Not all interpreters have proved to be distinguished interpreters of other composers’ works, but Duduka Da Fonseca has managed to maintain the venerable tradition of the composer-interpreter of a considerable body of work, often guiding other musicians as well. And in an almost imperceptible way the drummer has yeoman’s work that has helped shape his own creative voice. Here, once again, is further evidence of all of the above: a superb collection of music by a generation of Jazz giants who have, at some time in their careers paid homage to Brasil. There is so much to admire here that it would not be out of place for me to exclaim that this is an important record. And here’s more proof to support the claim. Through the course of the music contained here, Duduka da Fonseca has shown himself to be a musician who worship at the altar of creativity, lives and breathes the air of spontaneity—both of heat and cool, collected musical intellect and intuition—with extraordinary results. There are phrasings and voicings throughout the works here that are testament to his indisputable musicality.
A case in point would be two extremes of the offerings on this record that might go to show how much Duduka da Fonseca is made of music so to speak. The first is a rollicking version of Joe Henderson’s now classic “Records Me,” a song the tenor saxophonist wrote to placate the Latin music that was surging in his veins at that time in his career. The other is the elegant and deeply emotional Clare Fischer original “Pensativa.” Both enhance the record’s inventiveness so as to highlight what it takes for teaching young drummers what it takes to send a surge of masterful musical energy from behind an instrument that is notoriously difficult to control in order to maintain crystalline clarity of line, as well as to add a magical sprinkling of seasoning so as to create masterful timbres that let each piece blossom of its own accord. And why talk in such glowing terms of just these two pieces? The rest of the record too is filled with these great-tasting musical savouries from end to end really.
The reason for this is an application of a commanding sense of being decisive in the overall conception of what it is to be an über-composer—in the sense that an arranger must become when he is arranging and performing someone else’s work. In this regard this Brasilian drummer has assumed the role as a post-modernist as far as the art of percussive music is concerned, rather than the last romantic musician whose music lolled in the mushy kind of sentimentality with which many musicians approach the cultural topography of music especially when it comes with an idiom born in the country where they first cut their teeth. There is more than enough evidence of this on Jive Samba And let I give the impression that Duduka da Fonseca alone is responsible for the magnificence of this record, I must also give praise to pianist David Feldman and the now ubiquitous bassist Guto Wirti—and Paulo Levi, when he is called upon to play—to consistently rise to the occasion with a palpable sense of discovery that matches their leader’s.
Track List: Jive Samba; Lucky Southern; Sco’s Bossa; Recorda Me; Peresina; Clouds; Pensativa; Speak Like a Child; Le Gaucho; Samba Yantra.
Personnel: Duduka Da Fonseca: drums; David Feldman; Guto Wirti: acoustic bass; Paulo Levi: tenor saxophone (4).
About Duduka da Fonseca: Duduka Da Fonseca was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on March 31st, 1951. Rio was then enjoying the embryonic stages of Bossa Nova, which would eventually become a global phenomenon. “Growing up in Ipanema in the 50’s was fantastic,” Duduka recalls. “Its beaches were beautiful and pure. Ipanema was a neighborhood of mostly family homes with very few buildings and cars. We played soccer in the streets and climbed trees. It was peaceful. I was very fortunate that my parents loved good music. I was brought up listening to Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto, Dorival Caymmi, Luis Bonfá, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and many others.” 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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