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Antonio Adolfo: Samba Jazz Alley



The celebrated Brasilian musician, composer, pianist and pedagogue Antonio Adolfo shows that it is possible to be nostalgic without having to be sentimental on Samba Jazz Alley by going to a place when (and where) music fired up his imagination. That place, he tells us in a short introduction to the music, is Beco das Garrafas or Bottles Alley; which was a place where Brasilian musicians shared a love for their music and Jazz and he haunted one particular bar down the alley; the Bottles Bar where its musicians and patrons fell prey to the charms of Jazz. Clearly, Brasilian musical forms were never abandoned here. The experience that first gripped a teenage Mr Adolfo has stayed with him for over four decades as he continues to spread the word – and the music – with his work and that of the pantheon of Brasilian gods whose music adorns this recording.

Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Antonio Adolfo: Samba Jazz Alley

However, clearly for Mr Adolfo while tradition is a wonderful reality, it is clear that the inner dynamic of tradition is always to innovate and we see that with the music he brings to this recording. Whether original work or a re-imagination of the works of others, Mr Adolfo has chiselled this uniquely beautiful body of work from out of the bedrock of the Brasilian-Jazz tradition that was first carved by the likes of Tom Jobim, Johnny Alf, Baden Powell, João Donato and others. What Mr Adolfo does so expertly here (as always) is to actively throw overboard melodic, structural and harmonic hooks – from both Brasilian and African American traditions – that have become expressively blunted through overuse. He then builds this gorgeous music from what might – or might not – be left.

In “Casa Forte” for instance, Mr Adolfo shreds the familiar tempo of Brasilian street dance puréeing the sublime gestures of past masters into agitatedly ticking motor rhythms and volatile harmonies that are expertly worked into the song by his brilliant musicians including guitarist Lula Galvão, trumpeter Jesse Sadoc and saxophonist Marcelo Martins (whose soaring and swooping solo on “Passirim” virtually redefines the song) together with the masterful percussionists fronted by drummer Rafael Barata. Following that superb performance is one in which two chromatic harmonica players, Mauricio Einhorn and Gabriel Grossi, combine in rhapsodic harmony to paint a heartbreaking picture of sadness on “Tristeza de nos Dios”. Indeed definitions of beauty are central to everything that Mr Adolfo brings to this album, from the repertoire to the arrangements and finally to the musicians whom he has assembled to bring his music to fruition.

In everything we listen to on this album there is also clearly a distinction between beauty of the overly perfumed kind in the commercial sense. This is replaced by authentic evocative beauty and is evident in the idiomatic playing of Mr Adolfo’s arrangements by these musicians. Brass and winds, for instance blow through their instruments evoking a sound as natural as the wind through the trees that rustles the scraps from the Bottle Alley on a dark night. Guitarists wield plectrums and fingers to evoke the chill of winter nights and the reflected glittering of a star-filled sky. Together with Mr Adolfo whose masterful pianism leads the way these musicians make a joyful noise that brings a whole cultural event to life all over again; this time through the music of Samba Jazz Alley.

Track list – 1: Ceu e mar; 2: Hello Herbie; 3: So Por Amor; 4: Casa Forte; 5: Tristeza de nos dois; 6: The Frog; 7: Obrigado; 8: Passarim; 9: Corcovado

Personnel – Antonio Adolfo: piano and arrangements; Lula Galvão acoustic and electric guitars; Jorge Helder: double bass; Rafael Barata: drums and percussion (2, 4, 6, 8); Dada Costa: percussion (2, 4, 6, 8); Jesse Sadoc: trumpet and flugelhorn (9); Marcelo Martins: soprano and tenor saxophones, and alto flute (9); Rafael Rocha: trombone; Special Guests – Serginho Trombone: valve trombone (6); Mauricio Einhorn: harmonica (5); Gabriel Grossi: harmonica (5); Claudio Spiewak: acoustic guitar (1) and shaker (1, 5, 8)

Released – 2019
Label – AAM Music (AAM 0713)
Runtime – 49:09

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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Featured Albums

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá



Roberto Jr. Vizcaino, Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaino Guillot - Photo Nayeli Mejia
Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot - Photo: Nayeli Mejia.

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.

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

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.

Deo gratis…

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 [9]

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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