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Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Aymée Nuviola: Live in Marciac

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Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Aymee Nuviola - Live in Marciac

There is not too much music that can stir the soul like Afro-Cuban music – especially the languid magic of the bolero and son, and other dance forms – and there are very few musicians performing today who would stir the depths of the soul as Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Aymée Nuviola. [Although one mustn’t forget that Omara Portuondo is still with us]. These absolutely magical duets on Live in Marciac which these great artists have here provided us with [on the disc] are inimitable benchmarks in a manner that would be hard to reach or even humbly attempt to replicate.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Aymée Nuviola: Live in Marciac
Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Aymée Nuviola: Live in Marciac

Friends and classmates from childhood, Miss Nuviola and Mr Rubalcaba share a unique bond and it is evident in the powerful undertow – the nuanced melodic, harmonic and rhythmic waves that ebb and flow on the musical interpretations they create on this album. These are all classic Latin American standards, but you might as well be discovering them afresh as you listen to them as deeply as Pauline Oliveros would like you to. There are new and more dramatic twists and turns in the narratives of this music – on “Bésame Mucho, “Lágrimas Negras” and “El Manisero”, for instance, swirling spirals of sound that appear to come out of nowhere but thin air.

And where the music is newer – as in Miss Nuviola’s own “Nada para ti” – there may not be the same dallying theatrical effect as in the other charts, but there is, with all the beauty of Miss Nuviola’s caresses of the lyric and Mr Rubalcaba’s shadowing of her vocalastics, an intriguing edginess, or just a subtle hint of it in some of the nooks and crannies of the song. Both Miss Nuviola and Mr Rubalcaba treat these songs as [essentially] a series of beautifully and sharply delineated sound paintings.

But the contrast between the pianist’s and the vocalist’s sculpted inventions could not be more different from each other – and therefore, full of surprise. Mr Rubalcaba starts off the songs in a sedate, almost stately manner [and you wonder – rightly so – when he is going to cut loose]. This he does in his own inimitable style, when he has the spotlight: his fingerwork is dazzling – vaunted arpeggios interspersed by noble harmonic changes and punctuated by mystical labyrinths invented on the fly, leading you on into a shadowy world full of mysterious hopes and depths.

Mr Rubalcaba knows when to turn the spot onto Miss Nuviola and then we are treated to some of the most eloquent vocalastics. Miss Nuviola rises to the occasion, matching the inventions and inversions by the pianist by manipulating her magnificent contralto. She is the equivalent of a belcanto singer, aceing eighth notes and sixteenth notes with stunning legato, without missing a beat.

If she were singing an aria, then what she does with the gliding changes in melodic invention and articulation – from throat voice to diaphragmatic breathing, smoky seduction to lofty, whirling and twirling of the lyric; a diva nourishing the lyric of the song and, indeed the very air around you, with finely modulated melisma and coloratura. “Mi Mejor Canción” and “Dos Gardenias” are certified – and instant – classics of a romantic kind.   

The pairing of Mr Rubalcaba and Miss Nuviola – after the two live recordings they have captured on record – is a match made in heaven. It’s exciting to wonder what might be next, if they can be in the same place at the same time: a slew of recordings, perhaps? One dares to dream.  


Tracks – 1: Bésame Mucho; 2: Lágrimas Negras; 3: Mi Mejor Canción; 4: Bemba Colorá; 5: Dos Gardenias; 6: El Ratón; 7: Nada es para ti; 8: El Manisero; 9: El Ciego

Musicians – Gonzalo Rubalcaba: piano; Aymée Nuviola: vocals

Released – 2022
Label – 5Passion Records
Runtime – 1:01:47

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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Featured Albums

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

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Roberto Jr. Vizcaino, Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaino Guillot - Photo Nayeli Mejia
Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot - Photo: Nayeli Mejia.

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.

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

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.

Deo gratis…

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 [9]

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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