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Chano Domínguez & WDR Big Band Cologne: Soleando

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Chano Domínguez & WDR Big Band Cologne - Soleando

Chano Domínguez & The WDR Big Band - SoleandoIt was probably only a matter of time when Chano Domínguez would be cast on a larger European stage. The fact that this was to be with the fabled WDR Big Band and one conducted by Vince Mendoza is certainly to be viewed as a bonus at that. And what an Ideal way of presenting not only Spanish music in the unique polyglot of this fine pianist but also to suggest the state of the art of jazz in Europe, something that the Spaniard has been drawing attention to time and again, year after year. Something would be amiss, however, if I did not recognise this record, Soleando, as one of the most fascinating recordings by Chano Domínguez. Note that this is despite what a vast array of stellar soloists the WDR Big Band has associated with as well as the many breathtaking recordings also that Chano Domínguez has made in association with many luminaries.

First off, when Chano Domínguez plays it is as if a near-Babel-like world takes birth. The pianist drinks from a musical well situated where four continents meet: Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. So unique is his ability to quote from various musical dialects that it seems almost trite to suggest that here is a fusion of the European and the African-American and the Middle-Eastern musics. It is more like a cultural collision that begins not cerebrally, but deep within the soul and the spirit. The music of Chano Domínguez stirs and swirls in such a bottomless wellspring, churning and whirling and twirling, and pirouetting with balletic grace as it breaks out of his body through his fingers on a welcoming keyboard. The piano dances at his command, shy at first flirtation, but then completely seduced by his masculinity. His phraseology is unique, full of darting and stabbing lines punctuated by the dark vocalastic magic of Blás Córdoba, and the unimaginably beautiful rhythms of Daniel Navarro and El Piraña.

But let’s not get carried away forgetting where we really are with this recording. In many ways this amazing musical collusion between Chano Domínguez and the WDR Big Band is like an operatic overture evolving from chattered or munched syllables through to a vehicle for the composer’s most exalted thoughts that are turned over into music renowned throughout the world for its power and pizzazz. The music combines the pounding energy of Chano Domínguez and his ensemble with the splendid, arresting brass and woodwind fanfare of WDR Big Band. There are fine new performers in the larger orchestra, but all of the familiar voices also grace the roster. Thus, predictably brilliant performances by alto saxophonist Karolina Strassmayer and tenor saxophonists Olivier Peters and Paul Heller grace the record.

This is a true collision of some of the world’s most vibrant cultures. However, I can’t help supporting the idea that a small part of that world – triangulating between Spain, the Middle East and Moorish North Africa – prevails in the music of Chano Domínguez. In all of the material here, especially when Blás Córdoba and Daniel Navarro are involved, the range of utterance, whether rapt or stark, declamatory or exultant is beautifully judged. Those two musicians together with El Piraña and with the mentor to them all, Chano Domínguez, the soloists are especially effective in fixing the mood of hushed, spiritual intensity, all the more evocative when set in contrast with Vince Mendoza’s beautiful arrangements and the Big Band’s urgent pleading. The quiet ecstasy that ensues crowns a performance that is to be judged to a nicety as it summons up the music’s entire magical aura.

Track list: Martinete; Mentidero; Soleando; Plaza de Mina; Parque Genoveses; Habanera de la Alameda; Rumbetango; El Aguacero; Mas Que Swing.

Personnel: Johann Hörlen: alto saxophone, flute & clarinet; Karolina Strassmayer: alto saxophone, flute & clarinet; Olivier Peters: tenor saxophone, flute & clarinet; Paul Heller: tenor saxophone, flute & bass clarinet; Jens Neufang: baritone saxophone, flute & bass clarinet; Wim Both: trumpet & flugelhorn; Rob Bruynen: trumpet & flugelhorn; Andy Haderer: trumpet & flugelhorn, John Marshall: trumpet & flugelhorn; Ludwig Nuss: trombone; Marshall Gilkes: trombone; Andy Hunter: trombone; Mattias Cederberg: bass trombone; Paul Shigihara: guitar; John Goldsby: bass; Hans Dekker: drums and Vince Mendoza: arranger and conductor. Guests: Chano Domínguez: piano; Daniel Navarro: baila y palmas; Blás Córdoba: cantaor y palmas; Israel Suárez “El Piraña”: percussion.

Released: 2015
Label: Jazzline
Runtime: 59:04

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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