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Rubén Blades: Tangos

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Ruben Blades - Tangos

There is nothing, or possibly very little, by way of music and dance in Latin America—and that includes Argentina—that is not a result of the direct collision of Natives, Africans and Europeans. For instance despite the fact that politically-inclined Argentineans like to believe that the “Tango” was a Spanish-Argentinean invention, “Tango” is a dance that has influences from European and African culture and it is almost certain that dances from the Candombe ceremonies of former slave peoples helped shape the modern day “Tango.” The word “Tango” comes from the Niger-Conga languages of Africa. The dance derives from the Cuban Habanera, the Argentine Milonga and Candombe, and is said to contain elements from the African community in Buenos Aires, influenced both by ancient African rhythms and the music from Europe. With this in focus it is possible to truly enjoy the re-arrangements of Rubén Blades’ compositions by the ineffable Carlos Franzetti on this important record, Tangos . There is no harsh emphasis of the violent wrenching of slaves from their home countries of the Congo and other parts of Africa, but rather, here is the elegant accenting of African polyrhythms of Candombe melded in with the sliding grace of the Habanera and the delicate touch of the Milonga. Of this and other expressions Mr. Blades, born in Panama, is a master as if he was native of Buenos Aires.

The vocals engage the immensely beautiful playing of four bandoneóns in the Leopoldo Federico Orchestra that includes a nonet comprising five violins, a viola, cello and bass together with a pianist. All of this directed by Mr. Franzetti, who seems to anticipate every nuances uttering by Rubén Blades, and is there for him when he arrives at that point in each song. For his part, Mr. Blades is spot on when it comes to interpreting his music in an idiom that is almost foreign to him, so much so that he becomes a native Argentinean for the next 48 minutes of this recording. Mr. Blades’ response to such brooding flights of fancy shows in his invention, which comes from a distilled mastery displayed in the entire song-cycles of this repertoire with melody accompanied by chords, rocking back and forth. Most of the repertoire would be hard to sustain if it were not for Mr. Blades’ ingenuity. Of course to enjoy it is important to be willing to enter Mr. Blades’ world which is now a highly familiar network of interpretative techniques—vocal quivers and songs line that end in delicate vibrato, soaring outbursts, etc. Thus it is easy to gain an enjoyment in these seldom-travelled musical paths with both the Leopoldo Federico Orchestra as well as the quintet that now includes Carlos Franzetti on electric piano and the excellent bassist Pedro Giraudo.

Mr. Blades is in excellent voice throughout and never so heedless as to be mannered. He is particularly keen to conjure visual images in songs such as “Paula C” and “Pedro Navaja”. Much credit ought also to be given to Mr. Franzetti who so clearly charts the progression of Mr. Blades’ musical thoughts, especially when the composer radically varies any given gesture with the change of but a single note.

Track List: Paula C; Ligia Elena; Ella; Pablo Pueblo; Pedro Navaja; Vida; Juana Mayo; Sebastian; Parao; Adan Garcia; Tiempos

Personnel: Rubén Blades: vocals; Leopoldo Federico Orchestra—Carlos Franzetti: Arrangements & Musical Direction: Leopoldo Federico: bandoneón (1 – 5); Carlos Corrales: bandoneón(1 – 5); Federico Pereiro: bandoneón; (1 – 5) Lautaro Greco: bandoneón (1 – 5); Damian Bolotin: violin (1 – 5); Pablo Agri: violin (1 – 5); Miguel Angel Bertero: violin (1 – 5); Brigita Danko: violin (1 – 5); Mauricio Svidovsky: violin (1 – 5); Benjamin Bru: viola (1 – 5); Diego Sanchez: cello (1 – 5); Nicolas Ledesma: piano (1 – 5); Horario Cabarcos: bass (1 – 5); Daniel Binelli: bandoneón (6 – 11); Leonardo Suarez Paz: violin(6 – 11); Carlos Franzetti: electric piano(6 – 11); Francisco “Pancho” Navarro: guitar(6 – 11); Pedro Giraudo: bass(6 – 11).

Label: Sunnyside Records | Release date: June 2014

Website: rubenblades.com | Buy music on: amazon

Sample Track: Pablo Pueblo

http://youtu.be/Er3WGG7r2TY

About Rubén Blades

Rubén Blades Bellido de Luna (born July 16, 1948), is professionally known as Rubén Blades. He is a Panamanian salsa singer, songwriter, actor, Latin jazz musician, and activist, performing musically most often in the Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz genres. As songwriter, Blades brought the lyrical sophistication of Central American nueva canción and Cuban nueva trova as well as experimental tempos and politically inspired Nuyorican salsa to his music, creating thinking persons’ (salsa) dance music. Blades has composed dozens of musical hits, the most famous of which is “Pedro Navaja,” a song about a neighborhood thug who appears to die during a robbery (his song “Sorpresas” continues the story), inspired by “Mack the Knife.” He also composed and sings “Patria” (Fatherland), which many Panamanians consider their second national anthem. 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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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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