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Carlos Averhoff Jr.: iQba – Jazz Meets Cuban Timba

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Carlos Averhoff Jr.

Carlos Averhoff Jr. has lineage. The son of the incomparable Carlos Averhoff Sr. better known as “Carlos Averhoff Sax”, Mr Averhoff Jr. is also a tenor saxophone player, like his father.

The younger Mr Averhoff is not as well-known as he ought to be. He plays with a kind of languid ease that is often less aggressive than his contemporaries, but when he cuts loose one is immediately aware of his rhythmic attack and flying-fingered virtuosity. What makes his playing a particular delight, however, is the quiet roar and almost cold crackling fire of his playing, which hover in the blue part of the flame. Often he appears to skip and roll over his phrases that comprise dancing, leaping notes that seem to fly off the paper that they could be written on.

Carlos Averhoff Jr: iQba - Jazz Meets Cuban Timba
Carlos Averhoff Jr: iQba – Jazz Meets Cuban Timba

The tenor saxophonist also has developed a somewhat whimsical habit of naming his records always beginning their titles with a lower-case “I”. His last one was iResi and the 2018 recording is iQba. This whimsy is rarely elaborated in the music, which is direct, without any kind of posturising and which unfolds with uncommon delicacy. Mr Averhoff Jr. eschews relentless torrents of notes, honking riffs, a biting attack. His trademark is a kind of “round sound”, lithe and elegant as well as quiet and swinging. Plus there’s the tantalising asymmetry of his lines, which often set forth in wrong-footed directions and are replete with unexpected turnarounds, but which always land exactly right, with their own fascinating rhythm.

That rhythm on iQba – Jazz Meets Cuban Timba lands exactly where he proposes this music to move in tumbling grooves. Mr Averhoff Jr. takes apart well-known standards such as “I Fall in Love too Easily” and “What’s New” with impressive invention. The focus is, of course, “timba” that is a mélange of Cuban music and dance forms set aflame by the wickedly sharp accents that come from African-American funk – and of course – the spiced up stew of music of El Barrio in New York called “salsa” which also melded those Cuban forms but threw in a hot-pot of invented American dance rhythms as well.

Mr Averhoff Jr. takes a more adventurous approach to the music and melds all of this in with the warmth and caress of his lyricism. He plays much of the music – a magnificently chosen repertoire that also mixes some of his work as well as a few rare Jazz gems such as Wayne Shorter’s “Yes Or No” with Jazz classics such as Cedar Walton’s “Bolivia” and the magnificent Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge”. The latter might actually be more than just a casual doffing of the proverbial hat to a mentor of the tenor saxophone.

The band that Mr Averhoff Jr. has assembled for this project deserves special mention. Not only do the musicians play outside their comfort zones – the trumpeter Alexis Baró, for instance tempers his raging fire with a gentle lyricism – but others get to display their mighty prismatic chops. Pianist Rolando Luna comes with a reputation of being a fearsome virtuoso in the classical realm and not surprisingly he brings a great deal of gentility to this very different idiom. Of course bassist Néstor del Prado and drummer Oliver Valdés are master craftsmen who also deserve to have their own places in the sun. There is a time for everything (and everyone) to shine, of course and that time is now, on this superb disc by Carlos Averhoff Jr.

Track list – 1: Yes or No; 2: Raquel; 3: I Fall in Love Too Easily; 4: It Could Happen to You; 5: Paz en Mi Cancion; 6: Bolivia; 7: Inner Urge; 8: What’s New

Personnel – Carlos Averhoff Jr: tenor saxophone; Alexis Baró: trumpet; Rolando Luna: piano; Néstor del Prado: bass; Oliver Valdés: drums

Released – 2018
Label – Inner Circle Music
Runtime – 47:27

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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Featured Albums

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

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Roberto Jr. Vizcaino, Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaino Guillot - Photo Nayeli Mejia
Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot - Photo: Nayeli Mejia.

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.

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

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.

Deo gratis…

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 [9]

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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