Part biographical, perhaps even part autobiographical and all adventure, Baronesa by the ineffable chanteuse Cristina Morrison is an amorous masterpiece. Ms. Morrison’s dark and smoky voice is so perfect for this kind of musical setting. Stories of seduction, of mesmerising beauty and of strange and beautiful musical topographies just seem to fall into place with the utterly irresistible voice that is led by – and sometimes plays off – the tantalising lines that unfold in the pianism of Misha Piatigorsky. The musicianship of both is characterised by its directness, the sonic purity of its gestures.
This Ecuadorian-American mezzo-soprano brings characteristically classy musicianship and intelligence to the task at hand. The voice is, at once sexy and sinewy, a little pushed in the extremes, but all power and glory in the middle register. Simple beauty, concentration and integrity inform these performances, often compelling, especially in the powerfully numb and affecting account of the Baroness Eloise Von Wagner de Bosquet who bewitched Floreana in the Galapagos, to which she retired from Europe in the late 1920s. Cristina Morrison and Misha Piatigorsky are a natural pairing, both offering musical meditations on fantasy and reality.
Heard on disc for the first time, their music is typical of the composers’ most recent work – a distillation and crystallisation of a style that has become ever cleaner and extraordinarily refined. Setting the stories in Latin America of the early 20th Century, the music is contemporaneous enough to be quite timeless. It finds a harmonic astringency to balance its yielding, unbending instinct to melody. Chant meets human cries, ecstatic choruses break through scuttling chromatics in a performance whose precision and restraint only heighten its intensity.
Christina Morrison shapes every vocalastic phrase with the greatest care. She paints aurally on a dreamscape in vocal brushes that arc and undulates as if mimicking the waves of the ocean. She is at once enigmatic and accessible and her lyricism is of the highest order reaching its proverbial climax on “Spanish Dreamland Inquisition” and then in a stratospheric second wind, piercing the glacial ceiling of the imaginary sky. Ms. Morrison’s interpretations of the stories are emotionally spacious and full of lovely moments. The upper voices undulate gently with some gracious portamentos, while by contrast, almost shouting the fervent, ecstatic ‘alleluias’ in “Princesa Baronesa”.
This is an exultant recording often reaching its exaggerated elocution when the full ensemble enters. At times like this the full extent of the musical beauty is realised. It is rare indeed to hear a vocal recital so completely embraced by all of the instruments in the ensemble. This is a most sumptuous feeling not only because of the exquisite nature of Cristina Morrison’s voice but also because of the pianism of Misha Piatigorsky and his arrangements, enhancements that go towards making this a truly desirable disc.
Track List: Corcovado; The Sky in in Your Eyes; Vocalise for my Mother; Cry Me a River; Ophelia’s Madness; La del Estribo; Mi Amargo Placer; Nuestro Juramento; Spanish Dreamland Inquisition; Princesa Baronesa; Light or Dark.
Personnel: Cristina Morrison: vocals; Misha Piatigorsky: piano, keyboards and percussion and chorus; Conor Rayne: drums (1, 2, 4 & 10), cajón (9); Willard Dyson: drums (5, 6 & 7); Ari Hoenig: drums (3 & 8); Rudy Royston: drums (11); Danton Boller: bass (3, 4, 8, 9 &11); Edward Perez: bass (5, 6 & 7); Sergio Brandão: bass (1, 2 & 10); Ron Affif: guitar (1, 2 & 10); Mark Hermann: guitar (11); Joel Frahm: tenor and soprano saxophones; Tatum Greenblatt: trumpet and chorus; Magnus Lindgren: flute; Mauricio Herrera: percussion and chorus; Victor Prieto: accordion; Frederika Krier: violin; Anatalaya Piatigorsky: chorus.
About Cristina Morrison
Chameleonic, versatile, worldly, adventurous, and tour de force are all words used to describe singer/songwriter/actress Cristina Morrison. Affectionately known as the Baroness of Jazz, Cristina’s sophomore album, appropriately called Baronesa, draws upon her tremendous life experiences – featuring songs in four different languages with a mixture of eclectic and world jazz sounds. Read more…
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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The Latin Side of Jazz · Episode 26
Artist Profile: Adrien Brandeis
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Cubismo & Jazz Orkestar HRT-a: Tumbao
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