On Mamblue saxophonist Dr. Ed Calle has created not one, but two imperishable discs brim-full of magical charts meriting the simple designation: a musical masterpiece. Why should anyone really be surprised? The good doctor is not only a fine instrumentalist, but also an inventive composer and – something we are made aware of again – a superb big band arranger and conductor as well. What also comes through on this landmark double CD is a depth of emotional feeling that arrives as soon as he strikes up the band which incidentally brings together such mighty talent as Arturo Sandoval, Tany Gil, the Miami Saxophone Quartet, Brian Lynch, Sammy Figueroa, Federico Britos and of course Ed Calle’s own group, Mamblue.
To all intents and purposes, this is a large scale Big Band symphony in all but name and Ed Calle presides over the big band like a mighty conductor egging the stellar instrumentalists on with the brazen poser of his saxophone instead of the perfunctory baton. Sumptuously scored and powerfully evocative of the region between the Bronx, San Juan and Havana, the records are an intensely lyrical outpouring with long-breathed, modally inflected melodic lines which frequently hint at son, danzón and bolero as well as Afro-Latin Jazz full of pantheistic wonder and imbued with a very real sense of widescreen spectacle. And all of this music is also worthy of Ed Calle’s most illustrious musical mentors such as Tito Puente on, up and down the ancestral spectrum.
The admirable Ed Calle as well as his illustrious guests – from Arturo Sandoval to Brian Lynch – make imperious soloists and receive most able backing from this great orchestra. Their raptly expansive reading of the various scores adds more magic and mystique to the music. The music may sound somewhat pulpy at times, but there is also elegant puffery and the one thing you can never accuse the band of is loss of grip. The full-blooded sound too is more than acceptable throughout these elegant recordings spread across two really full discs, totalling over two hours of music.
True Arturo Sandoval and Brian Lynch together with the presence of Sammy Figueroa bring star power to this programme, but spare a kind thought for the genius of Federico Britos, who is becoming something of an ubiquitous figure from New York and Miami, as well as Boston to Los Angeles. Mr. Britos is a spectacular instrumentalist and his lighter, more mercurial style emphasises the music quite nicely. But make no mistake the music reaches the hottest part of the flame when Ed Calle breaks out into his intense soli. There is much to choose from here, but the most haunting piece on both discs – it is played twice – is the classic Rice and Beans. There is nothing with quite the energy and masterful twists and turns than this exquisite recording.
The CDs are differentiated on the basis of the fact that CD2 puts a dramatic Latin-Jazz twist on the music played straight on CD1. At any rate all of the music is played with deep passion but this is just one of the reasons why this album stands out from the clutter and rockets right up the list, to first place. As a whole Mamblue burns with the flame of inspiration and is quite theatrically-driven and bursting with visceral excitement from end to end.
Track List: CD1 – Mamblue; Arepa Bop; Calming Blue; Rice and Beans; Biscayne Bay; No! Thinking of You; Urban Island; Moonlight; San Sebastian; Mambo Wambo; Cortadio; Sidewinder; Autumn. CD2 – Arroz y Frioles; Arepo Bop (alternate version); Gruveando; Isla Urbana; Por de Lado; Otono; San Sebastian; Arroz y Frijoles (radio edit); Arroz y Frijoles (extended version).
Personnel: Ed Calle and Mamblue; Arturo Sandoval; Tany Gil, Mark Levine, Brian Lynch, Federico Britos; Nomar Negroni; the Miami symphonic Studio Orchestra and a cast of stellar musicians from across the Americas.
About Ed Calle
Calle plays the saxophones, flutes, clarinets, EWI, and keyboards, engineers projects, and performs vocals. He also composes and arranges music. Dr. Eduardo J. Calle has served as Chairperson of Arts & Philosophy at Miami Dade College North Campus and is currently Tenured Full Professor of Music Business and Production at Miami Dade College. Read more…
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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