|António Zambujo - Quinto||
He upholds fado’s sense of longing and tragic dignity as he brings it into modern close-up.
Mr. Zambujo paid obeisance to fado’s history. His songs are associated with fado’s two most indelible singers, Ms. Rodrigues and Alfredo Marceneiro. Yet he is discreetly pushing fado in directions of his own. He connects fado both to the regional music of southern Portugal, where he grew up, and to Brazilian pop that shares some of fado’s grace. He also makes subtle use of technology.
Mr. Zambujo is not a cafe belter like some younger fado singers. His tone is always intimate as he sings about solitude and lost love. The microphone is his ally. It picks up every nuance of his small yet utterly expressive voice: a high, clear, precise yet melting tenor that suggests both Mr. Marceneiro and, from across the Atlantic, the Brazilian songwriter Caetano Veloso.
On his fifth album, “Quinto.” Mr. Zambujo lightly plucked chords on a guitar, accompanied by Ricardo Cruz on string bass and Luis Guerreiro on guitarra, the traditional fado instrument that sounds like a mandolin or a harpsichord. The string instruments provide a restrained, nearly transparent frame of rhythm and harmony, with glimmering obbligatos from the guitarra, but they always defer to the singer. And Mr. Zambujo’s voice, quiet but riveting, teased out all the sorrows, yearnings and occasional wryness of the songs.
Where the strings set up the understated oompah of traditional fado, Mr. Zambujo’s phrases hovered above it or darted around it, full of dramatic hesitations and elegant arabesques, often creating an emotional climax with a decrescendo. At times he resembles a singer he may never have heard: Aaron Neville from New Orleans, who similarly rushes into a phrase, pauses unexpectedly or sustains an aching note, at once tense and angelic.