Martin Bejerano: #CubanAmerican
The restless questing that characterises the musicianship of pianist Martin Bejerano is something that draws the inner-ear to his music like a proverbial moth to a flame. Additionally, this is because his music burns with a heat that suggests it has been issued from the corona of the sun. This – one must reiterate – has nothing whatsoever to do with the rapid pace of his vaunted arpeggios that may be called upon to adorn a melodic line. Nor is it because his dazzling harmonics may cartwheel rapidly downward or float ever upward in elliptical arcs – depending on what phrases or lines are suggested by his luxuriant musical brain.
Thus the title of his album – #CubanAmerican – has an almost sardonic twist to it as the music really has two sources, but when these meet, there’s no telling what will ensue. The hashtag adds an even more ironic touch. Even Duke Ellington’s famous phrase – the sound of surprise – somehow seems a trite way to describe Mr Bejerano’s music. When he is fired up – as he most certainly is on this repertoire – there’s no telling what will come of his ideas and conception once his fingers touch the keys of the piano. One’s feeling is that this music is issued not from fingertips brushing or hammering the ebony and ivory keys; rather it seems to arise from the raw nerve-endings of each restless finger – driven by a musical brain that is bursting with the elemental life.
The opening track – a legendary Colombian standard “Ay Cosita Linda” – ignites the recording as if it tears its way ferociously through the solitary speaker of an old radio with a view to making one’s ears burn with desire for “the cute” one in question. But don’t be fooled into thinking that a cultural mish-mash is all you are going to hear from the rest of the recording. #CubanAmerican is anything but that. The music that follows is more like a collision of the two halves of the American continent. What proceeds from the preternatural tremor of the opening song leads to a magical journey into another world full of glinting lights and shadows as long-limbed as the melodic lines and harmonic leaps of Mr Bejerano’s music.
The surprises, when they come, are effective and discreet; a moody harmonic change may be played as a bare-knuckled roll up and down the smashed notes of the scale on “Yo No Bailo”; or as pizzicato harmonics, elsewhere on the magical rendition of “Doxy” before that. A delicate curlicue of a bass line seems to underpin what sounds like a moaning wail on “You’ve Changed” and the close-knit ensemble passage on “B. Radley…” seems to develop from a single phrase that springs from a sly little dyad which breaks open the entire development of the work after it is played.
The artists who accompany Mr Bejerano on this fascinating voyage – bassist Edward Pérez, drummer Ludwig Afonso, percussionist Samuel Torres and the inimitable vocalist Roxana Amed – are clearly fully attuned to his vision and artistry.
The publicity for #CubanAmerican suggests that Mr Bejerano is at the pinnacle of his compositional and pianistic powers. That remains to be seen as what transpires on this recording only opens the door a crack, so to speak. In closing there is every indication that Mr Bejerano may scale even greater musical heights. However, even if he does not make another record after this [one earnestly hopes he will, of course], but if he never makes another record, then there is enough on this album to make him proud for the rest of his life.
Tracks – 1: Ay Cosita Linda [A Gringo Fantasy]; 2: Lonely Planet; 3: Doxy; 4: #CubanAmerican; 5: Origin Story; 6: Yo No Bailo; 7: You’ve Changed; 8: Mi Cafetal; 9: B. Radley [Electro MIDI Shred Remix]; 10: [supernova]
Musicians – Martin Bejerano: piano and keyboards; Edward Pérez: bass; Ludwig Afonso: drums; Samuel Torres: percussion; Roxana Amed: vocal 
Released – 2022
Label – Figgland Records [FR003]
Runtime – 1:13:40
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