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Colette Michaan · Heaven and Earth-Cielo y Tierra

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Colette Michaan: Heaven and Earth-Cielo y Tierra

Colette Michaan: Heaven and Earth-Cielo y TierraIn a world – sadly – dominated by male musicians, the flutist Colette Michaan gets much less respect than she deserves. One wonders, however, how much of this is a ‘western world’ phenomenon because in reality – especially in communities such as the Gnawa of Essaouira in Morocco, the flutist is held in higher esteem and has shared the stage with some of the finest. This is true also among Cuban musician and other serious musician communities wherever they might exist. And here, on Heaven and Earth-Cielo y Tierra, her fourth album, Ms Michaan shows why she is due much more than she’s getting by way of love and respect as a virtuoso flutist.

Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Heaven and Earth-Cielo y Tierra

The intrepid musician has sculpted these ten pieces on this recording with masterful artistry. Subtlety is the pervasive quality that Colette Michaan brings to this disc of works by several well-known composers. The music doesn’t often raise its voice much above a seductive whisper, and even when it does, the narratives are skillfully crafted to maintain a very expressive decorum. Ms Michaan’s radiant flute enriches these melodies and alters the harmonies and structural elements of each piece already augmented with the addition of (often the two) trombones of Reut Regev and Rey David Alejandre. As a result the flutist is able to take the pieces in directions that surprise and captivate the ear enormously. Melvis Santa’s beautiful piece “La Flauta de Colette” is an outstanding example of this.

The ten pieces unfold in a series of ethereal gestures suffused with distinctive atmosphere, paying glorious tribute to the dance forms and rhythms that drive Afro-Cuban music. But each melody is also treated to a panoply of colours and harmonic implications. Always at the soft end of the spectrum is Ms Michaan’s dynamic range enabling the music to soar, unfettered into a rarefied realm. Her sonic palette is often stretched to impossible extremes. Her solo turn on “Awakening” is a spectacular reminder of just how much glory Ms Michaan brings to her instrument. But everywhere else too, the flutist creates a unique melodic magic all her own. She is, however, not alone in this endeavor.

Ms Michaan also ups the production ante here with the evocative voice of Melvis Santa, whose floating soprano adorns “La Flauta de Colette”, “Por si Acaso” and “Quimbara”. Also enabling the flutist to make this her most vivid album yet are pianist César Orozco, bassist Jorge Bringas and three great percussionists: Román Díaz, Luisito Quintero and Yusnier Sánchez Bustamante. Through it all, of course, it is Colette Michaan who is, justifiably, in the limelight as she performs with consummate artistry, blending superior control and tonal lucidity with a cohesive sense of line and motion. This music could hardly be better served.

Read also our review of: Colette Michaan: Incarnate / Encarna

Track list – 1: Baila mi Ritmo; 2: La Flauta de Colette; 3: Waraya; 4: Por si Acaso; 5: El Jardinero del Amor; 6: A mi Que; 7: Souaressi; 8: Quimbara; 9: Guajira for Heaven and Earth; 10: Awakening

Personnel – Colette Michaan: flute, bamboo flute (2, 10)and vocals (1, 4, 6, 10); Melvis Santa: vocals (1 – 4, 8); Reut Regev: trombone (1 – 4, 6, 9); Rey David Alejandre: trombone (1, 2, 4 – 6, 8, 9); César Orozco: piano (1 – 9); Jorge Bringas: bass (1 – 9); Luisito Quintero: timbales (1, 4 – 6, 8, 9), quinto (8), drums (2 – 4, 7, 8) and percussion (1 – 9); Yusnier Sánchez Bustamante: cajón (3) and congas (2, 4, 8); Román Díaz : bátà (4), congas (1, 3) and vocals (4)

Released – 2017
Label – Creatrix Music
Runtime – 48:20

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.

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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