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The Story of LISBOA ÍNTIMA
Alcantara is an old, industrial warehouse neighborhood near the Tejo River, under the Ponte 25 de Abril. Huge cranes protruding from the docks accentuate the waterfront ambience of the Lisboa skyline. Gentrification began several years before our visit in September 2014, and as we walked to our destination, Ler Devagar, the epicenter of the new Alcantara, artist studios, hip restaurants, boutiques and open workspaces seemed to pop up before our eyes. Ler Devagar (“read slowly”) is essentially a huge bookshop, but also a multi-media venue that includes a large retail music section packed with vinyl and CDs, a performance space with stage and piano, a recording studio, a bar and cafe. We have always loved Portuguese music and gobbled up armfuls of recordings from numerous artists as Susan and I began to think about a new World Music project focusing on Portugal.
Upon our return to New York, we fell more deeply in love with the music, especially the iconic Carlos do Carmo. Carlos is and has been the most revered and popular singer in Portugal over the past 45 years, part of a family of venerable musicians and Fado club owners whose legacy dates back several generations. Inexplicably, he remains virtually unknown outside Iberia and Lusofonia.
CARLOS DO CARMO IN NEW YORK. A touch of magic and a series of synchronistic events soon directed our project to Lisboa.
In November 2014, I received a call in my office from Carlos do Carmo, seemingly “out of the blue”. At first I thought it was a joke. I did not know it at the time, but our friend Ivan Lins had suggested that Carlos contact me while he (Carlos) was in New York after receiving the lifetime Latin Grammy award a few days earlier in Las Vegas. He invited me to visit at his hotel. After a warm greeting, the erudite, elegant Carlos began our meeting by declaring “first we must discuss the history of Portugal”, and a long colloquy began. Fortunately I knew a bit about Fernão de Magalhaes (Magellan) Gama’s voyages to India, Cabral, King Manuel, Vicente Sodré, Salazar, Zeca Afonso and the Carnation Revolution and the conversation was exhilarating. After a few hours, it was clear the impromptu encounter was a prelude to a new relationship and a musical collaboration.
Shortly thereafter, Ivan asked Susan to come to Lisboa to record a duet with him and Carlos. Carlos and Ivan have been great friends since the 1970s and adore each other. They have performed together numerous times in Portugal, Africa and Brasil, but inexplicably had never recorded together. Until Lisboa Íntima, that is. Susan immediately accepted the offer and with the brilliant arranger-producer Bob Sadin on board, we embarked on the creation of what we believe is a groundbreaking recording of Portuguese music with only Portuguese musicians in accompaniment, recorded in Lisboa, including of course the historic duet.
Our longtime passion for and knowledge of Portuguese music was the basis of selecting the repertoire, the choices tediously screened by the virtuosity and genius of Susan and Bob, and soon the concept began to take shape. One thing we agreed upon quickly was that in addition to Carlos and Ivan two artists were essential: Né Ladeiras and Júlio Pereira.
Júlio is an historic figure in modern Portuguese music, a prominent Lisboan artist at the peak of his powers today, extremely active as a performer and devoted curator of the famed Cavaquinho Museu. He is arguably the master of the cavaquinho on the planet. His career began prior to the Carnation Revolution of 1974 when he regularly played with Zeca Afonso and many Portuguese roots groups. His World Music chops are second to none and his numerous recordings are all special. Júlio’s wonderful composition titled Ler Devagar is the first track on Lisboa Íntima.
SUSAN E NÉ. We have long been great admirers of Né Ladeiras, a unique artist who is a hidden musical treasure from the far north of Portugal, a veritable Billy Holiday, Mercedes Sosa and Elis Regina cum Joan Baez, an artist of unmatched vocal gifts, integrity and musical acumen. We were aware that Né had not recorded in a long time and that she was residing in semi-obscurity in the north near Porto. It was hoped she could be enticed to join the project and we reached out.
