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Tito Carrillo: Urbanessence

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Tito Carrillo

The album Urbanessence – the sophomore recording by trumpeter Tito Carrillo – is his musical palimpsest. Rich in colour, texture and with the radiant timbre of his brass instrument [sometimes softened by a mute, yet still aglow], inflaming the angular riches of the woodwinds of Troy Roberts, Mr Carrillo’s horn burns with the zeal for the Black music of the Americas.

However, to suggest that this original [bar one song] repertoire merely joins the dots between Africa and the proverbial continent of the New World and the surrounding islands would be to give the impression of overcooking when in fact the whole project is a masterpiece of subtlety.

Tito Carrillo: Urbanessence
Tito Carrillo: Urbanessence

This is because Mr Carrillo’s take on the lineage of the cool, spacey trumpet is much less than conventional here, seeing him often summoning woodwind-like tones [cue “Bliss Point”] from his instrument , which float benignly over the sound of the multitudinous tone textures made by the variegated instrumentation of his ensemble.

The rippling harmonics of the piano of Ben Lewis [on that very track] and the almost string-like harmonics of Mr Roberts’ saxophone melds in eloquently with the liquid form bass line melody produced by both pianist and bassist Clark Sommers. Together the musicians tread softly on the polyrhythms that his, rumble and roll of the sticks of drummer Jay Sawyer.

For the title track [and “Momentum” before that] the ensemble injects the beloved mélange that bubbles over from the leader’s spirit into a broodingly percussive rumbling groove – shared by Mr Sawyer and percussionist Victor González – all this to conjure the mighty roar of the barril of Puerto Rico, egged on by the pizzicato harmonics of Mr Sommers’ contrabass.

It bears mention – to pick up from the reference made earlier to the strings-like ability of Mr Roberts’ musicianship – that in his solo on this track, he summons harmonics that certainly sound as if he were playing glorious double-stops on a violin or a viola. All the while, Mr Carrillo’s tone soars, elegant and bright as he seems to reach the rarified realm of spirituality in music.

Trumpeter, bandleader Tito Carrillo

There is much more to cheer about – from the maturity and eloquence of Mr Carrillo’s compositions to the exquisite ensemble playing – notably on “Crazy, Stupid Fine”, which is introduced by some dazzling pizzicato harmonics [again] by Mr Sommers’ contrabass. This is just to lay a rich and entirely unpredictable harmonic foundation to the music that follows.

This music features a considerable degree of balance and integration of melody, harmony and rhythm; in composition and improvisation… And there is also, markedly, a judicious sculpting of the long-limbed and storied traditions of African-influenced music. Finally each musician brings his considerable gifts and marked singularity of voice, all of which is then holistically blended into this repertoire, superbly captured by sound-engineer Vijay Tellis-Nayak and the inimitable Rich Breen, who mixed and mastered this fine music.

Tracks – 1: Momentum; 2: Fire & Ice; 3: Bliss Point; 4: Urbanessence; 5: Crazy, Stupid Fine [bass intro]; 6: Crazy, Stupid Fine; 7: Poor to Rico; 8: Up the Down Staircase; 9: Justice & Mercy [for Bryan Stevenson]; 10: Fly by Night; 11: Sublime [for Roy Hargrove]

Musicians – Tito Carrillo: trumpet; Troy Roberts: saxophones; Ben Lewis: piano; Clark Sommers: basses; Jay Sawyer: drums; Victor González: congas

Released – 2022
Label – Origin Records [ORIGIN 82859]
Runtime – 1:17:27

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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