Fito Garcia has taken a small albeit bold step with the making of this record, Mi Bajo Rumbero. There is a sincere attempt to explore the harmonics of the bass as a critical voice in the creation of music. The German bassist, Eberhard Weber made a memorable record in this vein several years ago and on Pendulum (ECM, 1993). Weber did just that: using ingenious electronics and live playing he created an extended piece that developed the harmonics of the bass as never before. This meant adding overtones to certain passages and creating contrapuntal melodies that raced alongside ostinato passages, Eberhard Weber produced a work of immense beauty. But that was a sojourn for solo bass.
Fito Garcia has done no less. Unusually he chose the Latin idiom and layered his music with several bass parts, some played by him and others played by Ignacio Cervantes. The result might have been simplistic because the music is driven by traditional Afro-Cuban forms – son, montuno, rumba and mambo – but in opening up the tonal palette of the bass, Garcia has succeeded in creating something quite remarkable.
In this conjunto with a twist, bassists Garcia and Cervantes are joined by bongocero, tumbador/conguero Manuel Sanchez who uses the full range of percussion colors to add fire to the music. The four-member choral back up led by Garcia’s wife, Marlin Ramazzini – a fine vocalist in her own right – extends the spirit of the son by harmonizing further and creating a soft set of tones that contrast with the sharp edges of the bass. This is an unusual group playing almost straight without piano, tres and accordion or strings that is customary with a typical Orquesta. But none of that is missed as Garcia and Cervantes create interesting counter-melody and cultured harmonics throughout with percussion embellishing the clave. The vocal harmonies wherever they enter the music add delightful narrative moods and link the music to the tradition.
“Mi Bajo Rumbero” sets a brisk pace, but it is songs such as “Mi Son” and “Pa Que Siga Andando” that emerge as unforgettable tracks. On “Misterio,” a cha-cha-cha, the basses combine wonderfully as one plays interesting triads as the other echoes the melody. “Balada a Norma” is a fine, moody piece that contrasts with the quicker music on the record. Perhaps the only disappointment – if any can be felt – is that the record is all too short. Just when the fun begins the record ends and it is not impossible to wish it could have gone on a bit longer. If this were live music, how about an encore or two?
It bears mention that Fito Garcia is an accomplished musician who has won the respect of his peers in the business. Some years ago he made a record with the Juno Award winning Ancient Cultures, Camino Real. He also played a significant role in the music of his wife, Marlin Ramazzini, whose Quiero Ser Yo was nominated for the West Coast Award in Vancouver, Canada. While Awards alone do not mean an artist has arrived this is all too true of Fito Garcia, whose name will surely feature regularly in the years to come as he gets down to thinking up ways to exceed the ground covered by Mi Bajo Rumbero.
Tracks: Mi Bajo Rumbero; Misterio; Kristal; Tu Tienes; Amanece; Balada a Norma; Mi Son; Pa’Que Siga Andando.
Personnel: Fito Garcia: bass; Ignacio Cervantes (Chispa): bass; Jose Manuel Sanchez: percussion; Marlin Ramazzini, Carlos Cascante, Alberto Alberto and Ronald Gonzalez: lead vocals; Julio Juaregui, Fito Garcia, Marlin Ramazzini, Carlos Cascante, Regla Monet and Gilberto Moreaux: backup vocals.
Fito Garcia on the web: www.myspace.com/fitogarciabass
Review written by: Raul da Gama
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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