Diego Urcola’s is a voice that remained somewhat hidden—certainly tucked away—for two decades in Paquito D’Rivera’s quintet. And then there was the subdued role he played in Los Guachos, the fabulous larger ensemble. However the graceful candour of his voice is irrepressible and it was only a matter of time when he would be heard for what he really is and plays. Urcola is distinct and a singular artist in the manner of his more famous countryman Leandro “Gato” Barbieri. The trumpeter plays with sensuous swagger and digs deep into his own soul for even the slightest note. This mortal risk-talking is something Barbieri is well-known for and with his own immaculate sense of grace, absolutely bereft of inhibition Urcola begs favourable comparisons with the much older tenor saxophonist.
The trumpet resides in a cluttered world and not even its softer relative, the flugelhorn, can serve to set horn men who favour this burnished brass instrument apart from the pack that always seems to advance like the frontline of an ancient army. Still, someone like Charles Mingus was able to pick Thad Jones, and more significantly, the mysterious, Clarence Shaw from out of the clutter. Jones he called Bartok with valves and Shaw’s language and phrasing left him breathless. Then there is Wallace Rooney, and Arturo Sandoval. To these must be added the name of Diego Urcola. To understand why this is so, it pays to peruse Urcola’s most recent solo date Appreciation.
Here is an example of a gargantuan challenge, one where the artist has chosen to pay homage to a host of his peers and mentors: wholly different characters that have pursued widely divergent paths. And yet Urcola brings it all together, to fruition, so to speak with a mighty effort that defines each musician—from Freddie Hubbard to Hermeto Pascoal, Guillermo Klein to John Coltrane and Astor Piazzolla. In doing so, Urcola traverses the soundscape of Lydian modes, bebop, the Brasilian “partita alto” and the wildly inventive metres of Klein using what the Guachos did—7+7+7+3. The tribute to Woody Shaw and Dizzy Gillespie, “Woody ‘n Diz” offers a masterful use of the flatted fifth, while “El Brujo” sings of the fire and irrepressible creativity of Pascoal in that rarely used Brasilian rhythm. Urcola’s tribute to his long-term employer, D’Rivera is an astounding “Milonga” song-style in the manner of Astor Piazzolla.
Urcola is blessed to have the artistry of pianist, Luis Perdomo, a master of that elusive Latin rhythm that actually resides hidden in the melody and is only brought forth by superlative “tumbao” something few pianists possess. Drummer, Eric McPherson is truly a revelation in the deft manner in which he negotiates the maddeningly complex rhythms, especially that invented by Guillermo Klein in a 7+7+7+3 part. He is no doubt aided on “The Natural” by Yosvany Terry on chekere, but then there is the “partido alto” and all the other tantalizing modes that follow. And of course Hans Glawischnig too makes up the wondrous quintet recording.
Tracks: 1. The Natural (to Freddie Hubbard); 2. El Brujo (to Hermeto Pascoal); 3. Milonga para Paquito (to Paquito D’Rivera); 4. Super Mario Forever (to Mario Rivera); 5. Guachos (to Guillermo Klein & Los Guachos); 6. Deep (to Astor Piazzolla & Miles Davis); 7. Senhor Wayne; 8. Woody ‘n Diz (to Woody Shaw & Dizzy Gillespie); 9. Camilla (to John Coltrane).
Personnel: Diego Urcola: trumpet, flugelhorn, valve trombone, vocals; Luis Perdomo: piano, Fender Rhodes; Hans Glawischnig: bass; Eric McPherson: drums; Yosvany Terry: chekere (1, 8).
Diego Urcola on the web: www.diegourcola.com
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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