The title Escape has an intriguing ring to it. Escape from what, you might ask? And then the music begins and you get the idea. Alberto Lescay makes a powerful case for wanting to break out of what some might suggest are restrictive confines – the rigid metre of traditional forms even while embracing then only to propel his music into the future. The wildly brilliant trumpeter (and inventive keyboardist) has written seven of the eleven charts on this recording and it takes but a few bars with which he opens “Invasión” to discern that while standing on the shoulders of two giants – Irakere and Perspectiva – he is leaping into an altogether rarefied realm.
It is a musical act that is reminiscent of that explosive transition in Jazz of swing to Bebop, and then to Hip-hop and rap with music that bubbles and boils over with raw, viscerally exciting energy. The rumbling of bass and drums – though not quite thunderous as that combination that produces the explosive vibration of Hip-hop – is ever-present in the effervescent “Invasión”comparsa that, with it’s electronic second part, turns dark and mysterious before brightening up with its rap again. This gives way to the mesmerising trumpet and guitar-driven “Controversia”.
With both these songs and especially with “Mariposita de Primavera”, Mr Lescay seems to suggest that the tradition that we are wonderfully immersed in is a wonderful reality, but not understanding that the inner dynamic of tradition is always to innovate, is a prison. And so the young composer and trumpeter chisels his uniquely beautiful, but definitely provocative body of work from out of the bedrock of the Afro-Cuban tradition – of son and danzón – only to shatter the pastiche of archetypal models.
What follows “Mariposita de Primavera” is works that suggest the profound evolution in tonality and traditional metres that (while they may) reappear in his work do so from a fascinatingly different viewpoint. It is one that is both revolutionary yet respecting of ancestral lineage, and in a style that seems to incorporate borderless influences as it is pushed to its limits, creating a compellingly atmospheric musical world redolent of shiny, metallic electronic keyboards, thundering drums shaped by Afro-Cuban percussive colouration; that is at once eerie and beautiful.
And so, by the time Mr Lescay’s extraordinary music climaxes (at the end of this recording) – though not before the masterful rap exhortations and the elegiac vocalastics of Zule Guerra on “Infant Eyes” and “Madre” – we catch his feverish drift. It is then that Mr Lescay’s creative trajectory reaches its final destination, dragging with it overt and subtle references to the traditional bedrock from which it has sprung; with decidedly Afro-Cuban flavour, but recontextualised in his inimitably personal manner and expressed in a complex rhythmic style in which (often) conflicting layers of tempi are used to drive the music pouring like liquid fire from his horn, fueled by the kindling of his keyboards and the rest of the instruments, as he drives the propulsive message of “Escape” forward.
Track list – 1: Invasión; 2: Controversia; 3: Mariposita de Primavera; 4: Jugando; 5: Infant Eyes; 6: MDB; 7: Madre; 8: Vuelo de Lam; 9: Voces Tristes; 10: Escape Hacia la Luz; 11: Errante
Personnel – Alberto Lescay Castellanos: trumpet (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 11), keyboards (1, 4 – 6, 8, 9, 10) and programming (1 – 6, 8 – 11); José E. Hermida: electric bass (1 – 6, 8, 11) and contrabass (7); Adrián Pucheux: electric guitar (1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11), acoustic guitar (3) and vocals (5); Andy García: piano (8) and electric piano (4 – 6); Ángel Toirac: organ (11); Degnis Bofill: Afro-Cuban percussion (1 – 6, 8 – 11); Julio César Gispert: drums (3, 5, 7, 9) and vocals (5); Alain Ladron De Guevara: drums (2, 6, 10); Arnaldo Lescay Castellanos: drums (1, 4, 8, 11); And Special Guests – Cesar López: alto saxophone (2); Miguel Núñez: piano (7); Zule Guerra: vocals (5, 7); César Hechavarría “El Lento”: tres (3); Rafael Bou “El Individuo”: rap (1, 2, 9); Irán Farías “El Menor”: Afro-Cuban percussion (1)
Released – 2018
Label – EGREM (CD 1650)
Runtime – 1: 10:22
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Listening to the music of Siempre Más Allá, it certainly seems that the young French pianist, Adrien Brandeis has strengthened the belief that he is a proverbial citizen of the Afro-Caribbean universe. To be clear Mr Brandeis still loves all music and swings as hard as any pianist who loves Black American Music – that is, music that you can sing and dance to. But also continues to be beguiled by the rolling thunder of Afro-Caribbean music. The wild call of the rhythms and the joie de vivre of the questing melodies and harmonies not only appeal to his ear, but also speak to him in the hidden parts of his heart.
