Thanks in large part to the inimitable drummer Duduka Da Fonseca and Family Adnet, the music of the great Brasilian maestro, Tom Jobim remains top-of-mind and is not relegated to becoming a kind of saveur du jour, something that the music of composers no longer with us is often left to become. It does, of course, help that Mr Da Fonseca is married to the vocalist of immense allure, Maucha Adnet, who performed for a decade with Mr Jobim’s last prodigious ensemble, Banda Nova. But there is something more and quite extraordinary that the drummer is doing about [and with] Mr Jobim’s music and that is to bring to light rarely heard gems together with rendering them in a manner that is wholly new and set in a completely new soundscape, yet evocative of the majesty of Mr Jobim’s Bossa Nova own idiom.
Mr Da Fonseca speaks of Samba Jazz, which might sound somewhat quaint. But what he is trying to do here is to provide a spark that will ignite a combustive new kind of musical idiom. This is done by invoking the cool and languid shuffle of ars Brasilia that is propelled in the wide, swerving swing that is invoked in the name of Jazz. This might seem simple, but it is, in fact, a rather delicate art undertaken on a rhythmic tightrope that many have attempted, but few rhythmists have achieved with the sense of Brasilian “bigness” with which Mr Da Fonseca does – and has done for years. In this regard he has had the unstinting support of his vocalist-wife, who sings with the kind of rarefied air of romance that endeared her to Mr Jobim for all those years.
On Samba Jazz and Tom Jobim Mr Da Fonseca has brought together a somewhat differently constructed group, front-loading the music with horns of Billy Drews, who plays off the harmonisations of another quite extraordinary expatriate Brasilian – pianist [and composer] Helio Alves. Another fine addition to the group is bassist Hans Glawischnig, whose sinewy rumbling on the contrabass fortifies the harmonic and rhythmic end – even stepping out to make a powerful melodic statement on Mr Alves’ superb composition “Helium”. The superb Brasilian virtuoso guitarist Romero Lubambo – a third of Mr Da Fonseca’s Trio Da Paz – is unleashed on five charts and turns the Jobim-rarity, “Polo Pony” into a masterpiece. The great [and sadly, late] trumpeter Claudio Roditi is heard in all his glory on “Gemini Man” and masterful Wynton Marsalis is gem-like on “A Vontade Mesmo”.
The album’s crowning glory is, ironically, the song that is neither samba, nor jazzy, or anything from Tom Jobim. Instead it is a feature for Miss Adnet singing in English. And she responds by offering us a glimpse of Bess’ elemental pain. George Gershwin had always intended to describe the pathos of his character as such but Miss Adnet’s Bess is a thing of such absolute beauty that you don’t hear her Portuguese inflections, focusing instead on the monumental sadness of the lyric and its bittersweet pain. In doing so she turns “I Loves You Porgy”, a great cathartic moment on this exquisite recording by Duduka Da Fonseca, one of the most inventive Brasilian drummers around.
Track list – 1: Gemini Man; 2: Alana; 3: Untitled; 4: Pato Preto; 5: Dindi; 6: A Correnteza; 7: Pedra Bonita da Gavea; 8: Helium; 9: Você Vai Ver; 10: Poly Pony; 11: A Vontade Mesmo; 12: I Loves You Porgy
Personnel – Billy Drews: saxophones and flute [2 – 7, 9, 10, 12]; Romero Lubambo: guitars [1, 2, 5, 9, 10]; Hans Glawischnig: bass; Maucha Adnet: vocals [4 – 6, 9, 10, 12]; Helio Alves: piano and Fender Rhodes; Duduka Da Fonseca: drums; plus featured guests – Claudio Roditi: trumpet ; Wynton Marsalis: trumpet 
Released – 2020
Label – Sunnyside Records [SSC 1563]
Runtime – 1:05:15
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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