Just when you think that the offerings of pianists in the setting of a piano trio is becoming a tad tired, along comes a recording that makes you sit up and take notice… and realise that in the right pair of hands the piano trio can become something altogether bracing – and breathtaking. The “right hands”, in this instance [as in many instances past] are those belonging to Dave Bass. It isn’t hard to notice why it’s easy to fall prey to the charms of Mr Bass and to be smitten by his considerable gifts.
Mr Bass – first and foremost – seems to be a student of the history of music. Being a “student” these days connotes someone who is being formed; not yet mature… Mr Bass is both of those things. And younger musicians should note how they can be used to considerable advantage. For one thing: Mr Bass is acutely aware of the “history” and the “musical ancestors” who have gone before him. Secondly, the pianist has never lost his sense of curiosity.
This has resulted in many hours of study and probing the heart and soul of every musical composition on this album, humbly – and nondescriptly – entitled The Trio Vol. 2; also something you should not miss as in doing so Mr Bass gives notice that everything he does is always in the service of the music he pays homage to and never to obscure it through gratuitous virtuosity.
And speaking of virtuosity Mr Bass has this in spades. Consider how he navigates the diabolical twists and turns – and conflicting personalities – of “El Cordobés” a composition by the incomparable Annette Peacock about a matador who is by turns heroic and vulnerable. Consider how the pianist makes this dichotomy work musically by using seemingly opposing counter-melodies and rhythmic variances to conjure “El Cordobés”.
Consider also how adept Mr Bass is as he runs down “Tempis Fugit” a manic composition by the great Bud Powell. If ever there was a preternatural composition by Mr Powell, then this is it. Mr Bass makes you think of Bud Powell – every moment that his life unwound and disintegrated into darkness. And yet the music remains triumphant – Bud Powell’s triumph over disability in every single way – melodic, harmonic and rhythmic in what is written and in how Mr Powell made those notes take wing.
Mr Bass’ take on “Four in One”, that magical and quixotic work by [His Royal “Outness”] Thelonious Monk is also quite remarkable – most of all because Mr Bass puts such an individualistic spin on the melody as well as in the rhythmic invention that he impels the melody with. The sublime darkness that Mr Bass imparts to “Black Monday” by Andrew Hill is altogether superb.
To go back to the fact of Mr Bass being an avid learner one must say that his depth of understanding of standards is quite remarkable. But just as remarkable is the manner in which he also finds something new with which to “sing” the song’s melody. “Green Leaves of Summer”, “I Fall in Love too Easily” and “Love Letters” are pure musical gold.
There are two wonderful examples of the pianist’s understanding and love for Afro-Cuban music: “Baltic Bolero” and the mambo “Gandinga, Mondongo y Sandunga” by that irrrepressible genius Frank Emilio Flynn. And finally when you have so much to say musically you’d better have musical partners who are attuned to your artistic vision.
These Mr Bass has found in contrabassist Kerry Kashiwagi and drummer Scott Gordon. Both men are not exactly musical wall-flowers and find ways to express their own musicality on many occasions. Having guitarist Barry Finnerty along for the ride is easily the apogee of this production – especially on “Gandinga, Mondongo y Sandunga”…
Tracks – 1: El Cordobés; 2: May; 3: Tempis Fugit; 4: Yugen; 5: Four in One; 6: Black Monday; 7: Carole’s Garden; 8: Green Leaves of Summer; 9: The Sixties; 10: I Fall in Love too Easily; 11: Love Letters; 121: Baltic Bolero; 13: Gandinga, Mondongo y Sandunga
Musicians – Dave Bass: piano; Kerry Kashiwagi: contrabass; Scott Gordon: drums. Special Guest – Barry Finnerty: guitar
Released – 2022
Label – Independent
Runtime – 1:02:42
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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