There is something quite special about Ella, the 2022 album recorded by the prodigious pianist Glenda Del E and equally gifted violinist Daniela Padrón. There are many rather exclusive reasons for this. Firstly, the entire repertoire has been captured in the quietude of a duo [setting]. The empathy with which each player is able to communicate suggests that there is an almost transcendent telepathy that has been born into existence from the first bars of the music. The selection of the repertoire is quite inspired – made up of such gems as “Bésame Mucho” by Mexican songwriter Consuelo Velázquez, “Babalú” the Afro-Cuban song written by Margarita Lecuona made popular by Desi Arnaz, and the iconic song “Gracias a la Vida” by the legendary Chilean, Violeta Parra. But what makes things all the more special is the fact that the music – all of it – appears to have been captured in performance delivered in a sort of suspended animation.
And then there is this: a facet of artistic performance that speaks to a facet of artistry that is almost unspeakable; one that seems to come into existence when the spiritual and the secular collide in a rarefied realm. Most artists can only dream of it as it is next to impossible to achieve this state of wonder and sustain it for a considerable length of time – in this case little over half an hour of performance-time. But this is exactly what we are gifted with on Ella. And here’s why:
When musicians reach the wellspring of an emotional state and elemental passion takes over, it takes the greatest artistic ability to balance feeling with the mannered expression; to ignite elegance with the heat of a red hot flame, and likewise to imbue nobility of expression with an often cold blue flare. African mystics such as adepts and gnawas do so without giving much thought to the process; their training and guidance – often born of Divine inspiration and from rigorous training are able to reach this level of “performance” by seemingly turning on a proverbial dime.
Both Glenda Del E and Daniela Padrón seem to have made all of this happen, probably unbeknownst to each of them. But in my [considered] view both pianist and violinist have what it takes in spades, and this is exactly why we have an album of songs – each of which ascends to that rarefied realm. Glenda Del E is Cuban and most certainly falls in with the musical continuum. As such she certainly digs deep into the filin, jazz-influenced romantic song with roots in bolero and canción.
Clearly the Venezuelan-born violinist Daniela Padrón did not have to be “Cuban” to evoke the emotion of that style of post-microphone music that took root after vocal legends such as Ella Fitzgerald came under its spell. But clearly Miss Padrón is swept up in the depth of emotions as much as Glenda Del E. Moreover, she plays her instrument with such inspiration and virtuosity that it becomes a part of her own psyche, and which magically she imbues [through her instrument] that same filin, if you like, Glenda Del E knows from experience.
Put all of this together in a recording studio and the proverbial spark has ignited an album of rare beauty – the like of which will be hard to come by in a long time to come.
Tracks – 1: Dr. Psiquiatra; 2: Bésame Mucho; 3: Babalú; 4: Fina Estampa; 5: Qué Sabes Tú; 6: Te Aviso, Te Anuncio; 7: Pecado; 8: Suite Criolla: I.Polo; 9: New Habana; 10: Noche de Ronda; 11: Gracias a la Vida
Musicians – Glenda Del E: piano; Daniela Padrón: violin
Released – 2022
Label – Independent
Runtime – 33:08
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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