The sweet, warm breath swirls through the woody innards of the clarinet and bass clarinet of Anat Cohen, just as it does through the burnished and gleaming bodies of the soprano and tenor, when she switches to saxophones. This is so characteristic of the glorious reeds and winds style of Anat Cohen and it is no exception on Claroscuro as well. Cohen is one of the most adventuresome clarinet players since Don Byron seemed to pick up from where Eric Dolphy left off on bass clarinet at least. Her playing gurgles and bubbles like a playful brook as it rushes onward, rhythmically leaping over stone and silt. Thus with path-breaking liquidity and rhythms that skip and leap, dally and dangle, Cohen continues to chart a course that is so thrilling that it is no coincidence that listening to her with body and soul the audiophile is often left breathless.
Anat Cohen’s music comes from deep within her soul and is swathed in the emotion of the moment. On this album she lights up her sojourn by traversing the gamut of feelings and palette of colours from dark and sombre shades of blue to moist water colours and shades that glimmer and glow as in the greens and gold’s of pure elation. Thus Cohen’s playing can shift dramatically when the music demands it. On “Anat’s Dance” her playing is brilliantly coloured and sharply resonant. Her intonation has a pristine quality to it as she journeys through the music with the brightness and clarity of an aria. Moreover, with a cheer that rings throughout the music, it is even possible to discern the interminable dance that has been written into and is performed as the song progresses. And then there are the bleakest of aching moments on “And The World Weeps”. This is almost as dark as the elemental sadness of the classic Brazilian ballad “As Rosas Nao Falam”. But Cohen’s playing is more than just about examining the emotions of joy and sadness.
Hers is, first of all about musicality that goes beyond conventional norms of versatility. Cohen is able to daub her notes and phrases with colours from a wondrous palette. In this regard she is capable and does extract a glorious spectrum of sound from each of the instruments that she plays. From the clarinets, there are almost as many muted shades as there are sharply defined and colours that have almost never been experienced before. Some are warm; even hot tones; others are cold and almost brittle as they emerge from the bell of her instruments glinting and refracting the light and shade of her deepest emotions. Cohen’s playing on the soprano saxophone is almost sharp and bronzed. And her tenor voice is full of joy and majesty, reflecting the gilt and glory of the regal heritage she shares with men like Sonny Rollins.
It is clear from the music of Claroscuro that Anat Cohen has a privileged place on the music of today. Her molten art flows from the vortices that pour out of the Brazilian and jazz traditions. This melds in with elemental sense of longing that propels this artist into the world that encompasses the whole world of music. Perhaps this is why Cohen has an uncanny feeling for the particular Brazilian emotion of “saudade” that is indescribable, but deeply felt especially in her playing on “Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser”. There is more of this bleeding emotion on “The Wedding” and it is this absolutely unforgettable beauty in the music of her soul that makes Anat Cohen one of the most exciting musicians to listen to today, as well as Claroscuro one of the most memorable albums of 2012.
Tracks: Anat’s Dance; La Vie en Rose; All Brothers; As Rosas Nao Falam; Nightmare; Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser; And The World Weeps; Olha Maria; Kick Off; Um x Zero; The Wedding.
Personnel: Anat Cohen: clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Jason Lindner: piano; Joe Martin: bass; Daniel Freedman: drums; Paquito d’Rivera: clarinet (5, 7, 9, 10); Wycliffe Gordon: trombone, vocal (2, 7); Gilmar Gomez: percussion (6, 9, 10).
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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