Listening to Abraham Gomez-Delgado’s recent and ongoing repertoire with Zemog El Gallo Bueno, Yo You Me Tú one important aspect of it is seared into the memory. Gomez-Delgado knows no limits to his explorations. Both Vol. 1 The Lost Album and the un-named Volume 2 are dazzling recitals by a musician known to be a multi-instrumentalist, painter and sculptor. However, one of his most important talents is the fact that he is a deep, thinking-man’s musician. But intellect alone does not make for the music of surprise. In Gomez-Delgado’s case intuition of the deepest kind is at play here. His work is assembled, if you like, and held aloft by this, the great pillar of musical architecture. Thus if one’s reflexive default at the prospect of a Latin-Jazz recording – even an exquisitely crafted one by any contemporary musician – is one of dispassionate or nonchalant resistance, this recording is as likely to turn your ears inside out.
Along the way, in a deftly balanced presentation of strikingly contrasting essays, Gomez-Delgado offers brazen, exquisitely turned, and buoyant readings of sui generis Puerto-Rican forms of music. Various idioms – from Bomba and Plena and wholly improvised music – collide and trip along in a manner that even the most adventurous musicians seem reluctant to pursue and this road less travelled is one that Abraham Gomez-Delgado takes in his music. All of the song and dance forms on both volumes are played by Gomez-Delgado’s large ensemble with reflective quality that Gomez-Delgado himself embodies. This is the iconoclasm that arises from musical traditions that are deeply affected by social, political and cultural issues. When these aspects of his background are transformed into music, however, magical things emerge not only in the words and music, but in the performance of them by the musicians.
Abraham Gomez-Delgado leads the way with vocals that effortlessly alight on the kinds of malleable Zappa-like conceits enjoyed habitually in that composer’s later works. Meets the Mothers of Prevention comes to mind. Great vocal instrument aside the music is largely down to the judicious alchemy of Gomez-Delgado’s perception of how architecture, local colour and socio-political awareness can collide to mesmerising effect. Zemog Dm Plena – from Disc 1 – is a case in point. Inexorable momentum here is born of fervent authority of combined effects without gratuitous excess. Elsewhere – on Hypnótico on Disc 2 – Gomez-Delgado’s performance will persuade you that his music is born of plumbing the depths of technique and emotion. And there are numerous examples of this from the trumpet of Taylor Ho-Bynum and other members of this ensemble.
But it’s the gripping drama and involvement in the well-heeled forms of Bomba, Plena, Jazz and improvised music that remind one in his most durable vocal and instrumental legacy on numerous albums by musicians in the history of Puerto-Rico. Abraham Gomez-Delgado’s captivating direction and intensity, complete with almost hypnotic abandon, is sometimes a touch more measured in Gomez-Delgado’s hands but no less effectively communicated. This is an ambitious album and it shows in the intensely chiselled harmonic progressions that inform the pieces throughout this wonderful repertoire. I think that this is an album that herald’s the coming of a new age of Latin-Jazz (for want of a better term). It might not please Tito Puente or any of the earlier icons of Afro-Caribbean idioms that have informed jazz since its inception but they will have no choice. Abraham Gomez-Delgado and his unique voice is here to stay.
Track List: Volume 1 – The Lost Album – Remote Control; Periodico; Braille For The Colorblind; Zemog D minor Plena; Contenido Adentro; Bomba Sin Plena; Teta y Tiro; Plena Sawtooth; Lado Elado. Volume 2 – Jugamos With Humanos – Calma Tus Colores; Genealogico; Un Poncho Para Los Dos; Hipnotico; Contemplando; AEIOU; Alvaro, Bajo y Maquina; Entero; Piñata; Camisa; Hueco.
Personnel: Volume 1 – Abraham Gomez-Delgado: Composer, Voice, Guitar, Percussion; Magdalena Gomez: Lyrics on Bomba Sin Plena, Teta yTiro; Alvaro Benavides: Musical Director, Bass, Coro; Ted Nordlander: Guitar; Reinaldo DeJesus: Congas, Bongo, Guiro, Maracas, Coro; Chris Stromquist: Drum Set; Mat Bauder: Saxophones; Alex Weiss: Saxophones; Taylor Ho Bynum: Brass; Jorge Castro: Saxophones, Flute; Aaron Halva: Tres; Roberto Rosario, Cecilia Molinari: Coros. Volume. 2 – Abraham Gomez-Delgado: Composer, Voice, Guitar, Percussion; Juancho Herrera: Guitar; Bryan Vargas: Guitar; Reinaldo DeJesus: Congas, Bongo, Guiro, Maracas, Coro; Pablo Bencid: Drum Set; Mat Bauder: Saxophones, Horn Arrangements; Ben Willis: Bass; Alvaro Benavides: Bass on Alvaro, Bajo y Maquina
About Abraham Gomez-Delgado
Abraham Gomez-Delgado is a composer, multi-instrumentalist and performance artist born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Bandleader Abraham Gomez-Delgado, of Peruvian descent, left his native Puerto Rico as a child and relocated to the US. He leads the experimental Latin music group Zemog el Gallo Bueno as well as co-leads the avant-latin jazz big band Positive Catastrophe and has a Performance Art group under the name Eje. Read more…
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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