Carlos Henriquez may not be the first to (rightfully) pay tribute to Dizzy Gillespie nor will he be the last. But his is a remarkable one that reminds us lest we forget that Dizzy Gillespie was the first – or among the vanguard of Jazz musicians – who not only shone the proverbial light on Afro-Cuban rhythmic structures, but also integrated it into many of his compositions that came to be called Cubop. In fact Dizzy has noted in a now-famous interview captured on film of how the great rumbero Chano Pozo sang the bass-line melody of what came to be called “Manteca” to Dizzy as the latter feverishly wrote it down. Anecdotal evidence apart, much of Dizzy’s music of a certain period included some of the legendary trumpeter’s most iconic clave-laced compositions that form an important chapter in his overall oeuvre.
Those works are not the only ones included on this disc Dizzy con Clave, but Mr Henriquez returns the favour to one of the greatest ever musicians in Jazz by devoting a whole programme to Cubop music with masterfully crafted arrangements of Dizzy’s music all of which is performed here by as good an ensemble that one can remember in a long time. And the reading of these classic Dizzy charts, re-invented in the Afro-Cuban idioms is spectacular not the least because each of these young players here bring particularly strong individual voices to this music. The result is a band that echoes the vividness that once reverberated in auditoria where the classic bands of Machito, Mario Bauzá, Tito Puente, Eddie and Charlie Palmieri, Chico and Arturo O’Farrill, and Xavier Cougat – among others – played.
Getting perfectly into character are the two trumpeters – Michael Rodriguez and Terrel Stafford – who trade places frequently during viscerally exciting soli, two of which truly stand out on “Groovin’ High” and “Tin Tin Deo”. The latter became a classic at the hands of Dizzy during one of his most iconic concerts Live at the Royal Albert Hall with his United Nation Orchestra that featured Claudio Roditi and Arturo Sandoval – besides The Master himself, of course. The singular trombone spot is occupied by Marshall Gilkes who is not as widely-known as he should be. He is one of the magnificent soloists on one of Dizzy’s most famous (and arguably most recorded) work “Con Alma”, a missive to play – as the title suggests – “With Soul”; something that Mr Gilkes takes to heart as do both trumpeters and the inimitable pianist Manuel Valera, but also the prodigiously-gifted Melissa Aldana, a tenor saxophonist who has lit a fire under every recording that she has made so far.
Naturally the complexities and vivid colours of Afro-Cuban idioms could never be brought to life without a rhythm section that always ignites and plays in the blue-hot part of the music’s flame. That is not only Mr Valera, but also the ubiquitous (these days at least) drummer Obed Calvaire and Anthony Almonte who drives the vocals with his chants and shouts and smoky vocals over his conga playing that is intense; each chop and slap of hands on the congas a vibrant invitation to dance. All of the musicians are led from the front by Carlos Henriquez who is one of a new generation of contrabassists helping power this great music.
Mr Henriquez grace the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra directed by Wynton Marsalis and it was the bassist who led that orchestra on a highly successful visit to Cuba, which produced a marvellous recording, Live in Cuba (2015), an inaugural product of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Blue Engine Records, recorded during a week-long residency at the Mella Theater in Havana, in October 2010. Mr Henriquez also released his first solo outing, The Bronx Pyramid (Blue Engine, 2015), a metaphor that came to stand for a rubric formed by his Puerto Rican roots, his Afro-Caribbean heritage and Jazz (or Latin-Jazz) tree that grew from there. With Dizzy con Clave Mr Henriquez seems to suggest a closing of the proverbial idiomatic circle that has resulted; but not for long, we certainly hope…
Track list – 1: A Night in Tunisia; 2: Groovin’ High; 3: Bebop; 4: Guarachi Guaro; 5: Con Alma; 6: Manteca; 7: Kush; 8: Tin Tin Deo; 9: Trinidad, Hello
Personnel – Carlos Henriquez: bass, coro and leader; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet and coro; Terrel Stafford: trumpet; Melissa Aldana: tenor saxophone; Marshall Gilkes: trombone and coro; Manuel Valera: piano; Anthony Almonte: conga and vocals; Obed Calvaire: drums
Released – 2018
Label – Rodbros Music (1002)
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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