By his own admission Siempre Más Allá took root during three tours to Mexico undertaken under the aegis of the Fédération des Alliances Françaises du Mexique. The virtually all-Afro-Cuban repertoire of the album radiates charm at every turn. These disarmingly natural and eloquent performances bring out the music’s inherent drama and penchant for tumbao with a deft touch while indulging Brandeis’ lyrical instincts to the full. Meticulously balanced, the four quartet pieces, the trio and duo pieces feel as if they are chamber works. Brandeis’ astonishingly insightful playing is musically captivating and technically blemishless. Each phrase rings so completely true that one can’t imagine the music played any other way.
The album features Mr Brandeis and a group of very accomplished musicians. These include the celebrated Cuban percussionist Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot [on two tracks] and his son Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., Mexican drummer José Loria Triay make up the wall of percussion. The Brasilian bassist Giliard Lopes brings his distinctive veritas to the whole rhythm section. The big surprise here is, perhaps, the presence of the great Cuban Horacio “El Negro” Hernández sitting in the drum chair on La buena vibra.
Siempre Más Allá is an affirmation of Brandeis’ enduring love and natural affinity for Latin music. Not surprisingly the music seems to echo the famous Latin American phrase: “¡Que rico bailo yo!” [which, in English, exclaims: “How well I dance!”]. This is no hyperbole as the music – in its pulses and rhythms show as Brandeis traverses the rhythmic topography of the Caribbean and Latin America. Along the way Brandeis plunged into the world of changüí, the chacarera, Brasilian gaucho music and the ancient melodic thunder of bàtá drums.
From the get-go listeners will find themselves immersed in quite another world of rippling percussive grooves. The track Ek Bakam, for instance, conjures the intricate architecture; the line and flow of an epic Mayan civilisation located in the Yucatan. Narratives from the Latin world abound – often paying homage to famous traditional musicians. Pancho’s Power is one such chart inspired by the vivid world of the legendary trio Los Panchos. Brandeis gives his percussion section a lot of space when he puts the spotlight on them on Tierra de Oportunidades – a wistful memory of the pianist’s three tours to Mexico, which is also incidentally the popular provincial slogan of the Mexican state of Guanajuato. On Huachi-Huachi Brandeis digs deep into the epicurean delights of the only Latin country in North America with this song in praise of a kind of gourmet Mexican fish: the huachinango.
Brandeis then celebrates his association with percussion colourist Roberto Vizcaíno Jr. with the extraordinary music of Vizcaíno Blues, a piece unique with its exploratory chromaticisms and elegant sonorities that beautifully capture the eloquence of the percussionist in whose praise the music is written. Mindful of the fact that Vizcaíno is Cuban but makes his home in Mexico, Brandeis shapes the rhythmic and harmonic palette of the piece accordingly. On La Buena Vibra Brandeis delivers astonishing pianistic fireworks in the piece’s melodic and harmonic lines, played at a frenetic pace, to mirror the style of its dedicatee, Michel Camilo. The pianist demonstrates an authentic home-grown grasp of Cuban music as he reimages Voy a Apagar la Luz, by the legendary and late-singer Armando Manzanero, here adapted as a wistful solo piano work. Meanwhile on the dizzying ride of Humpty Dumpty the pianist pays homage to another idol: Chick Corea, by revisiting the sparkling composition of the recently-deceased piano maestro.
It is hard not to be mesmerised by this spirited and finely nuanced music artfully crafted in an album by Adrien Brandeis, a pianist who is about to take the world by storm with a recording that is going to be one of the finest by any musician located outside the Latin American sub-continent.
Tracks – 1: Huachi Huachi; 2: Alegría; 3: Pancho’s Power; 4: Ek balam; 5: Un peu d’espoir; 6: Vizcaíno’s Blues; 7: Tierra de oportunidades; 8: Humpty Dumpty; 9: La buena vibra; 10: Voy a apagar la luz
Musicians – Adrien Brandeis: piano; Giliard Lopes: contrabass; José Loria Triay: drums; Roberto Vizcaíno Jr: congas and bàtá drums. Featuring – Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot: percussion [1, 6]; Horacio “El Negro” Hernández: drums 
Released – 2022
Label – Mantodea Music Productions
Runtime – 58:25
YouTube Video – Adrien Brandeis – Siempre más allá (EPK)
YouTube Audio – Adrien Brandeis – Vizcaíno’s Blues
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