The longevity and the durability of the musical relationship between Paquito D’Rivera and Chucho Valdés give a freedom and flexibility to these performances on I Missed You Too! that defies all logic; they certainly go way beyond the kind of politely mannered performances that might ensue when musical friends get together after what seems like an age. In the case of Mr Valdés and Mr D’Rivera it is a relationship that began when the latter was introduced to the former by a revered friend – Samuel Téllez. Mr D’Rivera’s notes – written with customary wit and warmth – suggest that the musical paths have crossed frequently [in the years following their introduction, which was in 1962] and they spent much time honing their skills with some of the most iconic Cuban ensembles. [How about Irakere!?]
This performance probably has been a long time coming, what with their busy schedules zig-zagging across the globe. But from the first moments of their infectious, quick-witted interaction on this disc they parley like old friends, in a noble performance that is absolutely a revelation. The repertoire is just plain beautiful and played so. Chucho Valdés captures the eloquent emotional tension in the lofty curve of this music. The best example of this partnership by far comes right at the end of the performance; a duet “El día que me quieras” [literally “The day you loved me”] by one of the greatest of boleros written by the legendary Carlos Gardel, where both Paquito D’Rivera and Chucho Valdés shape its tessitura to reflect the impending drama of the piece.
But the magical musical partnership is jump-started right out of the gate with Mr Valdés’ iconic composition “Mambo Influenciado”, a piece that has been played so many times over the years [and by so many musicians]. And yet the music sounds here, as if it were just written and improvised on the fly. Mr D’Rivera’s alto saxophone is particularly incisive on this chart. It was just as much a stroke of genius [hardly surprising] for Mr D’Rivera to play “Mozart a la Cubana” using his magical and burnished Louis Rossi clarinet – the first clarinet to be made in Santiago de Chile [according to Mr D’Rivera himself] from a remarkable piece of wood brought to the instrument maker by an old friend of the clarinetist – no less.
At any rate the tonal range of the instrument is exploited with such unbridled mastery by Mr D’Rivera that it encompasses dynamic mutations of colour, from broadly sonorous to gently ethereal. Thus the clarinetist is able to match the great pianist Mr Valdés – phrase for phrase, when the emotion demands it – in soto voce and extreme pianissimo with a kind of ‘ductile’ give and take to each other’s phrasing. Together the partnership offers a free-flowing, flexible approach [to this repertoire] of vibrant impulsiveness and expressive fervour.
This is equally true of music such as the maddeningly brilliant and quixotic “Mozart a la Cubana” composed specially for Mr D’Rivera by Mr Valdés. [The alto saxophonist and clarinetist returns the favour on a breathtakingly tender, yet racy, “I Missed You Too!”] Exquisitely tenderness is maintained as well on the ballad “Claudia”. Meanwhile the musical character sketch of Mr D’Rivera, “Pac-Man” [written by a friend of both musicians by the Hilario Durán] is played with wit and almost insolent virtuosity. This partnership offers an uncompromising structural wholeness to this music. Their grip on rhythm and pulse is unequivocal, artistic rapport extraordinarily close.
Of course the music is raised to quite another level by the sublime musicians who complete the sextet as they keep both Mr D’Rivera and Mr Valdés on their proverbial toes as well. The great trumpeter and valve trombonist Diego Urcola provides unique décor to parts that require the resonant or muted tone of the trumpet. And when the gurgling human voice-like annunciations of his valve trombone are called for then he plays the instrument with brooding lyricism. A majestic and towering wall of rhythm is created by the outstanding drummer Dafnis Prieto, and the rest of the considerable percussion colours are painted by Roberto Vizcaíno Jr. Bassist José Armando Gola brings his uncompromising and unique rumbling gravitas to this rhythmic edifice. No wonder the music of this memorable recording is raised to a rarefied realm…
- Chucho Valdés and Paquito D’Rivera Continue Reunion Tour
- Chucho Valdés & Paquito D’Rivera Release First Track From New Album
Tracks – 1: Mambo Influenciado; 2: Mozart a la Cubana; 3: I Missed You Too! 4: Pac-Man; 5: Claudia; 6: El Majá de Vento; 7: El día que me quieras
Musicians – Chucho Valdés: piano; Paquito D’Rivera: alto saxophone [1, 4, 6, 7] and clarinet [2, 3, 5]; Diego Urcola: trumpet [2, 3, 5, 6] and valve trombone 1, 4]; Dafnis Prieto: drums [1 – 6]; José A Gola: contrabass [1 – 5] and electric bass 6]; Roberto Vizcaíno Jr: percussion [1 – 6]
Released – 2022
Label – Sunnyside Records [SSC 4562]
Runtime – 49:21
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