The Battle has begun, the Battle of… Titans!
The Grammy Award winner Doug Beavers brings us his exquisite, new album, Titanes del Trombón, a tremendous musical production conceived several years ago, in 2010, when Mr. Beavers started planning the first ideas and melodies for this work. This trombone man thoroughly selected each of the themes to complete fourteen tracks with the only goal of paying tribute to his friends and inspiring trombonists in jazz and Latin music. His experience as a performer, arranger and producer empowers him to propose this challenging musical project. His exciting and successful career is living proof to state that he is an integral and visionary artist. A path chosen during many years of working with great artists is his personal cover letter for any music lover who hears about him. Doug Beavers has worked with musicians and singers including Pete Escovedo, Eddie Palmieri, Paul Simon and Rubén Blades among others.
Titanes del Trombón is one of those works that takes time to produce because of its complexity. The leader of this project took his time to write and co-write the arrangements and orchestration of some of the tracks and coordinate the contributions of some others, finishing this part of the production in 2012. From New York to California, recording studios and more than twelve months of dedication, Doug Beavers and the guest musicians found the perfect sound for the CD, finally capturing the sonority Mr. Beavers wanted for this tribute. A troop of exceptional artists were invited to participate forming an unparalleled production where thirty-seven musicians contributed their talent to this honorable album. The long journey of Titanes del Trombón is justified after listening to each piece presented in this work. The hands and hearts of so many brilliant stars are evident in the results of the sonorities and pure interpretation. Oscar Hernández, director of the former Seis del Solar band, founder, pianist and musical director of Spanish Harlem Orchestra, plays the piano on this project, accompanied by other versatile musicians including Luisito Quintero, Eddie Montalvo, Dafnis Prieto, Luques Curtis and Edsel Gómez, as well as trombonists like Luis Bonilla, Conrad Herwig, Rey David Alejandre, and the renowned Reynaldo Jorge.
Latin music lovers will delight in what this album reveals; thirty-seven virtuous musicians, creating an insuperable catchy and touchy sound that shakes the soul of any collector or dancer. The classic instruments in salsa and Latin jazz are included plus French horns and strings, giving each song new musical perspectives and possibilities to connect to the syncopated music. “Trombón moderno” (Modern trombone) is the first number in this production. There is no better way to start this album than with this piece. “Trombón moderno” starts with a bluesy trombone phrase accompanied by subtle lines of timbales which announce the descarga that comes seconds later. The starting trombone line continues and a second line of brass fades in to create a beautiful dialog with the solo trombone and the timbales. The dialog ends in a soft way to introduce the sound of Oscar Hernández, a melodious and powerful piano tumbao which introduces the descarga and the singers´ phrase “Venga ahora para que baile con mi trombón moderno” (Come now to dance with my modern trombone). The fiesta is alive now, the atmosphere to start the “battle” has been created, and the titans go into the rhythmical arena to “fight”: Generoso “Toto” Jimenez, Reynaldo Jorge, Conrad Herwig, Luis Bonilla and Doug Beavers break in and offer an unparalleled show of improvisation where the listeners do not know exactly who is winning the “battle”. The musical show does not seem to have a winner; it is a real battle of titans where anybody could be the hero. No one hits the other; everybody wins with their brilliant contribution to this masterpiece session of Latin trombone improvisation.
It would seem impossible for Mr. Beavers to produce Titanes del Trombón without including the name of Barry Rogenstein, better known as Barry Rogers, the emblematic American trombonist, descendent from a Jewish-Polish family – who contributed in a prolific way to the jazz and salsa scene for decades. Mr. Rogers was a pioneer and innovator who proposed the leading role of the trombone in Latin music when he played with Joe Cotto’s Orchestra. This is why Doug Beavers has written a full, original composition called “Viaje” to honor the American trombonist as one of the most important influences in his career. “Viaje” is comprised of four themes: the one with the same name and three interludes which are short variations of “Viaje”, a piece which shows profound African roots, some splashes of flamenco and subtle Arabian phrasings.
It is fascinating how the need to explore the curious human mind allows us to discover magnificent knowledge. Mr. Rogers did it decades ago and now Doug Beavers and his guest musicians amaze us with this precious and significant work where the “battle” is justified, as well as the encounter of musical languages and the respect for the creation of others.
Track List – Trombón moderno; Esa mujer; Interludio I “Viaje”; Voy manejando; Tú no sabes; Interlude II “Viaje”; Folhas secas; Empezando de nuevo; Enigma; Interlude III “Viaje”; Take it to the Ozone; Borandá; Viaje; Trombón moderno DJ Edit.
Personnel – Raúl Agraz, John Walsh, Kenny Lavender, Thomas Marriott: Trumpet; Eric Davis, Justin Mullens: French Horns; Doug Beavers, Conrad Herwig, Luis Bonilla, Reynaldo Jorge, Rey David Alejandre: Trombones; Max Seigel: Bass Trombone; Marcus Rojas: Tuba; Matt Cowan: Clarinet & Flutes; Iván Renta: Tenor Saxophone; Musical Art Quintet: Strings; Anna Maria Mendieta: Harp; Larry Widener: Orchestral Percussion; Oscar Hernández, Zaccai Curtis, Edsel Gómez: Piano; Luques Curtis, Máximo Rodriguez: Bass; Luisito Quintero, George Delgado, Eddie Montalvo, Máximo Rodriguez: Percussion; Vince Cherico, Dafnis Prieto: Drums; Frankie Vázquez, Carlos Cascante, Marco Bermúdez, Jorge Maldonado, Héctor Aponte: Vocals.
Released – 2015
Label – Artistshare
Runtime – 1:14:00
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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