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Brian Lynch And Spheres Of Influence – Songbook Vol. 2: Dance The Way You Want To

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Brian Lynch

The trumpeter Brian Lynch needs no introduction to aficionados of what is all-too-often referred to Latin Jazz [but which musicians – including Eddie Palmieri, Mr Lynch’s erstwhile employer – often prefer to refer to as Afro-Cuban]. The latter term is also contemporaneously somewhat limiting. The reason is simple: the rhythmic backbeat of the music forms the very ebb and swell of the waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, and Caribbean Sea which is – if you like – the New Africa, and this Black Diaspora has defined the very cultural topography of North and South America and the islands around the continent.

Brian Lynch And Spheres Of Influence – Songbook Vol.2: Dance The Way You Want To

There are not two sources of this music, but one and Brain Lynch is one of the best ambassadors of The Source. He wields his horn like a scepter and his breath heats the air that he propels from his expansive lungs to make the kind of bronzed, melodic music that has made him one of the best living proponents of this music.

Musicians hold Mr Lynch in awe as he leads an ensemble such as this one called Spheres of Influence. The name of the ensemble must be read as a double-entendre – a kind of proverbial give-and-take between music and musician – because just as the music has given everything to Mr Lynch he has used the gifts he has received to give back generously as he sculpts a sound with long inventions, moulded from the molten fire of son, danzón, and the slow-burning blue flame of the bolero. This double album Songbook Vol. 2: Dance the Way You Want To – has iterations of eight songs with which Mr Lynch made his mark from right out of the gate when he released his debut album, Peer Pressure [1986].

Notably, Mr Lynch spins out new versions of all of them. The eponymous song, dedicated to another fabulous trumpeter, Tom Harrell, appears three times on both discs – in an alternate take and as an edit for radio play. Throughout this repertoire Mr Lynch inspires his ensemble, Spheres of Influence, to give idiomatic performances of this outstanding music. Disc 2 contains the songs shuffled and often painstakingly edited for radio. The songs that are thus presented [for radio] do not suffer at all from being pared down – usually by just slightly over a minute; they simply sound like new versions of the music.

Mr Lynch also quietly leads the musicians from the front of his proverbial and elegant comparsa. The musicians give back in kind: they are adept at maintaining the flow of the musical narrative, and with it, the music’s emotional flux. This is best observed when the group moves from more spirited music such as danzón and bolero. Mr Lynch is endlessly elastic and flexible, and consistently brilliant; he improvises at will taking the musicians into uncharted territory, daring them to follow. The musicians always return the favour. The more the trumpeter dares them to do harmonically and rhythmically the more they come up with.

Harmonically we hear from saxophonists Tom Kelly, Aldo Salvent and Chris Thompson-Taylor, who mirror Mr Lynch’s brassy outpourings with often torrential harmonics that match him power-for-power. The propulsion comes from two fine pianists – Kemuel Roig and Alex Brown – and is taken to its most commanding level by the bassist Rodner Padilla and percussionists Hilario Bell [on drum set] and Murphy Aucamp on Latin percussion.

These accounts of Mr Lynch’s work will hold you enthralled throughout the two discs with undercurrents and variations in tempo that bring dynamics with endless subtlety to the songs, no matter which way they are played. Songbook Vol. 2: Dance the Way You Want To is a musical thrill with songs that are right on the money on both discs.

Tracks – Disc One – 1: E.P’s Plan B; 2: Change Of Plan; 3: Across The Bridge; 4: Dance The Way U Want To; 5: The Disco Godfather; 6: Tom Harrell; 7: Silent Conversation; 8: Que Seriá La Vida; 9: Awe Shocks  Disc Two – 1; Tom Harrell [alternate take]; 2: E.P.’s Plan B [radio version]; 3: Change Of Plan [radio version]; 4: Across The Bridge [radio version]; 5: Dance The Way U Want To [radio version]; 6: The Disco Godfather [radio version]; 7: Tom Harrell [radio version]; 8: Que Seriá La Vida [radio version]; 9: Awe Shocks

Musicians – Brian Lynch: trumpet; Tom Kelley: alto saxophone [Change Of Plan, Across The Bridge, Silent Conversation, Awe Shocks]; Aldo Salvent: tenor saxophone [E.P’s Plan B, The Disco Godfather]; Chris Thompson-Taylor: tenor saxophone [Change Of Plan, Dance The Way U Want To, Tom Harrell, Awe Shocks]; Kemuel Roig: piano [Change Of Plan, Dance The Way U Want To, Tom Harrell, Silent Conversation, Que Seriá La Vida]; Alex Brown: piano [E.P.’s Plan B, Across The Bridge, The Disco Godfather, Awe Shocks]; Rodner Padilla: electric bass; Hilario Bell: drums; Murphy Aucamp: percussion

Released – 2022
Label – Holistic MusicWorks [HMW 22]
Runtime – Disc One 1:15:21 Disc Two 54:14

Deo gratis!

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

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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.

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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