Saturday, May 25, 2013
“O Cantador”—the singer, the poet who gives voice to the essential & elemental: life & death, grief & love in song. Archetypal, mythic, always familiar, always a stranger. The poet whose love & loss is intensely personal, but also existential & universal.
This is so beautifully presented in one of my favorite songs, “O Cantador” by Dorii Caymmi & Nelson Motta, a song I first heard sung by Flora Purim on her album recorded live at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 1974, Five Hundred Miles High. "O Cantador" is a standard in Brazil, & it has been covered by such great singers as Elis Regina & Gal Costa, but I always liked Purim’s version best. The song also exists in an English version titled “Like a Lover,” with lyrics by Alan & Marilyn Bergman, but the English lyrics bear only a tangential relationship at best to the Portuguese original—the Portuguese is existential, the English, a mostly conventional love lyric. It also misses the central pun of “O Cantador” ("the singer”) & “eu canto a dor”: “I sing of grief.” From a musical perspective, versions I’ve heard of the English version even by top notch jazz singers seem always to “square the song up,” & miss the lilt & flow of the Brazilian versions.
So Purim’s version was my favorite—until I heard this version done by Anna Setton accompanied on piano by Evaldo Soares. This is transcendent music, & if a singer as young as Setton can be said to have rendered a definitive version of such a deep song, then she has certainly done so here.
A beautiful performance—enjoy!
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