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Negroni’s Trio: Acústico

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Negroni's Trio

Negroni’s Trio is somewhat unique among piano trios. Bring culturally informed ideas not only by Afri-Caribbean music, but also – in its being influenced by Spanish dance and music forms and therefore by Moorish modes – the music by the genetically informed Puerto Rican Negronis’ is characterised by vivid percussion colouring. You will feel it almost immediately in the overarching rhythmic character of the music on Acústico with the seemingly dominant voice of Nomar Negroni’s drumming. Of course, you will feel it also in José Ramón Negroni’s pianism.

The pianist’s hands are like precision lapidary tools. Thus his soli are eloquently ornamented. Delicate – and sometimes crashing – chords with the left hand provoke ululating dyads and triads with his right hand as he seems to move easily between Lydian and Phrygian modes. However, music on his instrument of choice is also embellished with much more in the form of melodic and harmonic content. Despite the fact that his attack and practiced dynamics appears more percussive than many other pianist playing today it’s clear that his technique and approach has been guided by his study of classical music.

Naturally the pianism of José Ramón would be best described in music he has composed – which makes up almost the entire repertoire of Acústico. José Ramón appears to be a gifted storyteller. His music is narrative. But he also seems to write not only with pen on staved paper, but also with brush on canvas. And so, while melodies unfold like charming tales, once the layers of harmony are added, we are faced with moving pictures which give this music a cinematic quality.

Each song is a vivid miniature, made just so by the preponderance of breathtaking rhythmic content expressed not only by José Ramón, but also quite brilliantly by the drummer Nomar. All of this is superbly embroidered by a superb performance by bassist Josh Allen, who’s playing swells with a deep and rumbling gravitas.

You don’t have to wait for “Monica’s Drums” and the obvious reference to percussion to enjoy this fine music. The visceral energy begins with the opening bars of “Let’s Go Camping” itself where the music’s machismo bursts forth right out of the opening bars of the drummer’s introduction. There are three standards on this recording and each of the works is wonderfully interpreted. Noro Morales’ exquisite portrait “María Cervantes” would appear to have been written just for this group. Listening to it played by Negroni’s Trio is like discovering the ephemeral beauty of the melody anew.

Likewise the arrangement for “I Hear a Rhapsody” makes for a rhythmic freshness to the work that I have not experienced before. And Bud Powell’s iconic piece “Tempis Fugit” is also examined afresh; the song’s pacing and tempo is superbly in keeping with its character especially in the context of how its composer’s life was so tragically cut short.

This is very possibly Negroni’s Trio’s best and most fulfilling recording to date.

Track list – 1: Let’s Go Camping; 2: AIR; 3: I Remember You; 4: Puerta del Sol; 5: María Cervantes; 6: No Me Voy de Aquí; 7: Cantando; 8: Cycles; 9: I Hear a Rhapsody; 10: Tempus Fugit; 11: Monica’s Drums

Personnel – José Ramón Negroni: piano; Josh Allen: contrabass; Nomar Negroni: drums

Released – 2019
Label – Sony Music | Latin (19075994202)
Runtime – 47:33

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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