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Vistel Brothers: Fiesta en el Batey

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Vistel Brothers - Photo by A Sandonis
Vistel Brothers - Photo by A. Sandonis

It goes without saying that siblings who share that special something that artistic inspiration brings, almost always produce – in return – art that intrigues, and often leaves one speechless at the empathetic communication that also ensues. Among the most famous siblings were the Brecker Brothers comprising trumpeter Randy Brecker and his brother and tenor saxophonist [and EWI wizard] the late Michael Brecker. But they are not alone, it seems, for here are rising to eminence from out of Santiago de Cuba, the Vistel Brothers – the trumpeter Jorge and tenor saxophonist Maikel.

The comparison between the two pairs of brothers ends with an uncanny coincidence that both tenor saxophonists are named Michael and Maikel [albeit spelled differently]. The similarity and the interaction between the two sets of siblings is much more palpable. On the album Fiesta en el Batey, the Vistel Brothers interaction is musically hyper-empathetic, even prescient. Trumpet melodic lines are reflected by the tenor saxophone as if in a darkened mirror, propelled in wave after wave of the tumbling ocean of music that reverberates with the elemental thunder of the contrabass of Reinier Elizarde, who is [despite the presence of a brilliant percussion section] the very glue that holds melody and harmony [and rhythm] together.

Vistel Brothers: Fiesta en el Batey
Vistel Brothers: Fiesta en el Batey

This music, although made up of wonderful melodies strung together with [harmonically] angular vertical leaps is, after all, rooted in – and propelled – by an Afro-Cuban tradition reinterpreted by the Vistel Brothers music, born of heartfelt memories of the conga, rumba and son of the Carnival comparsa in Santiago de Cuba. You feel this from the powerful introduction of contrabass and magically wild celebrations by both Brothers in Fiesta en el Batey and then again [perhaps more muscularly so] in Congo y Carabalí.

To feel the mighty force of trumpet and saxophone you must reset your inner ear with the Brothers harmolodic dancing on Luz, which is a preamble to My Dream, where the other performers reassert the might of the music in ensemble. Here the percussionist section of Lukmil Peréz [drums], Fernando Favier [percussion] and Yuvisney Aguilar [also on percussion] add heft to the contrabassist’s thick lines, all of which adds tenacious syncopated attack and resonant depth to the trumpet and saxophone played by the Brothers.

This is Afro-Cuban music reinvented to align itself with the broad root of Afro-inspired Black Music in the depth of tradition. Shifts in tempo and – melodic and harmonic – character that others negotiate only with uneasy compromise are here completely convincing. Cue Merengue Haitiano to let the full force thump you in the chest. Obvious surface excitement gives place to a grasp of archetypal depths that demand restraint and wisdom, as much as they do temperament.

Most impressive of all is the matching of tone-colour to mood, so that the relative fragility of the horn lines and the stoic thunder of the rhythm section are captured with rare precision. Finally, with so finely-tuned a series of component parts – melodic lines, leaping improvisations and towering harmonic architecture – from one or the other soloist – there can only be one end result: beauty and mutual understanding on the part of extraordinary musicians [who also count alto saxophonist Roman Filiú among them], in this sumptuous, beautifully recorded disc.

Deo gratis…

YouTube Playlist – Vistel Brothers: Fiesta en el Batey

Music – 1: Puerta del Ángel; 2: Fiesta en el Batey; 3: Free; 4: Todos; 5: Infinito; 6: Congo y Carabalí; 7: Luz; 8: Palo; 9: My Dream; 10: Merengue Haitiano.

Musicians – Jorge Vistel: trumpet; Maikel Vistel: tenor saxophone; Reiner Elizarde: contrabass; Lukmil Peréz: drums; Fernando Favier: percussion; Yuvisney Aguilar: percussion. Special Guest – Roman Filiú: alto saxophone [2].

Released – 2022
Label – Inner Circle Music [INCM 101CD] 
Runtime – 52:13

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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