Sunday, December 4, 2011

In review---Sardinia and the Sea

Franca Masu
10 Anys

Once in a while a new diva crosses my path which is the case with Sardinian jazz vocalist Franca Masu who sings her repertoire in the Catalan language.  So not only am I discovering a new vocal talent (to my ears), but I also discovered a Catalan connection to the Italian island of Sardinia.  If you go back hundreds of years, you’ll discover a goldmine of cultural and language connections in the Mediterranean, but for the sake of this review my goal is to pique your curiosity.  Closet anthropologists similar to me will dig right in.

Franca Masu marks the first female Sardinian vocalists I have listened to, but she’s not the first chanteuse that I’ve reviewed that sings in the Catalan language, Mariana Rossell (Barcelona) and Maria del Mar Bonet (Majorca) come easily to mind.  Masu weds jazz vocals with traditional instruments on her live album 10 Anys. Masu’s vocals alternate between sedate/tender on Aquamare and powerhouse on the opener Cor Meu and L’Adéu.  Accordion, lutes, and traditional flute swirl around Masu’s voice as she reflects on spiritual-religious topics or themes revolving around the sea, and love/romance.   Poetry plays a large role in the Catalan-speaking world, and also plays a role on this album, adding to its elegance.

Besides the Catalan language which American audiences won’t recognize unless they earned a masters or Ph. D in romance languages, the music here with its strong melodies, jazz cadences, and passionate vocals ought to appeal to discerning ears.  For some reason Astrolicamus sounds familiar and I'm certain I've heard this song before in a different context. For fans of traditional and world music, this album is a must, especially for music collectors who enjoy following the career of a formidable woman vocalist.  I know that I enjoy vocalists who draw from a rich palette of emotions, and caress every nuance from a song while emphasizing language and poetry.  Masu certainly fits that bill.  If you seek a new diva to add to your list, look no further.