Diego Pinera’s drumming always seems informed by a composer’s instincts and sensibilities, attributes immediately discernable in his new (March 2016) recording combining his percussive genius with those of Mark Turner’s and Ben Streets – who form the triumvirate the latter two of whom a pair of exquisite musicians who instinctually bond with Pinera’s compositions. Even in the two pieces not written by Pinera but by Thelonious Monk and Kern and Hammerstein, the seamless bonding of the three creates a unique spatial geometry that comes from an almost spiritual unity between members of this trio.
And even though this is Diego Pinera’s record first and foremost, out of this richly atmospheric performance, spellbinding trio music emerges in pieces which are almost cinematically graphic. One easily hears eddies of mysterious winds blowing in to the Open Window and the mad angularity in My Picture and The New One, seemingly connected. The raw emotions of the music are immediate and powerful. And the trio deliver flawless performances of Evidence and The Song is You. But this music -thanks to the constantly shifting pulse and itinerant drama of Pinera’s drums, Mark Turner’s tenor and Ben Street’s epic basslines- create an emotional nakedness painted vividly with loving attention to detail. This makes for a riveting recording.
The probing, questing intelligence is brought to bear on this unconventionally virtuoso music of Pinera. To music that often leaves one giddy and rudderless and gasping for air in wave after wave of opulently and deliberately ambivalent harmony. All three musicians, led by Pinera, bring orientation and direction without sacrificing sensuality and mystical aura. Pinera accomplishes this through an almost uncanny variety of touch, tone production and delightfully complex rhythms. The result is music of audacious originality. The irrepressible nervous energy animating fast sections of the works becomes both the means and the end. Through shaping and dynamic gradation these musicians restore characteristic shimmering vibrando effect, producing sound at once musical and thrilling.
Shape and direction are the operatives throughout the album creating an impact unlike any other recording I know. For me discs warranting the highest praise are those that persuasively introduce new music that chart new interpretative territory for a work of that demonstrate something fresh and heretofore unrecognised in music long familiar. This is one such recording and it has a ring of authentic rarity that will sound in the mind’s ear for a long time to come.
Track List: Open Window; Cuidado; New Hope; Evidence; Today; Bart; My Picture; The New One; The Song is You.
Personnel: Diego Pinera: drums; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone; Ben Street: double bass.
Label: octason records
Release date: March 2016
Running time: 54:47
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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