To say that Kavita Shah is an artist like no other is not really saying anything new. It is in her singular voice and the tone and manner of her marvellous music that she shines like a star from another galaxy. Ms. Shah brings to her art the exquisite and classical ethos steeped in the music of West Africa in a seamless mix of art that is steeped in the jazz idiom. More than anything else, Kavita Shah is a compassionate singer. The reconstruction of songs that are part of her repertoire on Visions are distinguished by the soft details that she makes sometimes more lyrical than the originals. Additionally Ms. Shah treats the music with a light touch and a surfeit of colour the likes of which is rarely perceived in vocal music no matter what the idiom and metaphor is used. The rich tone of her music is beautifully paced by the arrangements that she shares with the monumental efforts of the guitarist and producer Lionel Loueke. Ms. Shah is exquisitely persuasive as she brings the vocal lines which features a mystical vibrato and points to the poignant and spiky brilliance of her handling of melodies.
All of this is in evidence in the adventurous vocal leaps of Joni Mitchell’s “Little Green” a song that Ms. Shah treats in her inimitable soaring soprano. There is an unguarded emotionalism in most of the music on this recording. Ms. Shah’s reading of Stevie Wonder’s “Visions” is sultry and marvellously original. In the course of the vocal, the song seems to cease being a vocal rendition and becomes a palette of colours used to daub a mighty aural canvas. In the rendition of M.I.A’s “Paper Planes” there is a clear breaking away of the pop idiom as Ms. Shah works with both Steve Wilson on soprano saxophone and with the monumental guitar of Lionel Loueke to transform the chart. Now the music boasts exquisite vocalastics with a tricky Indian rhythmic confluence with jazz that is a combination of ethereal and concrete imagery. Her reading of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Triste” shows her to be sensitive to the Brasilian master’s lyrical chart and although her Brasilian accent is slightly affected by an American twang this sits comfortably with the song that is no longer that lilting melancholic verse after verse that Mr. Jobim sang in his whisper-soft, slightly off-key version, but in a penetrating and articulate jazz-tinged version.
What sets this album apart from the slew of Indo-American exercises in fusion is the fact that the music actually blurs the lines that separate the respective metaphors and idioms and in the Afro-Brasilian music of “Oju Oba,” Ms. Shah once again combines with Lionel Loueke, who also plays vocalist and percussionist on this chart, and the rhythm becomes emboldened by the Jazz metaphor mixing major and minor modes in a joyous version of Edil Pacheco and Paulo Cesar Pinheiro’s original. If there can be a double crowning glory to the recording it would be in the sensitively re-shaped version of Wayne Shorter’s brilliant “Deluge” and in the monumental “Rag Desh”.
Track List: Sodade; Visions; Little Green; Tabla Interlude; Paper Planes; Triste; Moray; Deluge; Oju Oba; My Time is When; Rag Desh: Alaap; Rag Desh: Teentaal Gat; Rag Desh: Meltdown; Sodade Postlude.
Personnel: Kavita Shah: voice; Lionel Loueke: guitar, voice and percussion (1, 9, 14); Steve Wilson: soprano saxophone (5), alto flute (6), alto saxophone (8); Yacouba Sissoko: kora; Stephen Cellucci: tabla; Steve Newcomb: Fender Rhodes (6) and piano; Michael Valeanu: guitar; Linda Oh: bass; Guilhem Flouzat: drums; Rogério Boccato: percussion (1, 3, 9, 14); Strings (1, 11 – 13): Miho Hazama: conductor; Curtis Stewart: violin: Tomoko Omura: violin; Nick Revel: viola; Will Martina: cello.
Label: Inner Circle Music | Release date: May 2014
About Kavita Shah
Hailed by Downbeat Magazine as the “Best Graduate Jazz Vocalist” (2012) and winner of the ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award (2013), Kavita Shah is gaining a reputation as a visionary young singer, composer, and arranger. A native New Yorker of Indian origin fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, and French, Ms. Shah incorporates elements of Indian, Brazilian, and Malian music into her jazz-based repertoire. Her debut CD, Visions is produced by Benin-born jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke and combines the sounds of the traditional Indian tabla and West African kora with those of a jazz quintet. Read more…
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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