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Dave Chamberlain’s Band of Bones: Stomp!

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Band of Bones - Dave Chamberlain

Dave Chamberlain’s Band of Bones’ recital is a gloriously deceptive one. For here is no familiar programme of New Orleans music but an enterprising and enthralling challenge for both trombonist and listener. Opening with the King Porter Stomp from the pen of Jelly Roll Morton – a very modern tribute to early jazz – Mr. Chamberlain then abruptly changes course with Hendrik Meurkens’ Sambatropolis and a world that is shuffling and dusty, like the streets of Rio yet addressing the emotions and communicating joy and warmth. Then later follow Billy Strayhorn’s A Flower is a Lovesome Thing, already a far cry from the elemental King Porter Stomp and finally Lynn Welshman’s Pavane & Stomp and the traditional Amazing Grace.

Dave Chamberlain's Band of Bones - Stomp!All this could set even the most intrepid virtuoso explorer like Dave Chamberlain by the ears, yet the trombonist’s musical intention is always paramount. He storms the Jelly Roll Morton standard with full-blooded romanticism and finds all the sultry and romantic atmosphere of the Billy Strayhorn original A Flower is a Lovesome Thing. If all of this and more betray the influence of the trombone elders such as JJ Johnson and other ancestors they are also highly individual and distinguished, their often playful quality ironically surfacing through a formidable intricacy. Memories of (Mr. Chamberlain’s) earlier work flicker through the Meurkens piece as well as other composers while Band of Bones Blues recalls Al Grey in all of his greatness. More to the point, Dave Chamberlain plays with unfaltering bravura and conviction and his challenging lead has also been superbly followed by the excellent ensemble.

That theory only bears out, though, if the music here is played as straightforward, accomplished and without overpowering ego. It’s a relief, then, that the music from Jelly Roll Morton composition onwards is just that – an admirable performance technically (with just enough of a stamp of his (Dave Chamberlain’s) own personality to make it distinctive), the tempo relationships make sense, and his musical argument is intelligent but uncomplicated. It is, then, the proper arbiter of the good and different things that follow, in the form of new works that in some way reflect all that is great about Jell Roll’s visionary sensibilities, from the evolution from simplicity to virtuosity of Billy Strayhorn’s compelling ballad to less conceptual references to the stomp such as the ghostly phrasing of Pavane & Stomp.

I could go on picking out highlights from every piece – the call-and-response in Blues, the subtle rubato in Chega de Saudade, the infamous studies in thirds and sixths of King Porter Stomp, the soaring spirituality of Amazing Grace – the moments and passages which make me listen afresh to these familiar works and in some cases, hear things of which I had been previously been unaware. The greatest on the disc? I don’t know; but the Todd Anderson’s arrangement of Billy Strayhorn’s lovelorn Flower is one of the most consistently inspired, masterfully executed and beautiful-sounding versions of that great song that I can recall. All ‘bone fans must have this disc for all of these reasons and more.

Track List: King Porter Stomp; Sambatropolis; The Sweetest Sounds; A Flower is a Lovesome Thing; Flat Black; Band of Bones Blues; Chega de Saudade; Delilah; Is You Is, or Is You Ain’t, My Baby; Pavane & Stomp; Amazing Grace.

Personnel: Dave Chamberlain: leader, trombone, flute & vocal; Guest Artist – Hendrick Meurkens: harmonica; Kat Gang: vocals; Kenny Ascher: piano; Jerry DeVore: bass; Mike Campenni: drums; Chembo Corniel: congas & percussion (2, 4, 5, 7, 8 & 10); Charley Gordon: trombone; Sara Jacovino: trombone; Nate Mayland: trombone; Matt McDonald: trombone; Mark Patterson: trombone; Chris Rinaman: trombone; Max Siegel: bass trombone; Dale Turk: bass trombone.

Label: Independent
Release date: June 2015
Website: bandofbones.com
Running time: 1:01:56
Buy music on: amazon

About Dave Chamberlain

Raised in Buffalo, Dave Chamberlain began playing trombone at the age of ten, inspired by watching his four cousins playing in a brass quartet on the Ed Sullivan Show. He began doubling on flute in high school, going on to earn a B.S. degree in flute, and later an M.S. in trombone. His primary teachers have been Anthony Gorruso, John Wummer, Carmine Caruso, John Swallow, and John Rojak. Read more…

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.

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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