It is highly unlikely that when Gabriel Palatchi set off on his travels, out of Argentina, he thought he would be undertaking a musical excursion so vast and exciting. But the fact is that it ended up that way. Palatchi, now living in Canada—at least for now—has produced a fine album marking his musical sojourn entitled, Diario de Viaje. Leading a fine ensemble of musicians from various parts of South America, Palatchi works the idioms and metaphors of various not-so-disparate cultures into a fine homogenous mixture that is both delightful and also quite full of surprise. As a result he is able to create a fresh look at the popular musical motifs of Argentina, Perú, Colombia, Mexico and Cuba.
Palatchi is a skilled pianist, who plays with refreshing virtuosity. His mastery of the keyboard does not detract from his ability to play with nuanced expression. His style is so adaptable that he can play with fine tumbao, holding forth with some of the better known pianists of Cuba and other parts of South America. His grasp of musical form is exquisite—especially with the song-form of the tango, as well as cumbia and son montuno. However, he is innovative as well—not just with the way he calls/classifies the melodies, but also how he sometimes turns these inside out. “Cumbia Rabiosa” is a fine example as is “Exodo” and “Tansongo.” Best of all, Palatchi knows his place in the tradition and this creates a fine continuity of form and expression, and nowhere is this better evidenced than in “Tansongo,” a beautifully crafted tango that reaches deep into the roots of both European dance form as well as in the African influences on all South America that came with the Spanish occupation.
The brightest aspect of Diario de Viaje is the manner in which the ensemble melds together with Palatchi. Outstanding contributors—apart from the percussionists, Chema and Manuel Gonzalez, are the steaming hot brass and woodwinds as well as the reeds. Gabriela Rivera is also superb in her interpretations of both traditional and modern music on “Tansongo” as well as “Mi Realidad.” The clever reworking of form and content of Argentina’s great song form—the tango—is once again masterfully re-imagined on “Chilangotango,” where Palatchi also fuses zamacueca, nueva canción and the tango in a luscious blend so refreshing that it takes the breath away.
The real stand out work on this album is how Palatchi re-imagines traditional musical art forms, and this can only come from a grassroots expedition through the Southern part of this great continent, and an intermingling with musicians who are deeply committed to keeping the folklore alive, yet not in a stale and stagnant way, but alive and breathing and growing. The beautiful manner in which Palatchi melds old segments of folk music in to the transitions from one of his compositions to the next provides just the right contrast between old and new. It also shows playful ingenuity with the tradition of South American music that is evolving and growing in popularity, thanks to the spiritedness of young musicians such as Gabriel Palatchi.
Tracks: El Paisa; Exodo; Cumbia Rabiosa; Por Voz; Inspiración Tulumeña; Tansongo; Mi Realidad; Chilangotango; Electroshock; Raíces.
Personnel: Gabriel Palatchi: composition, arrangements, direction, piano, Hammond B3, synthesizers; Chema Gonzalez: drums, timbal, bongo, batas; Manuel Gonzalez: congas, percussion, batas; Gabriel Gonzalez: Electric and fretless basses; Gerry Lopez: alto saxophones; Alfredo Pino: trumpet; Rey David Alejadre: trombone; Daniel Zlotnick: baritone saxophone; Rafael Perez: bandoneón; Camilo Nu: flamenco guitar; Juan Manuel Ledezama: electric guitar; El “Bola”: flutes; El “Roli”: chorus; Jorge Brauet: baritone saxophone (1, 5); Alex Guardiola: trumpet (1, 5); Bulmaro Borja: vocals (6); Gabriela Rivera: vocals (6, 7); Benny Swartz: viola (2); Adrian Challiou: soprano saxophone (10); Allen Weitz: programming and additional production; Ramon Arcos Bouchez: programming and additional production.
Gabriel Palatchi on the web: gabrielpalatchi.com
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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