The album Buenos Aires Noir by Carlos Franzetti and Allison Brewster Franzetti is being celebrated for its being considered as Best Classical Album for the forthcoming Latin Grammys. The accolade notwithstanding, this concerto is a gorgeous extrapolation of Mr Franzetti’s earlier ballet Dante Porteño. In its expanded form here Mr Franzetti has turned the narrative into an elaborate Grecian tragedy albeit native to Buenos Aires, Argentina, complete with plot twists and turns that come to life in the grand manner at the hands of the musicians of the City of Prague Philharmonic, under Mr Franzetti’s baton, and with his pianist-wife Allison Brewster Franzetti as soloist, who together with Mr Franzetti is the skilled advocate for the story of Buenos Aires Noir.
This is easily one of Mr Franzetti’s most lyrical and captivating scores. It is deeply infused with the idioms of both Argentinean rhythms as well as those of Jazz, but unlike something like Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, for instance, it is classically organised, the three-movement structure, and its combination of opposites that gives the music such density and zest. It begins in an patina of elemental sadness as its protagonist, the poet Dante Porteño, roams darkened streets in the first movement “Into the Abyss” as he begins his search of his love, Beatriz, then hustles and gambols on towards the pivotal slow movement “In the Garden” whose opening with Miss Brewster Franzetti’s accompaniment suggests a Chopin Nocturne in its purity and Rachmaninov in its breadth. A glittery yet monumentally brooding and tragic finale “Crowning and Passion for Dante”, slightly longer than its predecessor and together with its final triumphant statement “Exit Music”, is a perfect conclusion of this work of brilliant contrasts.
This astonishing account from the pen of Mr Franzetti clearly sets him up as one of Argentina’s greatest contemporary composers. The performance headlined by Miss Brewster Franzetti’s piano work together with the ensemble performance by the City of Prague Philharmonic is fantastically seductive. It is also a classic retelling of Mr Franzetti’s ballet and in its punchily rhythmic moments characterised by traditional Argentinean dance and musical forms one is borne along by Mr Franzetti’s panache and ability to describe the deepest complexities of human emotion, which he achieves musically through a sonority and expressive range that is simply overwhelming. The finale is brisk and grand, and Mr Franzetti’s technical mastery is beautifully rendered in the music’s final moments which feature Miss Brewster’s almost whispered piano part, seemingly barely touching the piano keys. The highlight brings to a close a magnum opus, perfectly paced so that the tension builds to its inexorable conclusion moulded in a wonderfully rich orchestral texture.
Track list – 1: Event 1 – Into the Abyss; 2: Event 2 – In the Garden; 3: Event 3 – Crowning and Passion of Dante; 4: Exit Music
Personnel – City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra – Carlos Franzetti: conductor; Allison Brewster Franzetti: piano
Released – 2018
Label – Amapola Records (AR 9817)
Runtime – 45:21
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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