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Mac Gollehon – Fama

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Mac Gollehon is not the first name that comes to mind when considering the trumpet or trombone; it is not even among the first five that come to mind, but it ought to be. Mr. Gollehon is one of the most talented players of both instruments. He is also among the most soulful musicians on any instrument.

His album, La Fama proves this beyond any semblance of doubt. Why Mr. Gollehon and his music are so little known even though he was praised by Miles Davis defies logic. Why a musician who played with a wide spectrum of great musicians from Ray Barretto and Hector Lavoe to Doc Cheatham and Lester Bowie is even more incredulous. Perhaps all this might change now that Mr. Gollehon has released this record; a collection of charts from the 70s and 80s. This record almost completely in the Latin Jazz dialect is a fitting complement to his 2010 recording, Mac Straight Ahead another masterful record. On both records Mr. Gollehon shows that he is a virtuoso horn player of the highest order. Technically supreme, Mr. Gollehon is also a tremendously gifted interpreter of almost any kind of music, reading and playing what he does with the heart and soul of someone made almost completely of music and the mind of a metaphysical poet.

When Mac Gollehon puts his lips to the mouthpiece of his trumpet or his trombone, the interior landscape of someone born of the spirit comes to life. That brass is an extension of his body makes Mr. Gollehon someone like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins; as well as musicians like Charles Mingus for all of whom the instruments they played seemed to be like an extra limb. There is something else that is special about Mr. Gollehon: his music voice is full of human expressions—growls, smears, splutters, wails, and best of all, graceful sighs and secret whispers. As he plays either horn he mixes the human, speech-like sounds slurring like a drunk; wailing like a wounded child, gurgling a wounded person in the throes of death or even squealing with the pure joy of living again. His lines are full of surprises. They might interrupt melodies, turning linear measures inside-out or scatter the notes in the middle of a chorus to the winds and recollect the notes as they fall back at him, shuffling every single one on reverse. His playing is often slanted, like that of Thelonious Monk’s and when this kind of music finds itself nestling cheek-by-jowl with a Latin rhythm, rocking with congas and timbales, there is something mystical and magical about it. With his hot fiery breath, Mr. Gollehon fans the flames of each of the wonderful tracks that dapple this stunning record.

The charts—almost all written by Mr. Gollehon—are collected from various times between 1979 and 1987 or even later. Many of these have been written to honour some of the touchstones in his long and illustrious career in the Latin music world. “La Fama” was originally written for a date with Hector Lavoe, but the star could not make the date so it turned into an instrumental in homage to Mr. Lavoe. “Donde Lo Hace Duelen” was written and recorded after spending some time noodling with Miles Davis. Whatever the impetus, the music has extraordinary character. Whether played in a small ensemble or large band format, the music sounds spectacular. Much of this has to do with the playing of Mr. Gollehon, who solos on trumpet and trombone; but there is another important reason for the superb nature of the music. This has to do with the stellar line-up that includes pianists Charlie Palmieri and Hilton Ruiz; percussionists Frankie Malaby, SA Davis, Eddie Montalvo and others. “Fotos De Los Ochentas” features the extraordinary bassist, Ray Martinez; Nite Trax, features some brilliant angular trumpet work by Lester Bowie and Mr. Gollehon as well; “Conjunto Moods” has a fascinating interplay between Mr. Gollehon, Doc Cheatham and trumpeter Ray Maldonado. Both charts have outstanding performances on batá by SA Davis. The record is also graced by Mr. Gollehon’s long time rhythm section of bassist Bernard Edwards and drummer Tony Thompson. Of course it is the sensational playing of Mac Gollehon on both trumpet and trombone that makes this record a desert island essential.

Tracks: La Fama; New Mac City; Introspection; Voices; Casino; Fried Neck Bones; Donde Lo Hace Duelen; Fotos De Los Ochentas; Conjunto Moods; Nite Trax; A Night in Tunisia.

Personnel: Mac Gollehon: trumpet, trombone; Charlie Palmieri: organ; Larry Harlow: piano, organ; Hilton Ruiz: piano, organ; Gilberto “El Pupo” Colon: piano; Alon Nechushten: piano, Wurlitzer; Carlos “Patato” Valdez: congas; Frankie Malaby: congas, bata; SA Davis: congas, bata; Eddie Montalvo: congas; Francisco “Kako” Bastar: timbales; Nicky Marrero: timbales; Pablo Rosario: bongo; Sammy Pagan: bata; Poncho Roman: timbales; Jimmy Delgado: percussion; Ray Colon: percussion; Tony Thompson: drums; Bernard Edwards: bass; Ray Martinez: bass; Victor Venegas: bass; Alex Blake: bass; Ray Maldonado: trumpet; Lester Bowie: trumpet; Jose Febles: trumpet; Doc Cheatham: trumpet; “Puchi” Boulong: trumpet; Jose: Rodriguez: trombone; Harry D’Aguiar: trombone; Barry Rogers: trombone; Michael Grey: trombone; Baron Raymonde: alto saxophone; Mauricio Smith: flute; Robert Arron: flute, piccolo; A. J. Mantas: vibes.

Mac Gollehon on the Web: www.mac-nyc.com

Label: American Showplace Music | Release date: November 2012

Reviewed by: Raul da Gama

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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