What a marvellous recital this is by Andrea Brachfeld & Insight. It features swinging, rollicking and often profound repertoire played with precision, sensitivity and a touch of aplomb by Miss Brachfeld, showing off her delightful range of flutes – and a kalimba – also showcasing superior craftsmanship by pianist Bill O’Connell, bassist Harvie S and drummer and percussionist Jason Tiemann. The title of the album – Evolution – is meant to convey how much has changed after the world endures months of a savage pandemic. [Perhaps regressed may be a better word than evolution, considering how much more divisive human populations – especially in the USA and Canada – have become].
In actual fact, Miss Brachfeld deals with this in an almost seven minute missive entitled Decimation of Transformation. The sound of her fiery harmonic variations – arrested and then punctuated by an equally combustible performance by drummer Mr Tiemann and the rest of the crew – seem to convey – with heavy handed emphasis on the down-beat of fermata or phrase-ending declaims all that the composition means to suggest about societal regression post-pandemic. At this point we feel as if a climactic musical event is to follow and follow it does in the next part of the album – the next two or three songs propel us into an altogether different space.
The first of these is Miss Brachfeld’s spoken word song Qingauiit [by Jon Wheeler and Randall Prescott] playing alto flute after the recitative. The “child of the earth”, referenced numerous times in that recitative, is the [child of the] Inuit people. The flutist gives wing to the “freedom” which she wishes upon the subject of the sing, which ends in a low register of the alto flute – seemingly a doffing of the proverbial hat to the Inuit practice of throat singing – or katajjaq. This is followed by Miss Brachfeld’s deeply meditative and florid interpretation of The Hut Song – mystic music composed Hazrat Bedam Shah Warsi [1876 – 1936] the North Indian born Sufi poet famous for his devotional poetry.
We are in the thrall of music that is drenched not only in the flutist’s emotion, but also profoundly infused with her penchant for spirituality – the particular kind of which is practiced by cultures where a nearness to nature superseded the materialistic attractions that have become the norm of an otherwise capitalist world. On that music – as well as on The Unraveling of it All and Ko Ribon by the singing, Hasidic Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, Miss Brachfeld gives us pause to think about this and many other more meditative and caring aspects of life that the long pandemic seems not to have taught us to align ourselves to.
The pianist Bill O’Connell, a long-time collaborator of the flutist plays an important role in this music seemingly fully attuned to the flutist’s artist vision. He contributes to the compositions and plays with uncommon sensitivity throughout. Bassist Harvie S is a master of colour and erudite intonation and brings superb gravitas to this music. And Mr Tiemann not only times his drumming to perfection but he also adds translucent, shimmering and dancing percussion-playing to the soaring finale of this gorgeous recording.
Tracks – 1: What’s Up; 2: Decimation of Transformation; 3: Qingauiit; 4: The Hut Song; 5: Child of the Earth; 6: The Unraveling of it All; 7: Ko Ribon; 8: Being with What Is
Musicians – Andrea Brachfeld: C flute, alto flute, spoken word, Colombian clay flute, African bamboo flute and kalimba; Bill O’ Connell: piano; Harvie S: bass; Jason Tiemann: drums and percussion
Released – 2022
Label – Origin Records [Origin 82847]
Runtime – 49:50
YouTube Video – Andrea Brachfeld & Insight: Evolution EPK
YouTube Audio – What’s Up – Andrea Brachfeld & Insight: Evolution
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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