The music on this album, Hands, featuring stellar turns primarily by Spanish guitarist, Pepe Habichuela and British-born bassist, Dave Holland is, quite simply, one of the most captivating on record. It is completely an alternative to style, to mere virtuosity to angelic grace and charm, as dictated by a muse. This music is the epitome of the darkly beautiful magnetism of duende. The music comes not from the hands and the fingers of the musicians, but rather from the innermost being; from the very soul of the artist. It aims its hypnotic corkscrew at the mind’s eye, aiming myriad arrows of unbridled and primeval passion with every turn of the screw. The heart of the listener is set on fire, unwittingly as the music transforms him or her into something rare and pliable for the artist to toy with—which he does, more so by Habichuela than by Holland, but by both, nevertheless.
And then of course, there are the other members of the Carmona clan (to which Pepe Habichuela belongs), his son and guitarist, Josemi Carmona, his nephews—guitarist, Carlos Carmona and cajon, player and percussionist, Juan Carmona—together with percussionist and cajon player, Pirañ, whose credits include that eternal album, Lagrimas Negras which he recorded with the great Cuban pianist, Bebo Valdés and Spanish vocalist, Diego el Cigala. Holland wrote in a space for these percussionists to shine all too briefly on his composition, “The Whirling Dervishes” a startling composition that unravels with blithe spirit and an unquenchable fire that swirls majestically from end to end. All three musicians glow dark and strong again on “Joyride” the second and last composition by the bassist.
Most of the music is dedicated to the soulful magic of the Spain of the Carmona clan and it is this music that welcomes Holland as if through a rite of passage as he twists and turns, with whorls of notes played across the melody of the cry of the trees that begat the wood for the guitars. Holland is almost alone in his gut-wrenching harmonies. His solos may be played on an undulating bass line, but they moan and wail with the melodies of the songs. He is plaintive in the fandango de Huelva that is “Hands” and almost vocal on the tango, “Subi La Cuesta” then mightily expressive on a song written by him by Habichuela, “My Friend Dave.” The guitarist is spectacular throughout. He weeps for a legend on “Camaron,” a chart about the legendary flamenco singer who personified the art of duende. Habichuela is primal, a sort of medieval apothecary of music who is driven by his singular wood spirit, perhaps the one that abides in his guitar and one that sings through the trills and rapid glissandos that flash across the musical firmament as the guitarist’s fingers fly across the fret board.
But make no mistake, this is Pepe Habichuela’s album. It is the guitarist who is the undying source of magic that courses through the music making the album unforgettable.
Tracks: Hands (Fandango De Huelva); Subi La Cuesta (Tangos); Camaron (Taranta); The Whirling Dervish; Yesqueros (Media Granaina); El Ritmo Me Lleva (Rumba); Bailaor (Seguiriya Cabal); Joyride; Puente Quebrao (Buleria); My Friend Dave (Solea).
Personnel: Dave Holland: bass; Pepe Habichuela: guitar; Josemi Carmona: guitar; Carlos Carmona: guitar; Israel Porrina (Pirañ): cajó and percussion; Juan Carmona: cajó and percussion.
Label: Dare2 Records
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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