The energy contained in the body and soul of pianist Pedro Bermudez far exceeds that which may normally be given mere mortals. For his hands and arms are infused with a surfeit of tumbao. In his heart, the echoes of the timbales and the congas bounce excitedly against every internal surface. It is this incredible treasure of rhythm that flavours what he expends through his fingers on the ivories. More importantly, it is this that provides impetus for him to expand his energy like the ripples in a still sea that he plunges into with all the incredible weight of his skills in every aspect of Afro-Caribbean music. This is why his energy is so infectious and cannot be contained in a smaller ensemble, especially not on No Limits, an album that sits somewhere between the Atlantic islands of Puerto Rico and the deepest part of the Caribbean, in the eye of the Afro-Caribbean Hurricane of sorts, so to speak.
Although his proclivities tend more towards urban jazz with a Latin tinge, Bermudez has too much tumbao in his heart and hands to pass up on the Latin idioms and forms altogether. However, in the context of the larger ensemble, this rather tends to be buried and will only come to the fore on charts where his piano is sparingly accompanied by a thick layer of percussion, such as on songs like “El Jarriero” where Richie Flores and Vince Cherico provide that thunderous bed of ritmo, or in “Bombaião” where the exuberant percussion of Duduka Da Fonseca creates dancing rhythms from the Northeast of Brasil. It is then that Bermudez lets it all hang out and appears to fall prey to the charms of his alter ego—that one that lets all control go and when tumbao sets in.
But there is something to be said of Bermudez’s imbibing of the whole of the Afro-Caribbean culture. An example of this is how comfortably he sits in the Amazonian splendour of “Bombaião” or even the urbane carioca rhythms of Jobim’s “Caminhos Cruzados” or how authentic is the rhythmic and melodic sleight of hand on the magnificent choro, “Chorinho para María.”
There are echoes of joropos elsewhere and frequent trips to the floor swinging with the cha-cha and the rumba, but it is eventually Bermudez’s constant pushing of the envelope that seems to win in the end. After all, this is all about finding freedom in the absence of limits. There is rare challenge and flying free in these charts, most of all in the title track, where it all comes together—the Afro-Caribbean sensibility with the fluttering soul, flying free, dancing to the idiom of jazz. This is unmistakable in “No Limits” and “Long Walk” and it is more than gratifying to hear such a talented pianist breaking free of it all.
Tracks: Yubá a Santurce; La Número Seite; El Jarriero; ALC; The Dreamer; Bombaião; Redentor; Chorinho para María; Iván’s Cha; Caminhos Cruzados; Offbeat; No Limits; Long Walk.
Personnel: Pedro Bermudez: piano, Fender Rhodes; Eddie Gomez: acoustic bass (5, 10, 12); Ruben Rodriguez: bass (3, 4, 13); Duduka Da Fonseca: drums, percussion (6, 8); Ivan Renta: tenor and soprano saxophones (1 – 4, 9, 11, 13); Nelson Jaime “Gazu”: trumpet (1, 3, 4, 13); Ritchie Flores (congas (3, 7, 11); Vince Cherico: drums (3, 4, 13); Diego Lopez: drums (1, 2, 9); Cristian Rivera: congas (2, 9); Carli McDonaldo: timbal (9), congas (1, 4, 13); Efrain Martinez: drums (4, 7, 10 – 12); Gabriel Rodriguez: bass (7, 11); Felipe Salles: soprano saxophone (6 – 8); Oscar Stagnaro: electric bass (1, 2, 6, 8, 9); Mike Arroyo: acoustic/electric guitars (2, 8, 10); David “Piro” Rodriguez: trumpet (11); Ana Baiana: vocals (10).
Pedro Bermudez on the web: www.pedrobermudezpiano.com
Review written by: Raul da Gama