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Carrera Quinta: Traslaciones

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Ever since I can remember it has become commonplace for any music that combined Afro-Caribbean rhythmic tempi with the improvisational aspect of Jazz to be classified as “Latin-Jazz”. With the explosion of South American music in continental USA, the term has all but been obliterated, so much so, that in many musical circles, artists shy away from the term; and that term itself (although we use it more often than we should) may also have become something of a pejorative. But lest I sound too harsh, this is actually a musician’s revolt against being typecast. The sophisticated Colombian group Carrera Quinta is one such ensemble that embodies every reason why contemporary South American music cannot be so narrowly classified; indeed why it makes no sense at all to classify any music at all much less the music that this group creates with such élan.

On Traslaciones (literally, Translations), these spectacularly scholarly musicians, co-led by pianist Francy Montalvo and guitarist Javier Pérez Sandoval revisits the music of their native Colombia with an emphasis on the music of its Andean region. Unsurprisingly, of course, the genius of the arrangers is to recreate the work of the greatest composers of that region of the country.

This means crafting folk-forms in a contemporary mould while preserving the unique rhythms of such traditional forms as La puya rebelde, Bambuco fiestero, Merengue bambuquiao, Hayno, Rajaleña, Guabina among other better and less well-known ones. The repertoire on this album features music that has been re-written with spectacular contrapuntal and architectural clarity.

Marvellous examples of counterpoint between guitar and piano, and guitar and brass as well as winds are heard in such songs as “El Corazón de la Caña” “A Pesar de Tanto Gris” and “El Beso Que Le Robé a la Luna”. The latter song also features some wonderfully dissonant harmonies and is a model of its kind, thanks to its unfailing energy, perfectly weighted touch and beautifully imagined layering of texture and dynamics.

The music also features the familiar high and lonesome sound of Andean flutes woven into this music, something that evokes pastoral settings along the Andean slopes. The music is performed with unswerving elegance by the members of Carrera Quinta, which is heard in its “sextet” incarnation. Ultimately the sense of beauty in this music results not only from the evocative nature of the folk-forms presented here, but also in the sense of occasion that emanates from the playing by these wonderful musicians.

Track list – 1: El Corazón de la Caña; 2: El Vuelo; 3: A Bordo de Tu Voz; 4: Después Que Me Olvide de Tí; 5: A Pesar de Tanto Gris; 6: Pesares; 7: El Beso Que Le Robé a la Luna

Personnel – Francy Montalvo: piano; Javier Pérez Sandoval: electric guitar; Pedro Acosta: drums; Dario Montoya: flute; Daniel Montoya: electric bass; Pavel Zuzaeta: trumpet; César Medina: alto and soprano saxophones

Released – 2019
Label – Universidad el Bosque
Runtime – 38:07

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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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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