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Candido: The Master

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Candido - The Master

The term “legend” is best reserved for dead people: Buddy Bolden, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus; and directly from Cuba: Arsenio Rodríguez, Tata Güines, Frank Emilio Flynn… but somehow it seems wholly appropriate to bestow that honoris causa on a small handful of living persons. The great conguero, Candido Camero is one of them. He is a legend not entirely from the manner in which he plays the congas, but what he exudes as a musician: the quintessence—that elemental, fundamentally phantom quality that even few men—even fewer musicians—have. However, it so happens that the 90-plus Candido is, in fact, a musician; a conguero like no other. His attack is angular; almost too soft and caressing. His large hands and long fingers might, on another musician, be forbidding, but on Candido’s they are almost loving; the kind that wrap themselves gently and protectively around an object rather than seize it. This gives him a special sound; one that is soft and virtually whisper-like. As a result the sound that emanates from his set of drums seems to sound like the profound rumbling of the earth as it wakes up from its slumber each time the seasons change, for instance.

The Master is a magnificently produced recording by one of the finest practitioners of audiophile techniques, Chesky Records. The label has set up a new imprint, Binaural Series that incorporates a 3D-sound. All of this would have been adequate to capture Candido’s sound if he indeed existed in the known realm of three dimensions. But Candido adds a spectral, fourth-dimensional quality to his ineffable performances every time he gets his hands on the skins of the drums. His rhythmic angularity is informed by notes that bob and weave; rise and fall like melodies that soar into the emerald beyond. In ensemble passages Candido sounds as if he were playing/uttering almost human sounds complete with voice-like inflections with musical diphthongs that glimmer as they glide off the conga heads. In his soli Candido does all of this and more. He dazzles with his wizardry; he mesmerizes with his cross-talk and the vaunted melodic lines; the rhythmic gymnastics that featured arpeggios, staccatos and ritardandos; slurred notes and virtual crescendos that always transformed the literature of the music he played.

This novel style of playing is the focus of charts as far removed in as the great Ray Santos piece “Conga Descarga” is from the classic “Lágrimas Negras”. This music seems to have been composed almost exclusively for the generous musical spirit that is Candido, who continues to record as well as travel and perform with the energy that belies his 93 years of age. But in his extraordinary youthfulness is the wisdom of the ancients that seems to flow through Candido’s hands and fingers onto his beloved congas. Magnitudine sua in aeternum agnosceretur…

Track List: Arcason; Riffiando; Salsibiri; Lagrimas Negras; Wow Wow Holy Cow; Conga Descarga; Conga Blues; Mulatacha

Personnel: Candido Camero: congas; Ray Santos: arranger and musical director; Anibal Martinez: trumpet; Al Acosta: tenor and baritone saxophones, flute; Hommy Ramos Vizcarrondo: trombone; Juan (Papo) Pepin: congas; Willie Martinez: timbales; Guillermo Edghill: bass; Julio Salgado: vocals; Xiomara Laugart: vocals; David Oquendo: tres, guitar, vocal and arrangement (7)

Label: Chesky Records | Release date: October 2014

Website: chesky.com/artist/candido-camero | Buy music on: amazon

*Sample Track Excerpt: Conga Descarga

About Candido Camero

Now in his nineties, LP’s elder statesman Candido Camero touch on congas is still sure, his time is solid and his sound is uniquely his own. Born in 1921 in a Havana barrio called El Cerro, Candido was initially a multi-instrumentalist, showing facility on tres, guitar, and bass-these being key instruments in the popular Son music of the day. A switch to bongos and congas led to a six-year spell with the CMQ Radio Orchestra and a residency at the famed Cabaret Tropicana. Read more…

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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.

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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