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Paquito D’Rivera: Jazz Meets The Classics

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Paquito-D'Rivera-ClassicsThe concept of a collision between jazz and classical music is not new. The fantasy has been driving composers and performers as early as the turn of the 19th century. Classical music, moreover, has included the idea of improvised sections in pieces much before that. The celebrated cadenza in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major, a soaring flight played traditionally on harpsichord comes immediately to mind. (Listen to Edith Picht-Axenfeld performing with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Herbert von Karajan {Polydor, 1964/65} and you will hear what I mean). So in essence what Paquito D’Rivera has conceived here is not really new. Some adventurous South American musicians may have attempted this kind of bending of idioms and metaphors before as well. But far and away, no one has done it better than Paquito D’Rivera, not simply here on Jazz Meets The Classics but elsewhere whenever the idea grabs him.

Paquito-D'Rivera-Jazz-Meets-The-Classics-1-LJNWhat a thrill to hear Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu played not only by the prodigiously talented pianist Alex Brown, but also on clarinet by Paquito D’Rivera. It really is the kind of explosive start that every album, bar none, should have. Now Paquito D’Rivera did not actually arrange that piece and it is worth mentioning here that this exquisite arrangement is by Canada’s own musical genius, the pianist Hilario Durán. The rest of the extraordinary arrangements have been shared between Paquito D’Rivera, Alex Brown and pianist Pepe Rivero (who plays quite brilliantly on the last three selections), Mauricio Pinchi Cardozo and Oriente López respectively. Each of the arrangements – beautifully challenging in nature – are negotiated with memorable and masterful zip, given that tempi are accelerated and retarded as well as changed with maddening folkloric swing. This is the true charm of this classic recording.

The spirit of the original composers of these classics is never far from Paquito D’Rivera and his ensemble. However, even as the masters’ voice is so ingrained in each piece together with the sound of each country, the arrangements possess inimitable personalities with the performers emphasising folk inspiration from the Americas through flexible phrasing and subtle gradation of dynamics. Thus the performance is also an intense meeting of musical minds and it bears mention here that two of the musicians responsible for the character of these jazzed classics are the two percussionists – drummer Mark Walker and percussionist Arturo Stable. Mr Walker, to my mind is one of the finest all-round drummer (the other being Canada’s Mark Kelso) today, capable of playing in any idiom as if he were a local musician, and Arturo Stable has one of the greatest sensibilities for colour. Their time-keeping and inventive tempi are what make this recording so special.

As often as classics have been turned into another idiom, there are probably only a handful of albums like this one, where jazz meets classical music. As beloved and familiar as these classical pieces are it would be difficult to imagine better and more irreverent interpretations than these for their vibrancy. Paquito D’Rivera and this ensemble apply a special glow and penetrating urgency to each line in close alliance with the original composers. These players also epitomise cohesion and intimacy together with boundless excitement and energy.

Track List: Fantasia Impromptu; Beethoven Perú; Paquito introduces Adagio; Adagio; Die Zauberclarinete; Al Fin Te Vi; Las Abejas; Vals de la Media Hora; Nocturna en la Celda; Pa Bebo; E Minor Prelude.

Personnel: Paquito D’Rivera: soprano saxophone and clarinet; Diego Urcola: trumpet and valve trombone; Alex Brown: piano; Oscar Stagnaro: electric bass; Arturo Stable: percussion; Mark Walker: drums; Pepe Rivero: piano (8, 9 & 10).

Label: Paquito Records/Sunnyside Records
Release date: August 2014
Website: paquitodrivera.com
Running time: 1:09:27
Buy music on: amazon

About Paquito D’Rivera

Paquito D’Rivera defies categorization. The winner of thirteen GRAMMY Awards, he is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer. Born in Havana, Cuba, he performed at age 10 with the National Theater Orchestra, studied at the Havana Conservatory of Music and, at 17, became a featured soloist with the Cuban National Symphony. As a founding member of the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, he directed that group for two years, while at the same time playing both the clarinet and saxophone with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra… Read more…

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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