“In fact when Mr. Sánchez plays, there is a sense, however spectral, that he is playing notes and chords that are pulsed into quantum rhythmic packets of energy that swathe the music he writes and orchestrates. On ‘New Life’ Antonio Sánchez announces his arrival at a point in his music after a monumental odyssey.”
Antonio Sánchez seems to be made almost completely of music. He is surrounded by an aura comprising an ocean of sound that is immersed at one end in the depths of his soul, while the other is a horizon of a musical topography whose end is nowhere in sight. As a percussionist—and he is principally that—he is a colourist non pareil. Sticks, brushes and mallets are extensions of his arms and he plays with his whole body; with sudden jerks of the shoulders and elbows; and sometimes arms that rotate in wide arcs… all these dramatic gestures emerge from a vast palette of colours and hues with which he daubs the notes he plays. Thus Mr. Sánchez emits colourful tones to each ping and swish and rat-a-tat he extracts from skin and cymbal. But he is a lot more than that. Mr. Sánchez is not merely a percussionist. He is also a pianist and a vocalist and this has a major effect on his music because all these facets have a vivid effect on his compositions. There are only a handful of drummers—Brian Blade and the young and emerging Henry Cole among them—like him, who think musically first and then break this down into melody and harmony and rhythm.
In fact when Mr. Sánchez plays, there is a sense, however spectral, that he is playing notes and chords that are pulsed into quantum rhythmic packets of energy that swathe the music he writes and orchestrates. On New Life Antonio Sánchez announces his arrival at a point in his music after a monumental odyssey. This trip has led him through a tradition that echoes in his playing. In that regard there are evocative echoes of the strut and shout of Max Roach and dense majesty of Elvin Jones, but there is also a singularity of voice that emerged long before this record was made. There is a kinesis that comes from deep in the musical intellect of an artist who thinks and dreams in melody and harmony; in lyricism and of voices that rattle and hum in his head. For Mr. Sánchez could be vocalizing his music before it emerges; or declaring it from a pianism that is composed of wild runs and mighty arpeggios that transpose themselves off his piano and tumble onto his drum set, where they become the delicate strokes; the tic-a-tac and the immense crash of cymbals that accentuate the music.
The excitement of this music cannot be understated. The theatrical harmonies of alto saxophonist David Binney and tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin on “Uprisings and Revolutions” are couched in spectacular contrapuntal conversations reminiscent of those of John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy form his mighty Africa Brass sessions. The beautifully viscous textures of the harmonies melded into the rolling drums suggest towering melancholia that arises from an apparent tension built into the introduction that sets the tone for the likely human struggle which is eventually overcome splendidly in the resolution of the song, at its end. Lest it be suggested that this is music rooted entirely in the efforts of humanity to overcome despair, there is music that is just as exciting and brimful of humour as well. This is superbly displayed in the elements of “The Real McDaddy”. While there is not set theme for the album, the music certainly follows the path that suggests the triumph of human endeavour; not only evident in the melodic and harmonic content of “New Life” but also in “Air”. And then of course there is the musical depiction of myth and legend in “Minotauro” and “Medusa”—one song more beautiful than the next.
It bears mention that this is a spectacular ensemble, which appears to have absorbed the music of Antonio Sánchez with great depth and gravitas. The saxophonists are majestic as lead voices and the pianism of John Escreet is hushed and intense. Bassist Matt Brewer is radiant as well and his clear tone reflected by exquisite rounded notes is a joy to the ear. And there is no way but for Antonio Sánchez going forward.
Tracks: Uprisings And Revolutions; Minotauro; New Life; Night time Story; Medusa; The Real McDaddy; Air; Family Ties.
Personnel: David Binney: alto saxophone; Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone; John Escreet: piano and Fender Rhodes; Matt Brewer: acoustic and electric bass; Antonio Sánchez: drums, vocals and additional keyboards; Thana Alexa: voice.
Antonio Sánchez on the Web: www.antoniosanchez.net
Label: Cam Jazz | Release date: March 2013
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama
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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