re­mark­able, dy­namic al­bum.

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