For young, aspiring pianists, Chick Corea and his music might easily be considered “essential study”. His breathtaking oeuvre offers so many pillars – technique, expression and so on – upon which the student of the nineteenth century’s greatest instrument might build his or her own musical edifice. Mr Corea has also created – and continues to create – so much great work in a myriad of styles during his long and distinguished music career that his creations could full a whole library of music (and then some) all on its own. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this is that his music continues to remain fresh, informed by something childlike.
Editor’s Pick · Featured Album
With the repertoire of Antidote Chick Corea returns to one of his favourite settings – music ensuing from what he has always suggested was his “Spanish heart” – Mr Corea offers us his latest and, perhaps, most rewarding work. Alternately daring and coy, but always with an awareness of the limitless possibilities of the instrument this is the work of transcendental quality by a pure genius. The music is redolent of a penetrating vision that has surveyed seemingly the whole history not only of the piano, but of music itself. The result is brooding creations; music that rises from the growling bass to the uppermost reaches of the keyboard in a startling flash of inspiration. Then, making one of his balletic leaps of faith, Mr Corea has orchestrated this music for The Spanish Heart Band to play their hearts out song after song after song.
There is a suggestion right from the outset that this music is the Antidote; the magic remedy for the wrong turns that we – humanity – have made throughout our existence. This suggestion comes by way of the lyrics in “Antidote” sung by the iconic Panamanian musician, Rubén Blades as well as later in the lyrics of “My Spanish Heart” – both gorgeous songs that can only be described in the words of Heine: as “the poetry of feeling”. Indeed this kind of depth of feeling pervades the rest of the extraordinary repertoire on this recording. Throughout Mr Corea continues to express his singular musical voice while using the full seven octaves of the piano and its heavily felted hammers to produce music of enormous colour and refined tone.
A particular feature of this music, indeed of all Mr Corea’s music which distinguishes it from the music of most composers of his (or any) generation is that it rarely carries literary, pictorial or biographical significance – his works are to be understood in purely musical terms. Not that this might stop some from finding non-musical meanings in his music; (“Duende” for instance, or even in “My Spanish Heart”). In fact the concentrated and sometimes volatile nature of his imagination – especially in those works – might invite such speculation. However, it is the unique nature of the works that melds melody, harmonic and rhythmic content into a powerful mix that is of greatest significance there; that and the fact that they sound as if they are spontaneous improvisations forced from the unconscious by overwhelming emotion.
As ever too, Mr Corea shows that he has a gift for bringing together musicians to interpret his work with ever-thoughtful inspiration. In this regard, bassist Carlitos Del Puerto joins a long line of great bassists to have played with the pianist – from Miroslav Vitous and John Patitucci to Christian McBride. Marcus Gilmore brings his prodigious melodic and rhythmic genius to the drum chair and the rhythmic department is augmented with the gifts of Luisito Quintero. A powerful horn section comprises trombonist Steve Davis, trumpeter Michael Rodriguez and they are joined by the great saxophonist and flutist Spaniard Jorge Pardo, who is one of three musicians who conjure the ghost of Mr Corea’s great dedicatee – the great Flamenco icon, Paco de Lucía – the other being guitarist Niño Josele – both of whom played with De Lucía at different times in his career. Songs such as “Duende” and “Zyryab” would probably not be the same were it not for Mr Pardo and Mr Josele.
Mr Corea has also included “Armando’s Rhumba” a beautiful song dedicated to his inspirational father on this recording. Among the other noteworthy compositions not written by him are “Zyryab” by Paco de Lucía, “Desafinado” by Tom Jobim and Newton Ferreira de Mendonça, and “Pas de Deux” by Igor Stravinsky. Even without a work by Scriabin (unusual for recent Chick Corea history), Antidote is his most absorbing recordings – well worthy of the Grammy nomination it has received. You will also be mesmerised by the other-worldly vocalastics of Gayle Moran Corea on both parts of “My Spanish Heart”. Maria Bianca delivers a soulful version of “Desafinado” that frees it from the confines of its Bossa Nova tempo in a beautiful new rhythmic interpretation. And the recording ends with a magical arrangement of “Admiration” featuring the hypnotic bailaor de flamenco – Nino de los Reyes as Mr Corea brings down the curtain on his tribute to Paco de Lucía and, of course, the great reveal of Mr Corea’s palpitating Spanish Heart.
62nd Grammy Awards Winner – Best Latin Jazz Album
Track list – 1: Antidote; 2: Duende; 3: The Yellow Nimbus – Part 1; 4: The Yellow Nimbus – Part 2; 5: Prelude to My Spanish Heart; 6: My Spanish Heart; 7: Armando’s Rhumba; 8: Desafinado; 9: Zyryab; 10: Pas de Deux; 11: Admiration
Personnel – Chick Corea: piano and keyboards; Carlitos Del Puerto: contrabass; Marcus Gilmore: drums; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet; Steve Davis: trombone; Jorge Pardo: alto saxophone and flute; Luisito Quintero: percussion; Niño Josele: guitar; Featuring – Rubén Blades: vocals (1, 6); Gayle Moran Corea: vocals [vocal choir] (5, 6); Maria Bianca: vocals (8); Nino de los Reyes: dance
Released – 2019
Label – Concord Jazz
Runtime – 1:15:00
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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