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Vanderlei Pereira and Blindfold Test: Vision for Rhythm

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Vanderlei Pereira

The drum set, that invention by Black American drummer Baby Dodds – and rooted in the ingenuity of drummers from Mr Dodds to Papa Jo Jones and Sonny Greer, Kenny Clarke, Roy Haynes, Max Roach to Elvin Jones, Rashied Ali and others – came late to Brasil. By the time the instrument arrived, via the airwaves from across the continent, Brasilian percussionists had already mastered the rhythms that were rooted in Africa and the Amazon. Still, drummers – as in drummers of Jazz ensembles – are a smaller tribe, one in which Vanderlei Pereira ought to be considered a venerable elder; a master whose musicality far exceeds his versatility which, by the way, also just happens to be of the highest artistic order.

Vanderlei Pereira and Blindfold Test: Vision for Rhythm
Vanderlei Pereira and Blindfold Test: Vision for Rhythm

Vanderlei Pereira is a drummer who – like his predecessors, such as Milton Banana, Claudio Slon, Dom Um Romao, Mário Negrão, Airto Moreira, Paulinho Da Costa and Robertinho Silva to name some – has mastered every nuance of every Brasilian rhythm and can play fast and slow tempos like every one of his ancestors. Which is why the fact that his debut album had to wait until 2020 to be recorded is almost incredible. Still, the fact that it has come so late in his career as a professional musician also means that we now have a grand stand view of one of the finest drummers ever to bestride music in and from Brasil. His album, Vision for Rhythm is unique for many other reasons, one of which is the fact that unlike Mr Pereira – who is completely blind – all of the other musicians on this date are “seeing” musicians who make up his group Blindfold Test and who [often] perform Mr Pereira’s diabolically difficult music with blindfolds on just to experience its sound in his “unseeing” world and feel its emotion just as he does in all of his music [including on this album].

The result is a performance that is quite special; an extraordinary rhythmic journey through Mr Pereira’s Brasilian world that changed from a “seeing” one to an “unseeing” one; a world where because of this vision is now at the highest level both in concrete and in figurative terms. So that every beat of every pulse in every bar of every song is not simply a dot on paper, but a splash of colour imaginatively used to paint a picture that even a blind person such as Mr Pereira can not only experience musically but also see in his “unseeing” world. This is what the title Vision for Rhythm really means. Much more than music written by himself and other Brasilians this is the experience of someone who can actually “see” music in its elemental and mystical reality. To be able to make this visible to us in the “seeing” world, is the true measure of its success.

This is why “O Que Ficou” is one of the most beautiful pieces of music on this album. It is bittersweet and reveals something that resembles the most precious scraps of a photograph that the brain has taken to be recalled when the eyes are no longer able to see it. It therefore becomes the photograph for the “unseeing” eye. It is the prequel to an invitation to the party of the blind – to “De Volta à Festa” written in the frevo music and dance pattern, and from there on to Mr Pereira’s finest work on this album his “Vision for Rhythm”, which is also his statement of purpose and his musical palimpsest.

The recording also comprises repertoire that includes work written by some of the most accomplished contemporary Brasilian composers such as two great pianists, the pedagogue Antonio Adolfo and Jasnam Daya Singh, the masterful accordionist and writer Toninho Ferragutti, guitarist Nando Lauria, the incomparable musician, saxophonist and bandleader Zeca Freitas, inimitable composer and singer Edu Lobo. The pianist and writer Kimson Plaut contributes “Mercado Modelo”. Of course, the most memorable contributions come from the musicians in Mr Pereira’s Blindfold Test band which includes among them some of the most accomplished Brasilian musicians – including Jorge Continentino and musicians from the US – especially Deanna Witkowski and Paul Meyers. Special mention must, however, be made of the role played by Susan Pereira, who is Mr Pereira’s wife. For the music on this album, however, Susan Pereira is much more than simply the vocalist for she also “plays” the musical “voice” of Vanderlei Pereira. This is an album to absolutely die for.

Track list – 1: Misturada; 2: Ponto de Partida; 3: Chapéu Palheta; 4: Mercado Modelo; 5: O Que Ficou; 6: The Cry and The Smile; 7: Partido Leve; 8: Corrupião; 9: Les Matins de Rixensart; 10; Alma Brasileira; 11: De Volta à Festa; 12: Vision for Rhythm

Personnel – Vanderlei Pereira: drums and percussion [2, 9]; Jorge Continentino: flute [1, 8], alto flute [4], pífano [8] and tenor saxophone [2, 3, 5, 7, 11]; Rodrigo Ursaia: tenor saxophone [6, 9, 10]; Susan Pereira: voice [1 – 4, 6 – 11] and percussion [1, 4 – 9]; Deanna Witkowski: piano [1 – 11]; Paul Meyers: acoustic guitar [1 – 11]; Gustavo Amarante: electric bass [1 – 5, 7, 8, 11]; Itaiguara Brandão: electric bass [6, 9, 10]

Released – 2020
Label – Jazzheads [JH 1242]
Runtime – 1:10:16

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.

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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