Sara Serpa: voice; Ran Blake: piano
One of the things that kill jazz’s genuine sparkle is the showing of a disproportionate conversancy with a given inventory of techniques, which is the archetypal behaviour of many celebrated tricksters. A strong point in favour of Portuguese singer Sara Serpa is the lack of mannerism in that sense: the voice is apparently released devoid of excessive care about a faultless tone, not pretending a provocativeness that is not in her strings. Throughout Aurora she sings innocently, pretty much from the heart, which is more than OK when the ears have grown exhausted of performers who are hiding a mammoth ego under the alleged sheen of fatigued standards (though the “a cappella” rendition of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” presented here is creditable enough for a round of applause).
Ran Blake’s discriminating pianism is at one and the same time full of empathy and supremely no-nonsense, so easy to integrate in our harmonic consciousness. “Mahler Noir” is a tutorial in digital restraint and control of the resonant colours of the instrument; we forget anything ruinous for life and let notes and chords act as photographs of serene privacy, similar to a lonely walk on the shoreline in an unclouded autumn day. His communication with Serpa is imbued with insightful tact and wisdom, a sensible way of accompanying vocals that frames, embraces and captions without forgetting that everything comes from stillness after all.