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Sara Serpa: Close Up (Clean Feed)

Review of album from Lisbon-born vocalist

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Cover of Sara Serpa album Close Up on Clean Feed
Cover of Sara Serpa album Close Up on Clean Feed

Every song, it can be argued, is a shifting landscape, the hues, light and details delineated by an artist, then further reimagined by the listener. Taking that conceit a bold, dynamic step further, as is invariably her way, Lisbon-born vocalist Sara Serpa unites with saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and cellist Erik Friedlander to shape a 42-minute session that, as she observes in the liner notes, “can be explained, interpreted and heard through multiple angles of its creative process and performance.”

Serpa, a Berklee and NEC grad whose education was further honed at the legendary Hot Clube de Portugal, wrote all nine selections. Her lyrics are crafted in Portuguese and English, alongside her trademark wordless forays, and draw upon her own life experiences and such inspirations as Virginia Woolf, Belgian-French feminist intellectual Luce Irigaray, Portuguese poet Ruy Belo and Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. The filmmaker’s Close-Up, from 1990, mirrors Serpa’s multi-perspective goal. In Kiarostami’s documentary-style gem, she notes, “subjects become objects, the viewers become the actors, and the actor(s) become(s) the director(s), as they re-enact and reconstruct present and past events.”

In the studio, each track unfolded organically, no edits or retakes, all three artists traveling wherever inspiration led while remaining aware, and respectful, of the others’ paths. The trio-defined results—alternately dark, bright, bleak, vibrant, joyous, sorrowful, searching, soaring, turbulent, earthy and otherworldly—are laid before the listener, leaving it to each of us to add our own unique layers of elucidation.  

Preview, buy or download songs from the album Close Up by Sara Serpa on iTunes.

Read Nate Chinen’s The Gig column on Sara Serpa from the December 2016 issue of JazzTimes.

Originally Published