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Hilario Durán: Contumbao

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Hilario Durán: Contumbao

Although the brilliant, virtuoso pianist Hilario Durán might be heard in a recording studio warming up by playing a Bach Partita or one of Charlie Parker’s devilishly complex bebop pieces at breakneck speed, it is the music of Cuba that permeates his compositions. But it is because of the very fact that he is made in the image and likeness of those two grandmasters of music that he has been nicknamed ‘con tumbao’ a term that has become the title of this album, one recorded recently in the Cuba that he left behind to come to Canada many years ago. Contumbao is thus, an album deeply personal to Mr Durán, who returns to Havana’s EGREM Studios and to two of his bandmates who once made up Perspectiva, the new (1990’s) incarnation of a Grammy-Award-winning band that once played behind Arturo Sandoval before it came to be called by that name. Contumbao also marks the first time since 2005 that members of that legendary band have recorded together.

Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Hilario Durán: Contumbao

The music of Hilario Durán has become a supreme means of romantic self-expression, but whereas his great contemporary Chucho Valdés used the piano to create almost heroic self-portraits and vast panoramas, Hilario Durán is more of a sublime introvert and a miniaturist, infusing conventional forms such as the Bolero and the Danzón with an intimacy and an emotional intensity that can only be described as ‘the poetry of feeling’. This pervades all of the glorious music on Contumbao and while Hilario Durán puts an emphasis on long unbroken lines in the right hand his left hand backs them up with devastatingly intense bass lines – heard to great effect in, for instance, the especially poetic slow movements of “Guajira 2016”. What marks them out as uniquely his own is the way Mr Durán decorates a simple phrase not as ornament for ornament’s sake but as the expression of deeply felt emotion. “Duo Influenciado” towards the end of the disc captures all of this in an exquisite duo performance with Chucho Valdés, incidentally one of Mr Durán’s greatest admirers, as it also draws an invisible line between the styles of the respective grandmasters.

Structure and thematic development are also among the list of powerful technical attributes of the music of Hilario Durán. Two pieces here that display this aspect of the pianist’s work are “Contumbao” and “Segundo Encuentro”. Added to those attributes of the works is also a sense of the epic (especially in the latter piece), as well as the intensely lyrical melodicism which comes with a huge sweep of shifting moods. Meanwhile, elsewhere on the disc, on “Danzón Farewell (Danzón de la Partida)”, to be precise, its sombre main theme is followed by a slow(er) rippling figuration in the right hand. Hilario Durán’s playing stresses on the disc also the restlessness of his fertile imagination nowhere more dramatically than on “Pilón Influenciado”, which harks unto Chucho Valdés’ piece of a similar name, but which is played much faster than that other piece and develops a sense restless urgency and which he (Mr Durán) imbues with a grandeur by use of his brilliant range and control of dynamics.

A considerable part of the excitement of listening to Contumbao is discovering the transcendental aesthetic that binds Hilario Durán and his old bandmates, “Chicoy” and Jorge Reyes, and his old collaborators, “El Negro” and “Changuito”. But in his flawless playing he also produces all the necessary encouragement for relatively newer colleagues such as “Papiosco”, Roberto Riverón and Brenda Navarrete, a brilliant exponent of the ritual bàtá drums as well as a vocalist of unbridled power. The fact that Hilario Durán is able to forge a bond with musicians with such imperious ease is something that bodes exceedingly well for the future of this pianist genius who can, in the blink of an eye, transform technical pianistic challenges into music of real depth and feeling, while at the same time exploring the boundaries of the technically possible and the harmonically acceptable.

Track List: 1: Contumbao; 2: Guajira 2016; 3: Pilón Influenciado; 4: Recuerdos; 5: Papiosco’s Match; 6: El Tahonero; 7: Los Muñecos; 8: Parque 527; 9: Segundo Encuentro; 10: Duo Influenciado (feat. Chucho Valdés); 11: Rumba de Cajón (leke-leke); 12: Danzón Farewell (Danzón de la Partida).

Personnel: Hilario Durán: piano; Jorge Luis Valdés “Chicoy”: guitar; Jorge Reyes: bass; Roberto Riveron: bass; Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez: drums; Jorge Luís Torres “Papiosco”: congas; Pancho Amat: tres (2); Jorge Luis Quintana “Changuito”: timbales; Brenda Navarette: batá and vocals (4); Rumberos De Cuba: vocals and percussion (6, 11); Chucho Valdés: piano (10).

Released: 2017
Label: Alma Records
Runtime: 1:00:14

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. John marin

    Jan 1, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    Muy acertados y buenos sus comentarios. Felicitaciones!

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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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