It is sometimes by pure happenstance that musicians happen to be in the right place, with the right vibrations swirling between them and in a venue whose very name suggests an invisible energy that charges the very air around it—a force of nature that churns that air pulling everything within it outside of it and sucking everything outside of it within.
That is when you name the resulting music in such an instance simply The Vortex Sessions after the venue where it was created. Here the vibrations between the Brasilian pianist Benjamim Taubkin and the Brasilian expat percussion colourist, Adriano Adewale are so copasetic that they create a greater vibe in turn. Every skipping and rolling note; every radiant rattle and hum of the skin of the drums is in that vibe, which causes the music to ripple outwards, coaxing and cajoling the music out of the piano and the drum and sucking in the atmosphere, producing a simmering, forceful energy in that vortex, creating such an elemental dynamism between the pianist and the percussionist that they become simply a channel for music that flows as energy exists excitably within matter—of piano and drum and hands and fingers that exhort the music out of the now animate objects.
Benjamim Taubkin is a pianist; a magician and mystic who roams the topography of his instrument like a medieval apothecary in search of magical charms to mix into potent potions which will produce rare powers to all who consume these wares. For Mr. Taubkin, the notes are his magical ingredients. Each is examined in the rarefied, mystical sanctity of the fourth dimension. There a seemingly Divine force filters the music amid heraldic choirs of angels flinging its melody into the vortex where it echoes with the harmonic notes and chords of Mr. Taubkin’s left hand, issuing reports of music of simply ethereal beauty. His cohort, Adriano Adewale manipulates his multitude of drums and percussion with the deft hand of a painter—with a swish of the cymbal he might daub a splash of colour here and there; then he drops a bomb on the big surdo or rattles the snares, pats the cajón almost as if he were caressing the back of a woman. At other times, especially on the song, “Berimbau” he jangles the lone wire with the bow, striking it as he weaves his hand and the little pebble along the string, increasing and decreasing the dynamic tension of it, creating in turn wails and warbles; screams and vocal, scatting sounds.
These two musicians play off each other as if each were a constellation of planets—each with its own suns—reflecting off the other. A mere look from pianist to percussionist might be exchanges and this sets off a deluge of notes from Mr. Taubkin that frolics in whorls as it emerges from out of the belly of the piano. A nod from Mr. Adewale to the pianist might, in turn, silence the piano, or create an advancing volley of notes against which the percussionist shores up a barrage of slaps and caresses on the cajón, or a series of depth bombs issued from surdo and/or bass drum that rattle a cowbell; or the shimmering shuffle of the chékere creates the feeling that the wind might have picked up to gale-force. Smiles might abound even if things get contentious as instrumentalists often do as they try and establish a dialogue where each voice is heard. In the end, every story, told in song; every canvas painted is brought to a resolution with swaggering polyrhythms and garrulous harmony setting up each song for a cathartic dénouement as it each were a dramatic play staged with lyrically played dialogue instead of that which is sung.
“Blue In Green In Yellow” is a vast topographical canvas that comes alive with music which surges across its landscape. If it suggests Miles Davis and his seminal work on that historically improvised date, then this is a mere doff of the proverbial hat. The only brotherhood that is shared is that the music is wholly improvised here as well. “Samba” is an interminable dance; it surges as the rhythmic lifeblood of Brasil. Mr. Taubkin feigns his way through the opening and nothing of the swaggering rhythm is initially revealed. Then Mr. Adewale melds his myriad of percussion instruments into the barreling 2/4 time of the dance and a whole Bacchanalian carnival is conjured up. “Paisagens – Impressões da Irlanda” paints another glorious sonic landscape, this time one of the verdant hills and dales of Ireland. The orange and the green, the violence and the calm; the blood sweat and tears is suggested, but always in a glorious manner. And “Berimbau” serves up a magnificent portrait of an instrument that is so sparse in its design; so primitive yet modern. The sound of the Amazon rushing in spate, the vast ecology of birds and the whole of the animal kingdom of its forested namesake appears before eye and ear and the history and beauty of an instrument from its Indian designers to the Afro-Brasilians who play it, from Nana Vasconcelos to Adriano Adewale unfolds as if on musical parchment.
This is yet another album from Adventure Music that charms, mystifies and brings joy to lovers of Brasilian… of any music really.
Track Listing: Blue In Green In Yellow; Samba; Paisagens – Impressões da Irlanda; Berimbau.
Personnel: Benjamim Taubkin: piano and composition; Adriano Adewale: percussion and composition.
Label: Adventure Music | Release date: May 2013
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama