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Chembo Corniel Quintet: Land Of The Descendants

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Chembo Corniel

Editor’s Pick · Album of the Month ·

It would be downright foolish to assume that just because Chembo Corniel fronts the quintet this album, that it is just another Latin-Jazz album. On the contrary, it is a very sophisticated album and profoundly animated for its entire 48 minute length. Moreover, it proves, once again that Corniel, a percussionist of devastating charm and talent is more than a rhythmist. He is willing to push the envelope, explore tonal and textural realms with a child-like sense of adventure. He is a disarming performer who certainly pays tribute to his cultural background but is not averse to probing the atmospheres and aromas of the land around him, embracing elements from assorted cultures.

This is what makes Land Of The Descendants so transformative. It is an album full of exultant asymmetrical rhythms and harmonic pungencies. Throughout, Corniel, a superb master of ceremonies is unafraid to take the music into unchartered territories also giving the musicians in his ensemble quite a free rein to go where the music takes them. This is why the music abounds in fresh gestures drawn from various enchanted inspirations. Of course it also helps that the musicians in question include the great emerging talents: the Nicaraguan pianist Darwin Noguera, the trumpeter James Zollar who comes to the music in a mighty blast of wind and the glorious vocal talent Kat Gang, who voices Billy Strayhorn’s ‘Lush Life’ as you may have never heard before.

Of course the magic wand of Chembo Corniel is all over this music. He is a brilliant amalgam of Latin folksong, the improvisational aspects of jazz and more, all rolled into a showcase for his expressive sound and acrobatic chops. The Chembo Corniel Quintet is also blessed to have as its woodwinds/reed player, Frank Fontaine, who shapes the melodies with a physical and emotional intensity and a beautiful warm glow. There is never a false note throughout Fontaine’s playing and this is probably why all it takes are his horns to provide the album with a chamber-like sound.

Wilson ‘Chembo’ Corniel’s discography as leader may be thin compared with that of other percussionists in: Latin-Jazz. But it is memorable and potent and quite impossible to put out of mind when you have experienced it even for the first time. Small wonder why Corniel is one of the first call percussionists in the Latin-Jazz scene – certainly on the entire Eastern seaboard of the United States. This album is proof of many things, chief among them that Corniel’s is a voice that simply cannot be ignored.

Track List: Descendants; El Antillano; Transparent Souls; Lush Life; Night Letter; Bottom’s Up; Parisian Cha; Newtown.

Personnel: Wilson ‘Chembo’ Corniel: tumbadores, batá (Itotele), cow bell, miscellaneous percussion; Frank Fontaine: tenor and soprano saxophones, flute; Darwin Noguera: piano; Ian Stewart: electric bass; Joel E. Mateo: drums; Kat Gang: vocal (4); James Zollar: trumpet (1, 5, 7); Benjamin Sutin: violin (3); Victor Rendon: batá (Iya) (1), quijada (7); Cascadu: batá (Okonkolo) (1); Yasuyo Kimura: cajón base (8); Kan Yanabe: cajón repicodor (8).

Label: American Showplace Music ASM 3108
Release date: April 2016
Running time: 48:17
Website: chembocorniel.com
Buy album on: amazon

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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