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Foreign Affair Trio: Sous le vent

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Hector Martignon - Foreign Affair Trio
Foreign Affair Trio: Hector Martignon, Dudú Penz, Raphael Nick.

This recording by Foreign Affair – a trio helmed by pianist Hector Martignon – is absolutely irresistible. This is not only because its title – Sous le vent [Under the wind] – itself is both vivid and mysterious, but more importantly because it comprises music which clearly Mr Martignon has mulled about for a long time. Throughout we are left speechless by the impressionistic lyricism of Mr Martignon’s pianism that rides the proverbial, gentle wind of this music from Europe to the Americas and back.

The result is that it [the music] has matured like rare wine dribbling and dancing out of the hands – indeed the fingertips – of pianist Hector Martignon, his superb bassist Dudú Penz, and drummer Raphael Nick. Three magnificent invitees join them – trombonist Luis Bonilla, vibraphonist Jean-Lou Treboux and flutist Xavier Paternot, who are superbly attuned to the pianist’s vision for this album and are displayed on several charts.

Foreign Affair Trio: Sous le vent [album cover]
Foreign Affair Trio: Sous le vent [album cover]

Mr Martignon is one of the most creative composers and pianists of his generation to come out of Colombia. Based in New York for some time now he has become one of those glossily international artists who is unafraid to tell his story in vignettes brimming with passion, grace, and fire. The album Sous le vent deals with the two homes he calls his own – one in NYC and the other in Geneva which he frequently visits to share his life with his daughter and her children.

The original songs form a kind of mystical thread that runs through the warp and woof of this story that, as the pianist avers, enables him to float ‘under the wind’ between New York and Geneva. The songs are united by their dreamy tempi and pastel-like tone-colours. These are Prelude X [that is, the number ten] the 24 Preludes [with maddingly beautiful echoes of Nicolo Paganini] from incidental music written for a stage play that muses upon the life of Jorge Luis Borges as he sinks, like the setting sun, into crepuscular blindness.

At the record’s midpoint is Sous le vent – another one the 24 Preludes – as the pianist imagines he descends with the dipping wind on the shores of Lake Geneva. The third Gabriella, the finale of the recording. While this song is not one culled from Mr Martignon’s 24 Preludes, its elegiac form makes for a perfect closing chapter on this musical sojourn. In between are six other works – two by the pianist – that display the dazzling breadth of knowledge of Latin American music and dance.

For sheer vivacity the most exquisite is Pasilleando, a play on the Colombian Pasillo – crafted to showcase Mr Martignon’s virtuosic pianism and his grasp of the trans-Venezuelan/trans-Colombian joropo. Mr Martignon also displays a fine grasp of Brasilian choro and marchas – remarkably – on Sous le vent, and on his interpretations of Joao Donato’s Amazonas, Roberto Menescal, and Chico Buarque’s Bye Bye Brasil.

The other three songs – NY Minute [Herbie Hancock’s arrangement of an Eagles’ classic], One Step Behind [a Martignon-original] and Johnny Come Lately [by the great Billy Strayhorn] showcase the pianist’s ability to bend like a proverbial reed in the wind as he allows his pliant pianism to swirl in the trade winds that blow across the rainbow spectrum of the musical continuum. This album is one for the ages, the finest recording by Mr Martignon.

Deo gratis…

YouTube Playlist – Foreign Affair Trio: Sous le vent

Music – 1: Prelude X; 2: Pasilleando; 3: NY Minute; 4: One Step Behind; 5: Johnny Come Lately; 6: Sous le vent; 7: Amazonas; 8: Bye Bye Brasil; 9: Gabriela.

Musicians – Hector Martignon: piano; Eduardo Dudú Penz: electric bass; Raphael Nick: drums. Guests – Jean-Lou Treboux: vibraphone [1, 5]; Luis Bonilla: trombone [3, 8]; Xavier Paternot: flute [6]

Released – 2023
Label – ZOHO Music [ZM 202402]
Runtime – 57:10

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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