With great skill Mark Weinstein answers the question: how to turn traditional Hasidim from all over the Jewish world into a bewildering unutterably beautiful array of music in the metaphor of jazz. For Mr. Weinstein there are unmistakable lines of continuity rather than division. This is remarkable in itself. How on earth would one have conceived of a, Northern Ukrainian Hasidic melody into a piece using the improvisatory techniques of jazz call it “Berditchever Nigun” and still swing it, while still retaining its Hasidic flavour – not simply melody, mind you. With such daring it is conceivable that Mark Weinstein might even be inventing something quite new and dare-devilish.
Mark Weinstein makes his case for this with unfaltering poise reaching that aforementioned transcendence in the same sense as say the Jazz masters of an all but bygone era played. The flutist finds the ‘mystical, transcendental beyond’ by reaching deep down into his very soul, it seems. God must have been keeping tabs on his quest, for Mark Weinstein plays this programme with ravishing velvet-toned ‘pianissimo’. Not only does he challenge convention here, by attempting something so outrageously difficult, but he challenges convention by exploring the contrapuntal trajectory of the pieces.
Unusual voicings draw attention throughout the programme along with a few crowd-whipping accelerations. Mr. Weinstein’s lines are long and loping, yet fleet and curvaceous. His profoundly beautiful re-imaginings indulge in serious and sustained time-stretching, and finish up with a spectacularly inventive and mystical “Breslov Nigun” a piece of music that is transcribed from capella Cabalistic texts into a fascinating Peruvian ‘landó’.
Despite its to-ing and fro-ing between the world of Hasidim and American contemporary music the music retains its vivid rhythmic countenance. This touches the music with disarming detail and you sometimes even get a sense that you can catch a glimpse of Mar Weinstein’s heart, or at least become privy to some deeply autobiographical reflections. Mr. Weinstein leans into the music with such depth and intensity as if he were excavating under the notes and as he does so, moving his fingers that often suggest high drama on the part of the flutist.
Track List – Berditchever Nigun, Repozarás; Mizmor l’David; Yaakov u’Malka; Adayin Chashoock; Ozidanie; Meir’s Nigun; Breslov Nigun.
Personnel – Mark Weinstein: concert, alto and bass flutes; Steve Peskoff: guitar; Gilad Abro: bass; Haim Peskoff: drums; Gilad Dobrecky: percussion.
Released – 2015
Label – Zoho Music
Runtime – 42:16
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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