Having already given us an excellent account of himself as both a virtuoso acoustic bassist as well as on electric bass, with scores of stellar musicians and in various projects that he has led, John Patitucci now treats us to one of his deepest, most meaningful electric bass adventures. Brooklyn is a veritable musical vortex into which he draws the ingenuity of drummer Brian Blade and guitarists Adam Rogers and Steve Cardenas. It is, ostensibly a date where Mr. Patitucci gets in touch with his earliest musical impulses: the blues and all the rest of the music that it begat. There are totally eleven songs and you will still not have had enough by the time the album winds down almost an hour after it began. No prizes for guessing why because the bassist unveils the shape (and sound) of things to come right from his opening discourse – a magnificent coupling of bass and drums, followed by one featuring the two guitarists on “IN9 – 1881/The Search”.
I have long been a great admirer of John Patitucci – right from the days of his 1987 eponymous debut as a leader. Few bassists – and even fewer electric bassists – have his instinct for the placement of the right note exactly where it should be, with just the right interval, accent and expression; and whereupon he has done all of the above, to follow this with a myriad of other notes that embody the same character. Mr. Patitucci is, in short order, something of a prodigy. I am aware that I am stating the obvious to the cognoscenti, but to the unsuspecting it might come as a surprise that there are bassists other than Victor Wooten and Avishai Cohen (when playing electric bass) who incidentally have been cut from that same block of genius carved by God. Mr. Patitucci has proved this time and time again, on some twelve albums. There is something that this album has in common with Remembrance (2009). It is comprised of four distinguished soloists and yet it is nothing like an ego-fest as you might imagine.
The reciprocity in the playing of Mr. Patitucci, together with Brian Blade, Adam Rogers and Steve Cardenas allows you to listen to Brooklyn almost as chamber music for its own sake rather than the musical curiosity these all-star combinations can often be – they only show their soloists’ mettle when appropriate and in a way that makes this disc feel like you’re having your cake and eating it (there is an engaging amount of this in “Band of Brothers” in particular, which is never over-egged, despite much of it being in ensemble playing. Speaking of which the playing as a group is almost hymn-like, which is not to give the impression of these being four choir boys, but rather one voice that rolls over the songs with such distinction that each piece progresses with infectious joy in all of the innate ‘Patituccian’ intelligence and humour.
That’s probably why each of the songs are so packed with incident. With its strenuous, delightfully conflictual and flighty inventiveness of the original compositions to through the two Thelonious Monk classics – “Trinkle Trinkle” and the profoundly exquisite “Ugly Beauty” to the concentrated blends of eruptive combativeness and whimsical extravagance (of the blues-ier pieces) that is, if anything, more impressive. True the high point – for Mr. Patitucci and his magnificent-sounding new semi-hollow-body, six-string instrument may not (for those hard-nosed followers of Mr. Patitucci) come until we reach the spiritual “Go Down Moses” and the loaded solo “Tesori”. But it is also true that the consistency and ingenuity of this ensemble’s playing comes from the high metabolic rate of the entire repertoire on this disc. Also, with electric instruments (drummer excluded) and in a digital realm the engineering by Joe Barbaria, with John Davis and Todd Carter and the masterful mix of Mark Wilder add a tonne more enjoyment to the listening experience.
Track List: IN9 – 1881/The Search; Dugu Kamalemba; Band of Brothers; Trinkle Trinkle; Ugly Beauty; JLR; Do You? Bells of Coutance; The Thumb; Go Down Moses; Tesori.
Personnel: John Patitucci: electric bass; Brian Blade: drums; Adam Rogers: guitar; Steve Cardenas: guitar.
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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