Not since Flora Purim, the otherworldly-sounding vocalist celebrated for her work with the legendary percussionist Airto Moreira and Chick Corea [cue 500 Miles High from the album Light as a Feather], has Brasil produced a voice artist – and instrumentalist, one might add – with the prodigious gifts as the wraithlike vocalist Ella Borges.
Her music – and she co-composes much of it on In The Moment [her second album] is like a temperate-cool in the everglades [she grew up in Florida] with just enough steamy vapour to suggest a steamy kind of seduction that is never very far off. Miss Borges is, after all, culturally Brasilian and even she tends to deliver the lyric with a certain restraint, you are almost sure that a lustrous refulgence in expression is always imminent.
Miss Borges is accompanied by her father Magrus Borges, who is a wizened instrumentalist with considerable experience as a drummer and percussionist on many a studio date. Her father is not the only stellar musician who is on this album, however; the group of musicians who interpret Miss Borges’ songs includes a clutch of regular musicians who are frequently called upon to bring lustre to studio dates of many a musicians in the area.
On Miss Borges’ recording the playing is quite stellar. On the chart Dreamer, for instance, the contrasts between spacious musical landscape and the bluesy vernacular nestle perfectly – almost as if the two translucent templates were made for each other. On the Portuguese numbers – O Tempo Traz and Estrellas No Ceu – the harmonics are pointillistic and the lyricism [in both cases] is appropriately spare, in order to convey something precious that is slipping away and becoming distant.
It would be tempting to label Miss Borges a miniaturist since pieces such as Forever and Slipping Away [among others] are particularly efficient at distilling their emotional states. The former makes its mark in sonic terms, its rather conventional orchestration expanding to incorporate luminous harmonics. The latter focuses on expressive duration, inclusively embracing its [the music’s] wide range of musical contrasts rather than wielding them as stark juxtapositions.
As In the Moment suggests Mis Borges’ music evokes a very delicate, yet physical language of emotion love, presented with a range of contrasts in an integrated whole. And she emerges as one of the loveliest practitioners of the vocal arts in the mould of the great Miss Purim.
Tracks – 1: Speak from the Heart; 2: Why; 3: Dreamer; 4: O Tempo Traz; 5: Forever; 6: Show Me the Way; 7: Estrelas No Ceu; 8: Slipping Away; 9: What Happened to Our Love?
Musicians – Ella Borges: vocals, piano and keyboards, and bass; Magrus Borges: drums and percussion; Kim Freitas: acoustic guitar; Greg Little: trumpet; Larry Williams: trumpet; Rodrigo Sha: saxophone; Alain Bradette: saxophone; Ruvit Bracho: violin; Jonathan Dills: cello
Released – 2022
Label – Independent
Runtime – 40:27
YouTube Video – Fly me to the moon – Ella & The Bossa Beat
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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