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Gregor Huebner: Los Soñadores

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Gregor Huebner: Los Soñadores

To listen to the voice of The Dreamers struggling against a manic administration in the 2019 White House is not too much to ask for and not surprisingly Gregor Huebner makes a strong case for it in his profoundly beautiful and thought-provoking set of songs on Los Soñadores which is Spanish for “The Dreamers” as it turns out. Mr Huebner’s third installment of his El Violín Latino project is probably not a culmination of his journey through the seductive Afro-Cuban sojourn that he finds himself in, but it certainly puts him at the pinnacle of his achievements both as a violinist and a composer; one that finds him completely subsumed by the Afro-Cuban idiom. In fact, if you were in a blindfold test you would probably not be able to tell whether this was an Afro-Cuban violinist playing his music and that is saying much about the authenticity and sophistication of this repertoire.

The fact that Mr Huebner’s Germanic sensibility may have something to do with this “authenticity” and “sophistication” is key. He thrives in a culture that prides itself in the thoroughness with which it conducts study, going deep; penetrating deep beneath the skin of whatever it is he is studying so that he can not only become an expert (he is already a virtuoso violinist), but absorbing the culture so completely and penetrating the African code that is clave so that he appears to belong to the mighty pantheon of (in this case) the Afro-Cubans. It bears mention that he is joined on this journey by another German, Klaus Mueller on piano, who has given a fine account of himself here as well as on innumerable Afro-Brasilian musical projects too.

Therefore one must note that Mr Huebner not only does poetic justice to the repertoire on this disc composed by South Americans, but he has composed some fine repertoire himself and it is presented in all its glory on Los Soñadores. You get the measure of the majesty of this music right out of the gates; in a masterful Afro-Cuban interpretation of John Coltrane’s “Equinox”. This is followed by “Obsesión” and here Mr Huebner brings the seductive vocalist Yumarya on board to deliver the lyric. Miss Yumarya is an artist of the first order. Her voice springs from a place that is pristine and magical. The poetry of the lyrics becomes almost palpable; just as it is in the first of the extraordinary compositions by Mr Huebner – “Los Soñadores”, the credit for which also goes to Miss Yumarya, who sings delightfully in English too.

The performance of this repertoire is absolutely masterful and we hear the joy with which it is received by Mr Huebner himself shortly after the take of his meditative tribute to the people of “South Sudan”. And if you think that it couldn’t get any better, you have to brace yourself for the miraculously conceived and executed (Mr Huebner) composition “Yoruban Fantasy”. The crowning glory, however, could well be “Buey Viejo” which features a recitation by the legendary Cuban poet, Mappy Torres. This is a flawless production which not only reiterates that Mr Huebner is a prodigious musician with a tremendous capacity for composition and a humanist worldview. One can hardly hold one’s breath for what is to come next from the man who calls himself “El Violin Latíno”.

Track list – 1: Equinox; 2: Obsesión; 3: Los Soñadores; 4: Cuban Blues; 5: Para Un Mejor Mundo; 6: Zapato Apretao; 7: Llanto De Luna; 8: South Sudan; 9: Tu, Mi Delirio; 10: Yoruban Fantasy; 11: Buey Viejo

Personnel – Gregor Huebner: electric and acoustic violin, octave violin and vocals; Yumarya: voice; Klaus Mueller: piano; John Benitez: bass; Louie Bauzo: congas, bongo, quinto and caja; Jerome Goldschmidt: congas, batá, cachimbo and vocals; Ludwig Afonso: drums; Edmar Castañeda: harp (5); Karen Joseph: flute (6, 7, 11); Ruben Rodriguez: bass (6, 7, 11); Johnny Almendra: timbales (6, 7, 11); Mappy Torres: vocals (11)

Released – 2019
Label – ZOHO Music (ZM201901)
Runtime 1:01:01

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.

Deo gratis…

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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