Mary Ann McSweeney at the Whitney Center for the Arts, May 13

Mary Ann McSweeney at the Whitney Center for the Arts, May 13

Mary Ann McSweeney at the Whitney Center for the Arts, May 13

A special, one-time concert of jazz interpretations of Portuguese music themes, Mary Ann McSweeney’s “Urban Fado Project” made its Berkshires debut on May 13, at the Whitney Center for the Arts, 42 Wendell Ave., Pittsfield. Tickets are available here.

Her quartet includes Jason Ennis on guitar, Todd Reynolds on violin, Conor Meehan on drums, and McSweeney on bass, and augmented by special guests.

Fado originated in Portugal in the 1800s. Of Portuguese heritage herself, McSweeney says “the beautiful melodies of Fado resonated for me immediately. The sadness, the sigh of the voice, the story of fate told by the singer inspired me to compose music that is Fado.” McSweeney wrote much of the new music at home in Brooklyn, and so she named the repertoire the “Urban Fado Project.”

Known for her jazz prowess as both a leader and ensemble member, McSweeney brings new grooves and new chord structures to the Fado form. “I want to bring a new voice and vibe to this music and share the cultural diversity it has to offer.” Her instrument, the string bass, brings a melodic and low supportive voice to the music. “I like to keep the form of the traditional Fado song, but I have also expanded it to leave room for improvisation. Musicians can layer their voice onto the form of the piece.”

The intimate setting of the Whitney Center for the Arts lends itself well to this music,  presented in a cabaret setting.

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