For the many lovers of music, who often tend to forget about the treasures we have among us, here’s a timely reminder from one of them: Bobby Carcassés, who sends his reminder in the form of a 2017 recording – Blues Con Montuno. While the title might give the game away – well, sort of anyway – the music still harbours many secret twists and turns that you can always count on this prodigious musician to spring upon us. This he does right from the get-go; from “Blues Con Montuno”.
But if you think this kind of final up-tempo section of a son, with its semi-improvisation, repetitive vocal refrain and brash instrumental climax built into this song is all you’re getting, perish the thought Bobby Carcassés is not one to let an opportunity to ring in changes with something both theatrical and meaningful even if it comes from the extreme left-field. His vocal style that mixes extraordinary lyricism with a prankster’s sense of scatting is clearly an indication that the trumpeter, like the legendary Clark Terry, can really shake things up.
Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Blues Con Montuno
Like Arsenio Rodriguez who revolutionised montuno son before him, Bobby Carcassés incorporates the idea of layered guajeos. Typical of this is the manner in which Bobby Carcassés develops the ostinato melodies in “Cubana & Sensual” and later, most appropriately in Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia” where he can be heard using dramatic interlocking structures, consisting of multiple contrapuntal parts. This aspect of the son’s modernisation is often thought of as a further “re-Africanizing” the music and has become an inextricable part of Bobby Carcassés’ creativity.
Roberto Carcassés Colón, the master’s son and musical director in his band has caught on magnificently to the extent that he is able to almost finish Bobby Carcassés’ (vocal) phrases – in terms of his pianism on “Night in Tunisia” which ripples out onto the rest of the group in a wonderful display of orchestral re-harmonisation. Long before we get that far into the album, however, is the most stunning example of this in Walter Gross and Jack Lawrence’s “Tenderly”.
While this is Bobby Carcassés’ vehicle, the spotlight is generously shone on a few other venerable figures as well. Don Pancho Terry’s star turns on chekere, on “Caravana”, “Obsesión” and finally on “Rumbibop” are priceless. Jorge Reyes sparkles on “Blues Con Montuno” and “Tenderly” as does Jorge Luís Valdés Chicoy, who joins him on the former song. But make no mistake, while these three musicians may be well-known names, the rest of the younger cast is just as stellar and each of them adds his own special brand of glitter to this gem of an album from Bobby Carcassés.
Track list – 1: Blues con Montuno; 2: La noche de ayer; 3: Caravana; 4: Tenderly; 5: Cubana & Sensual; 6: Paisaje de nubes; 7: Obsesión; 8: Night in Tunisia; 9: Rumbibop; 10: Son de la Loma
Personnel – Bobby Carcassés: voice, arrangements, chorus, recorder; Roberto Carcassés Colón: piano, keyboards, chorus, solos, production and musical direction; Oliver Valdés: drums (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, solos 3 & 8); Enrique Plá: drums (solo, 4); Tailín Marrero: electric bass (2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9); Jorge Reyes: contrabass (1, 4); Marí Páz Fernandez: percussion (1, 2,4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9); Dayron Rodríguez: percussion (3); Boris Castellano: guiro (1, 2, 5, 8); Pancho Terry: chekere (3, 7, 9); Jesús Ricardo Anduz: first trumpet (1, 3); Julio Padrón: first trumpet (2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9); Alejendro Delgado: flugelhorn (1, 3), second trumpet (2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9); Yoandy Argudin: trombone (2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9); Heikel Fabián: trombone (4, 5); Yuniet Lombida: soprano saxophone (6), tenor saxophone (1, 3, 4, 5, 7), baritone saxophone (1, 3, 5, 7); César Filiú: alto and tenor saxophones (1, 3, 5, 7, 9); Jorge Luís Valdés Chicoy: electric guitar (1); Roger Glenn: flute (1); Aurobindo Carcassés: rap (2); Francis del Rio: voice (3); César López: alto saxophone (3); Didac Ruiz: African harp (4); Yasek Manzano: flugelhorn solos (4, 6); Tanmy López: violin and voice (5); Orlando Valle “Maraca”: flute (6, 7), chorus (3, 6); Cecilian Colón: voice (7); Jamil Schery: tenor saxophone (9); Erick Jon: chorus (1, 2, 4, 5, 9); Adalberto “Berty” Hernández: recording, mixing and mastering engineer; Julio César Vilarrubia Acosta: assistant recording engineer; Yamibel Tillán & Maykel González: production assistants
Released – 2017
Label – BIS Music
Runtime – 50:19
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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