One of the most interesting aspects of modern music – Jazz, for instance – is that the music starts with the record cover. The story, its intrigue and adventure can, in the best examples, almost always follow from the one image that gives the album and musicians its singular personality. In the case of Miguel Zenón, a musical cartographer, the uniqueness of personality is accentuated by his ability to step back in time when the interpretation of the most idiosyncratic corner of tradition native to Puerto Rico and that of Jazz richly evocative, spontaneously evanescent and, above all, deeply personal. The telling of his story follows an almost marathon narrative line that began with his first album, Looking Forward (Fresh Sound, 2002), but really gathered momentum during the period that he recorded his famous trilogy: Jibaro (Marsalis Music, 2005), through Esta Plena (Marsalis Music, 2009) to Alma Adentro (Marsalis Music, 2011), with a coda on Identities Are Interchangeable (Miel Music, 2014). Tipico brings all of this to fruition in an album that celebrates a genuine musical consanguinity that has developed between Zenón and the rest of the members of this quartet.
Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Típico
The insightful conviction that Miguel Zenón brought to the music of his trilogy +1 continues dramatically on Típico and is invariably born of his unique turn of phrase and sure-footed dance pulse. Under normal circumstances one would balk at the thought of cascades of notes. However, Miguel Zenón makes each one count as if his life depended on it, because each note is played with sensitive touch and much tonal imagination. On Típico high points arrive as sure as the sun on each of the eight tracks on the album, sometimes with slowly accelerating repeated notes and ebullience like a human shout for joy that tumble with marked appoggiaturas and clipped staccato stabs of the alto’s buttons. These relentlessly driving lines might act as a cue to pianist Luis Perdomo to follow suit, as they might also do to bassist Hans Glawischnig. All this takes place whilst drummer and itinerant doppelgänger Henry Cole maintains an irresistible lilt through the high spirits of Zenón, Perdomo and even Glawischnig. Cue “Cantor”, “Ciclo” and most especially “Típico”.
Through it all, Miguel Zenón captures the music with an alto saxophone played with a palette of delicate, kaleidoscopic colours. His melodic and extended improvisational lines contain qualities allied to a personality of exceptional purity, muscularity and creative intelligence. Moreover, he co-opts Luis Perdomo, who shapes his own fluid, expressive lines melding them with contrapuntal and architectural elegance together with Miguel Zenón. The structure that ensues makes for a ferocious display of creativity as evidenced on “Entre Las Raices”, a piece that also breaks from the rest of the material melodically, and rhythmically as well, adding snarling honks on the alto and rumbling tattoos on Cole’s tom-toms to Luis Perdomo’s delectably –coloured dissonances. Henry Cole’s breathtaking drumming comes on “Las Ramas” and is an astonishingly articulated performance from one of the most outstandingly gifted drummers today.
Of course, in the end it is Miguel Zenón who leads the charge with his adventurous virtuosic recital marked not only by insatiable curiosity as far as the unknown is concerned but also by a cavalier spirit that is sure to leave a unique legacy for younger generations of musicians and alto saxophonists as they peruse his treasure chest of musical gems such as these on Típico.
Miguel Zenón – Típico is a 60th Grammy Awards Nominee Best Latin Jazz Album. It is also an 18th Latin Grammy Awards Nominee Best Latin Jazz Album.
Track List: Academia; Cantor; Ciclo; Típico; Sangre De Mi Sangre; Corteza; Entre Las Raices; Las Ramas.
Personnel: Miguel Zenón: alto saxophone; Luis Perdomo: piano; Hans Glawischnig: bass; Henry Cole: drums.
Label: Miel Music
Release date: February 2017
Running time: 1:01:39
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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