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Julian Gerstin Sextet: The One Who Makes You Happy

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Julian Gerstin Sextet: The One Who Makes You Happy

Justin Gerstin Sextet: The One Who Makes You HappyThe marketing sheet that promotes The One Who Makes You Happy by the Julian Gerstin Sextet makes mention of the fact that the music on the disc had “drums from Martinique and Cuba” mingling “with rhythms of Turkey and Bulgaria in the jazz world of Julian Gerstin. In digging deeper the listener should not be surprised to find that the source of it all is ultimately Africa, where the language of music – indeed the language of all art – really began, taking shape as it metamorphosed over many migrations, and many generations over the ages. And yet continental drifting notwithstanding, it is all coming together again as musicians like Gestrin blur borders – artificial as they are – to distill music down to its one timeless source again.

Justifiably so, then, Mr Gerstin bestows up on his sextet sojourn the title it so richly deserves, calling it The One Who Makes You Happy and yet this character is (also justifiably so) left to imagination of the listener to personify. Actually the shape-shifting music can beguile even the most canny listener and that would, of course, be par for the course because in the shamanistic nature of the music from “Iroko Hop” through “Kaiman Ka Modé” to “Dig It Deeper”. Through it all Julian Gerstin’s sextet comparsa weaves in and out of the elements of music – its melody and harmony – employing all the polyrhythmic glory of African forms heard today all across the universe, wherever music is played and enjoyed. Listen to the only vocal track on the disc, “Apprendiendo Como Amar” with its glorious chorus that includes Philip Pasmanick, for example.

The tragicomic “Polar Bear Meltdown” is brought to life, for instance, in the brittle opening bar rhythms, which in time, towards the middle of the piece – during the soloing instrumentalists’ sections – becomes more deliberately dark and molten as if unfolding in the colossal, burbling indigo-blue flow. A short time later “I Remember It Differently” increases in tempo and volume as the music gathers momentum reaching its apogee in the solo on tanbou bèlè by Julian Gerstin. The wistful beauty of “The One Who Makes You Happy” could easily be imagined as a musical personification of the proverbial African Madonna, with its gently lilting rhythm and its existence in an endlessly tender melody, beautifully explored by Anna Patton on her clarinet.

It is in the deep woody tones of Miss Patton’s clarinet, together with the cold burn of Don Anderson’s trumpet and flugelhorn that the bittersweet melodies – whether unfolding in the major or the minor – get their most spectacular reading with just the right mix of fire and water (lilting lullaby mixed in with a rebel yell, that is). This is, of course, exquisitely offset by the clatter of exploding percussion from Gerstin, Jesús González, Juan Stable Perez “Pescao”, Ricky Aguilar and Ben James. Meanwhile Wes Brown’s spectacularly intoned contrabass brings gravitas to everything (as evidenced on “Mongo’s Lament”) as Eugene Uman’s piano and keyboard provide the necessary glue to hold it all together on this disc that is superbly engineered by Gary Henry and Matt Hall (and Will Chason) to audiophile standards.

Track List: 1: Iroko Hop; 2: Polar Bear Meltdown; 3: I Remember It Differently; 4: The One Who Makes You Happy; 5: Kaiman Ka Modé; 6: Child Left Behind; 7: Apprendiendo Como Amar; 8: The King Dreams of Flying; 9: Dig It Deeper; 10: Mongos Lament; 11: Love That Stumbles Across the Earth in Ecstasy.

Personnel: Anna Patton: clarinet; Don Anderson: trumpet & flugelhorn; Eugene Uman: piano & Kord keyboard; Wes Brown: bass; Ben James: drums; Justin Gerstin: tanbou bèlè, congas, tupan, percussion; Juan Stable Perez “Pescao”: lead vocal, clave & Chorus; Jesús González: tumba, quinto & chorus; Ricky Aguilar: paila & shekere; Philip Pasmanick: chorus.

Released: 2017
Label: Independent
Runtime: 1:04:24

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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