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Hector Martignon’s Banda Grande: The Big Band Theory

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Hector Martignon's Banda Grande The Big Band Theory

Editor’s Pick · Album of the Month ·

Big Bands are an endangered species. So it is with great excitement that one welcomes Hector Martignon’s Banda Grande. The release of Big Band Theory is like the sighting of an elusive snow leopard. There’s a lot to love in this remarkable disc, performed by one of the smartest big bands conducted by Hector Martignon, who’s already brought such clear-eyed vision to Latin American music, all the while melding its traditional forms with European classical and Afro-American Jazz music. Small wonder then, why Martignon is one of the most admired musicians not only in New York, but in the rest of North America, as well as in parts of Europe, Asia and all through Central and South America.

Hector Martignon and Banda Grande play this music – much of it by Martignon – with genuine freshness. Phrases are expressively moulded, inner parts nurtured and long lines – bobbing in and out of folk forms – are beautifully sustained with lively attention to detail. This pays rich dividends: the way, for instance, that the woodwinds and solo string lines gently come forward, then step back in the unsurpassed gentility of ‘Hell’s Kitchen Sarabande’ with which opens an ornate door into the rest of the repertoire. And listen to the ascent of the trombones on ‘Trombone Chorale’ to hear just how much ardour these players can generate. The recording, made at several studios, on several occasions is warm with a slight bloom that suits the music well.

Hector Martignon’s soloists measure up well against the competition too. One in particular – Joe Burgstaller, who literally soars on ‘Erbarme Dich’ from Bach’s eternal St. Matthew’s Passion and yet retains an inward quality that responds sensitively to the solemn content of this great aria, voiced by the sensational contralto, Brenda Feliciano. Banda Grande responds to these and other compositions with exquisite style and grace and in the tonal colours and textures, and marvellous use of instrumental timbres this music feels like symphonic music, not only expertly composed, but superbly arranged and idiomatically interpreted. Music delivered with such memorability is sure to enhance the already burgeoning reputation of Hector Martignon and his musicianship.

The music played by this big band is boldly modernistic and hot-blooded, and leaves every other recent orchestral performance in the shade. Moreover the elaborate compositions are elegantly played. And what poetic fantasy Hector Martignon communicates. Saxophones, trombones and trumpets are used soulfully and with a crooning quality that is rare these days, when most musicians seem to have forgotten that these instruments, when properly played will imitate the human voice. Best of all the up-close-and-personal recording walks you deep inside the harmonic mists swirling around this quite beautiful music.

Track List: Hell’s Kitchen Sarabande; 99 MacDougal Street; Estate; Trombone Chorale; Erbarme Dich; Interplay; Nostalgias del Futuro; Maestra; Mozart Interrupted/Sorrindo; The Fruit Vendor’s Last Dream.

Personnel: Hector Martignon: piano, accordion, conductor, composer, arranger; Saxophones: Enrique Fernández, Chelsea Baratz, Alejandro Aviles, David De Jesus, Jason Arce, Alex Han; Trumpets: John Walsh, Seneca Black, Steve Gluzband, John Desbordes, Fabio Morgera; Trombones: Andy Hunter, Rafi Makiel, Luis Bonilla, Alvin Walker, Chris Washburne; String Quintet: Nune Melikan, Everhard Paredes, Samuel Marchán, Diego Garcia; John Benitez: bass; Vince Cherico: drums; Samuel Torres: congas, maracas; Christos Rafalides: vibraphone; Brenda Feliciano: vocals (5); Joe Burgstaller: solo trumpet (5); Edmar Castañeda: Colombian Harp (7); Jorge Glem: cuatro (7); Roberto Quintero: cajón (7); Martin Vejarano: gaita (Colombian flute) tambora, maracón.

Label: Zoho Music
Release date: June 2016
Website: hectormartignon.wordpress.com
Running time: 1:13:16
Buy album on: amazon

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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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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