Eddie Daniels has become, without a doubt one of the finest clarinetists in the past fifty years or so. In fact, apart from Paquito D’Rivera, there is probably no one who plays this unforgiving instrument with more virtuosity and elegance than Mr Daniels. But even with his genius on the proverbial “licorice stick” absolutely nothing could guarantee that he would be able to pull off such demanding repertoire by one of the greatest composers of music of our time: Egberto Gismonti. Here is a musician who was spurred on to find his voice, refine his vision and reach for his Holy Grail back in Brasil by Anton Webern’s pupil, Jean Barraqué, and the legendary pedagogue Nadia Boulanger. The latter urged him to “be a little irresponsible in [his] music, just trust and break the rules” which drove him to the indigenous peoples of the Amazon rain forest and their music. This encounter altered his perspective, changed the expressive possibilities of musical language and fertilised his work.
Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Eddie Daniels: Heart of Brazil
But just as much as Mr Gismonti worshipped at the altar of originality, so does Mr Daniels. Moreover, the clarinetist’s gift of discernment accounted for his being able to align his imagination and sublime artistry with that of Mr Gismonti’s own creativity and vision. Heart of Brazil resulted from this unique “partnership”. Although Mr Daniels plays (his old instrument) the tenor saxophone on a few tunes here, it is with the clarinet that his reputation on this repertoire by Mr Gismonti rests. You hear something masterful and inimitable every time that Mr Daniels makes music with each compression wave; every magical puff of air, that is. The tapestry of this music is unfurled as wondrously in the rich dark swirls of the chalumeau register, as it is in the clarion-bright and sweet calls and keening shrillness of his altissimo twists at the end of choice phrases.
Not only does Mr Daniels put the iconic cylindrical bore of his legendary Backum woodwind instrument to create immeasurable beauty from its three registers but he exploits the intricate key organization of the clarinet that makes some of the most impossibly difficult passages in Mr Gismonti’s music seem like child’s play and while there are beautifully sculpted phrases and lines throughout this recording one is left gasping audibly, on the white-knuckle ride, for instance, on the joyous chatter of “Lôro”, the insouciant leaps on “Folia” and the profoundly majestic solemnity of “Maracatú”. So, of course, at the heart of this disc, aptly entitled Heart of Brazil is magnificent performance by Eddie Daniels and the classic repertoire by Egberto Gismonti. But let’s face it we would be remiss if we did not doff the proverbial hat to the other aspect of this disc that makes it one to absolutely die for:
Firstly there are the musicians – chief among them being Mauricio Zottarelli, without whom this music would never have unfolded with as much elegant rhythm, which is, again, so much as part of all-things Brasilian. But it’s not only the Brasilian-ness of Mr Zottarelli that drops the de rigueur anchor in the sweet spot of this ocean of music; rather it is because Mr Zottarelli has literally mastered the art of reincarnating himself as a melodist, harmonist and rhythmist – each in its turn, sometimes combining all of the three elements in his music. Secondly it is the inspired choice of bringing in the Harlem Quartet and it is their extraordinary performance that contributes mightily to placing Mr Gismonti’s music in its rightful place which is right in the realm of the music where Heitor Villa-Lobos rests.
And finally all this has to do with the genius and incomparable wisdom of George Klabin, Founder of Resonance Records and producer in the mould of the illustrious producers involved in the long list of iconic productions including symphonic and operatic in the classical world. Why, one might well ask…? Well, it is Mr Klabin who set the list of music to be played, brought in the terrific musicians to arrange and perform it, and last, but not least, (assisted by Fran Gala; of course), preside over the console in order to deliver this impeccable recording to us.
Eddie Daniels – Heart of Brazil is a 61st Grammy Awards Nominee in the Best Latin Jazz Album Category
Track list – 1: Lôro; 2: Baião Malandro; 3: Água e Vinho; 4: Ciranda; 5: Folia; 6: Maracatú; 7: Adágio; 8: Tango Nova; 9: Chôro; 10: Tango; 11: Cigana; 12: Trem Noturno; 13: Auto-Retrato
Personnel – Eddie Daniels: clarinet and tenor saxophone; Josh Nelson: piano; Kevin Axt: bass; Mauricio Zottarelli: drums; Harlem Quartet – Ilmar Gavilán: violin; Melissa White: violin; Jamey Amador: viola; Felix Umansky: cello; Arrangers: Ted Nash (1, 4, 9), Kuno Schmid (2, 3, 711, 12), Josh Nelson (5) and Mike Patterson (8)
Released – 2018
Label – Resonance Records (RCD -1027)
Runtime – 1:17:46
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
Juan García-Herreros · The Snow Owl: Normas
Raphael Cruz Reaffirms his commitment to Latin Jazz!
Edy Martínez, the Music Architect Behind the Piano
Rubén Blades con Roberto Delgado & Orquesta · Son de Panamá
Cubano Be, Cubano Bop: A Memorable Night in Toronto with Poncho Sánchez
Celebrating Emiliano Salvador and his Musical Legacy
A Conversation with Percussionist, Bandleader Poncho Sanchez
The Odyssey of Anat Cohen
Paquito D’Rivera & Quinteto Cimarrón · Aires Tropicales
Have You Seen My Nana? The Enduring Genius of Moacir Santos
The Latin Side of Jazz · Episode 26
Artist Profile: Adrien Brandeis
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Cubismo & Jazz Orkestar HRT-a: Tumbao
Ella & The Bossa Beat: In the Moment
Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band to release new recording: “Vox Humana”
Gia Fu Presents: Ángel Meléndez X Big Band Máquina
Julian Gutierrez To Release His Second Album: “Goldstream”
Grammy Nominated Jane Bunnett and Maqueque to release new recording: ‘Playing With Fire’
Rosa Avilla: Kind of Rose
Most Read in 2022
News11 months ago
SANTOS – Skin to Skin – A Searchlight Films Production
Featured11 months ago
In Conversation with Carlos Cippelletti
Featured Albums7 months ago
Chucho Valdés & Paquito D’Rivera Reunion Sextet: I Missed You Too!
Featured9 months ago
The Feeling Messengers, Past and Present (Part I)