Following a series of email communications in the spring of 2015, including an in depth description of the concept of the project, Né eagerly accepted the invitation. Over the course of the next few months, Susan and Né forged an extraordinary personal bond and continue to communicate with each other regularly. Né’s incomparable spirit and voice are a highlight of Lisboa Íntima.
In September 2016 Susan visited Né in Coimbra with videographer/engineer Amandio Bastos, for fun, but also to capture the relationship on video including conversations and informal interviews with Susan and Né interacting as loving sisters. The extemporaneous conversations about music, art, philosophy, politics, women, cats, freedom and metaphysics could be expanded into a fascinating short documentary.
THE SESSIONS AND THE PLAYERS: Through our contacts and friends in Portugal we were able to reach many of the finest musicians in Lisboa, all of whom gladly agreed to join the recording. As the project developed, it became apparent to all that something truly unique and important was happening. The news that a renowned American classical flutist was recording traditional Portuguese music in Lisboa immediately raised eyebrows in the community. Bob’s manner and method in working with the musicians, rehearsing each piece with the care of a loving neurosurgeon, was also a key to the project. He challenges and coaxes well-established, virtuosic musicians to reach higher and deeper into their soul. His unabashed passion for the music and brilliant arrangements, combined with Susan’s incomparable artistry and uncanny knack for assimilating her personal style and voice to nuanced musical cultures, created a buzz that remains palpable today in the Lisboan music scene.
The selection of Namouché Estúdios de Gravaçáo and the brilliant engineer Joaquim Monte proved to be a perfect choice for the complexities, intricacies and patience the recording required. The informality, old world warmth and great acoustics of Namouché are a part of every note on Lisboa Íntima. And oh those vintage microphones!
LISBOA SOCIAL CLUB. Lisboa Íntima has much in common with Ry Cooder’s renowned Buena Vista Social Club from the mid-1990s.
Cooder traveled to Havana with a vision of presenting Cuban Son to the world and sought out the finest “unknown” (in the USA that is) musicians in Cuba for his recording. Other than himself, his son and producer Jerry Boys, he worked only with local musicians, tapping into a musical culture that had been ignored by the US record business since the late 1950s. As we all know, the project soon went viral. Part of the magic and success was the infectious camaraderie of the local musicians, Boys’ production and Ry’s reverence for the music.
The craft of the compositions and Bob Sadin’s arrangements on Lisboa Íntima, the learned musical tradition that permeates the soul of the musicians, the sheer beauty, elegance and emotion of Portuguese music evokes a similar magic to that of the Buena Vista Social Club. Similarly, Portuguese music is generally unknown in the US, perhaps more obscure than Cuban music was at the time of Ry Cooder’s venture. Most of all, the level of the musicianship and the energy of the performers on the recording will astonish music lovers of all generations, everywhere.
RELEASE IN LISBOA. The CD was released in Portugal on November 11, 2016 on the AMPLA Portugal label. On November 13, 2016 Susan and Co. gave a showcase concert at Ler Devagar! It was a rousing success. The performing ensemble included Susan Palma-Nidel (flute, alto flute), Né Ladeiras (vocals), Pedro Jóia (guitar), José Manuel Neto (guitarra Portuguesa), Carlos Barretto (bass) and Ruca Rebordão (percussion, berimbau, vocals). Full videos are on the website (see below) and viewable on YouTube.
FUTURE EVENTS. Lisboa Íntima is now finding its voice in Portugal. Susan has performed radio concerts, given numerous interviews and the CD is selling well on line at Amazon in Europe (Amazon.de, Amazon.uk) and at FNAC, Corte Ingles and in retail shops throughout Portugal. Future concerts are in the works for Lisboa, Coimbra and Porto in October of 2017. There will be a formal US release event in New York in May 2017 with a follow up concert at the Nolitan Hotel on May 12, in conjunction with Arte Institute, the New York non profit organization promoting Portuguese music and culture. The CD is available on our website: www.susanpalmanidel.com, and will be available on Amazon, iTunes, CD Universe and other digital applications in early May 2017. Stay tuned!