Recognition

Sara Serpa

Recognition

Following up her inspired recordings with Ran Blake, André Matos, Ingrid Laubrock, and others, vocalist Sara Serpa gathers a most intriguing mix of players on the ambitious song cycle Recognition. It’s a striking departure in terms of sound and subject matter, written to accompany an abstract film made from Super 8 video shot by Serpa’s grandfather in Angola and Portugal in the early ’60s. The process helped Serpa come to grips with her Portuguese heritage and family history, bound up as it is with Portugal’s legacy of colonial oppression.
There are no drums, but pianist David Virelles and harpist Zeena Parkins provide percussive foundations sometimes akin to drumbeats, as well as basslines and a wealth of other timbres and tones. Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner joins Serpa as a featured melodic voice as they tackle graceful unisons, dissonant harmonic passages, and complex contrapuntal ideas. Serpa’s vocal parts are mostly wordless, though she sings lyrics on the closer, “Unity and Struggle.” In places she also recites text by the late revolutionary Amílcar Cabral and others. The result is haunting, full of contrast in mood and pace, alive with the flexible feeling of improvisation amid all the compositional rigor.

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