Not only is every track on this CD “perfection” but each proclaims artists of exceptional calibre, establishing their positions as important players of Cuban classics. And without doubt they are a quite wonderful clarinetist and a string quartet in their prime, with a thrust and command of brilliance and musical energy that are controlled by vivacious personalities. Listening to them in pieces which articulate their journey from the beloved Cuba, you sense all over again, how obviously this music comes from the heart and how what is expressed is indissolubly linked to its technical execution, both for the clarinetist as well as for Quinteto Cimarrón; the one illuminated the other. Characteristic of D’Rivera, and the string Quintet everywhere is an ineluctable forward movement, a thrust and passion for what is to come, in the light of what we are hearing now and what we’ve heard a moment ago. The freshness and directness are delightful, the virtuosity often breathtaking, but their control is as much musical as it is technical. Truly exciting interpreters, they are able to make you feel how the total structure of a classical Cuban piece, not just the surface, has an audible power.
You may notice small lapses in acuteness of perfectly judged expression—I think very few—but the dynamic life of the music is always there, together with a concern for its character and the achievement and articulation of the larger shapes. You hear music unleashed from the instruments of Paquito D’Rivera and Quinteto Cimarrón as if from a coiled spring and as exciting as I’ve ever encountered it. The clarinetist excels in such inspirations and there are numerous examples throughout this repertoire especially in “Introducción y Guajira…” a particularly balletic piece, thrown off with exceptional grace. By the time you reach such moments you have come to cherish each player’s immaculate rhythm and strict timekeeping, which has nothing to do with swallowing a metronome. Playing a tempo with this degree of élan and finish derives from a discipline that Paquito D’Rivera may have learnt to adhere to in his days of studying in the conservatoire in Cuba. The music on this disc is a rousing success; with “Longina” and “La Comparsa” ranking as notable additions to this distinguished discography.
I mentioned small lapses in the acuteness of expression. You don’t identify them by comparing this group to any other. Paquito D’Rivera and Quinteto Cimarrón are a group like none other. And their brilliance is palpable. Their playing is deeply romantic; almost heroic in their ability to convey the joyful fingerprint of Cuba, no doubt with a large dose of nostalgia. But this might be so because all of the musicians are expatriates in either Spain or the United States of America. In sum my impressions of Paquito D’Rivera and Quinteto Cimarrón are of their selfless concentration, understanding and boundless musical energy and in everything offered their command of timing and of the glorious variety and drama of these compositions, I retain too a sense that their space and reach have been encompassed.
Track List – Alborada y son; Wapango; Habanera; Afro; Contradanza; Martica; Tamborichelo III: La Cubana; Longina; Notas de la Habana; Introducción y Guajira – 2nd movement, work for clarinet and string quartet; Al fin te vi; Zumolandia; A la 1830; Isora club; La Rity; Doña Vainilla; La Comparsa.
Personnel – Paquito D’Rivera: clarinet and saxophone; Eduardo Coma: 1st violin; Lázaro W. González Peña: 2nd violin; Raymond Arteaga: viola; Luis Caballero: cello; Oscar Rodríguez: contrabass.
Released – 2015
Label – Sunnyside Records
Runtime – 1:03:05
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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