It is apocryphal that you can take the Colombian out of the Cumbia, but you can never take the Cumbia out of the Colombian. Thus the now-Austrian-based Colombian bassist Juan García-Herreros has been endowed with the infinite beauty of Colombian rhythms even as he bends and stretches these and melding them with the swirling and swaggering Afro-Caribbean rhythms, and further, with the exciting elasticity of jazz. Mr. García-Herreros’ music has a leaping quality to it; not unlike a gazelle, intoxicated with the smell of spring rain. He does not give the impression of being in a hurry himself, but rather lays the foundation for enriching the complexity of the music. Of course Mr. García-Herreros is also a sublime rhythmist, fed on a heady mix of Colombian—indeed all Latin American music, including Afro-Caribbean as well as folkloric traipsing in the dancing figures he creates on his considerably enhanced bass guitar. The music on Normas rings with such a fanciful and a rigorous adherence to the paths that bring about the changes and contemporaneity to the music, which is established by a culture of sound.
Much of this is recorded in “Huellas,” a chart that means “footprints” begins to trace a fabulous path through the jungle, awake with bird calls and the rustle of spring, announced by the wind rushing through the leaves. The majesty of the music is further established by the bright and resonant notes hammered out on the balafon by Mamadou Diabate. Brass and woodwinds add a certain softness and voluptuous texture to the harmonic tapestry, further supported by the strings of the 12-string guitar. All this as Mr. García-Herreros cuts a swathe through the melody and builds up the piece until an uncredited synthesizer masquerading as a pipe-organ takes over to build on the musical magisterium. This is a perfect introduction to the propulsive nature of “Impulso Interno,” where that other magician from Colombia, Héctor Martignon plays in counterpoint with the guitarist, Conrad Schrenk. The triangulated contrapuntal harmonics are established almost as soon as Juan García-Herreros enters the music roaring on his bass guitar.
It might seem that pianist Héctor Martignon does not have the kind of role that enables him to make his customary stellar presence felt, but then along comes “Cuerpo Y Alma,” a deeply moving song that is made so by the ponderous bass clarinet of Klaus Dickbauer and Mr. Martignon soon joins in the fracas fulfilling his potential as one of the most poignant players of that grand instrument. He is also omnipresent on “Som I Serem.” This is probably one of the most breathtaking compositions among all of the music on this album, due in no small part to Mr. Dickbauer and Mr. Martignon. Other contributions come in the form of conguero, Roberto Quintero, whose energy is infectious. The West African contingent in the form of percussionists Djakali Kone and Mamadou Diabate also bring much musicality in the colours they employ via their various instruments. But in the end it is the Snow Owl, Juan García-Herreros and his ubiquitous bass guitar that makes the melodies more breathtaking, the harmonies more texturally exquisite and the rhythmic energy more powerful throughout this rather beautiful album.
This Album is a 15th Latin Grammy Awards Nominee for Best Latin Jazz/Jazz Album
Track list – Señor C.P.; Huellas; Impulso Interno; Cuerpo Y Alma; Som I Serem; Touched; Hearts of Ether.
Personnel – Juan García-Herreros: electric contrabass guitar; Jonathan Powell: trumpet (1, 2, 3, 6, 7); Héctor Martignon: piano; Conrad Schrenk: electric guitar (3); Klaus Dickbauer: bass clarinet (4); Abdoulaye Dembele: percussion (2); Djakali Kone: percussion (2); Mamadou Diabate: balafon, percussion (2); Roberto Quintero: percussion (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7); Alexander Wladigeroff: trumpet, flugelhorn; Daniel Mesquita: 12-string guitar (2); Stoyan Yankoulov: drums; Jeremy Powell: tenor saxophone.
Released – 2013
Record Label – Inner Circle Music
Runtime – 1:03:00
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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The Latin Side of Jazz · Episode 26
Artist Profile: Adrien Brandeis
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Cubismo & Jazz Orkestar HRT-a: Tumbao
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