Brasilians like the incomparable drummer and musician nonpareil Duduka Da Fonseca know that “samba” is dance – something glorified not only in the way music is played during the legendary Carnaval processions before Ash Wednesday descends upon the faithful. Thus they find nuanced ways of describing what takes possession of their bodies when the Brasilian music begins. The samba, then, is more than a Carioca phenomenon. And it’s not only the dança do carioca but, how the carioca walks… something that the very special person has taught to the world. In terms of the latter endeavour there are few diabos de ritmo elegantes e/ou sofisticados [elegant and/or sophisticated rhythm devils] than Duduka Da Fonseca and Quarteto Universal on Yes!!!
It is always a jaw-dropping experience to listen to the music that Duduka Da Fonseca makes. He can take a song by the legendary Antônio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim [or simply Tom Jobim to his friends], and spin it in a myriad different ways. His refreshing interpretation of “Á Correnteza” is just one such example – you can bet your bottom dollar that you may never hear this song played the same way twice by this great drummer. But that is only one example of the wizardry of Duduka Da Fonseca.
The entire repertoire on this album is a testament to the genius of his musicianship. Listening to “Samba Novo” and then letting the recording melt into the elegance of “Transition” by Dom Salvador, you can discern – if you pay close attention, that is – to how subtly Duduka Da Fonseca moulds the song, rolling it from a marcha to a rippling maracatu and into the dusty shuffle of what is traditionally presumed [by outsiders] to be the samba. In fact, Duduka and his Quarteto Universal demonstrate musically, what Luciana Souza describes as the rolling intonation of Brasilian rhythm – from the way the language of Portuguese is spoken in Brasil to the manner in which this translates into music. You will hear this especially in the magnificent viscous “undulating” of Vinicius Gomes as he approaches the electric guitar – or even the acoustic Brasilian violão.
This is not the only aspect of his playing that sets Mr Gomes apart from almost all of his peers at home and abroad. Anyone who was gob-smacked by the guitarist’s 2017 album Resilência, [featuring a majestic quartet that included drummer Edu Ribeiro, contrabassist Bruno Migotto, pianist Gustavo Bugni and saxophonist Rodrigo Ursaia, and other guests] will be awestruck once again by the propulsion of the song “Êxodo” – this time by Duduka Da Fonseca and Quarteto Universal. It is a masterpiece of rapidly changing rhythms and shifting pulses – an underbelly – that keeps the harmonic décor of the music ascending in a sort of rapture that seduces not only the musicians who play the song, but listeners too. And this sense of being mesmerised is something that you experience throughout this album…
Musicians like Duduka Da Fonseca find ways of connecting with other musicians [in this case pianist Helio Alves, contrabassist Gili Lopes and, of course, Vinicius Gomes] “outside” of music – literally, extra-musically – and that connection brings about a warmth and camaraderie… the sheer alegria [or joy] of his “Brasiliance” that makes for his so perconal take on the “Human Diaspora”. This is what always makes the music of this special human being almost unutterably magical.
Tracks – 1: Samba Novo; 2: Transition; 3: Lilia; 4: Montreux; 5: Bebê; 6: Êxodo; 7: Viver de Amor; 8: Á Correnteza; 9: West 83 Street; 10: Dona María
Musicians – Vinicius Gomes: guitars; Helio Alves: piano; Gili Lopes: contrabass: Duduka Da Fonseca: drums
Released – 2022
Label – Sunnyside Records [SSC 1674]
Runtime – 54:57
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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