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Manuel Valera Trio: Live at Firehouse 12

This recording is a fascinating, satisfying live programme which brings together three of the most active, finest musicians in New York whose work…

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Manuel Valera Trio - Live at Firehouse 12

This recording is a fascinating, satisfying live programme which brings together three of the most active, finest musicians in New York whose work is rooted in their local cultures, absorbed to form highly personalised prototypes. It is indeed a joy to have musicians such as these rub shoulders with each other. The results—both in terms of the ensemble as well as the soli—are devastatingly beautiful, flow with deep and dynamic tension so as the inhabit songs that are of both wild open spaces and tight corners as well. The finest pieces here are almost classical and classic in design, though uncongenially so, and are alive with the panoply of seasons of joy,” murmurous”, almost plaintive and soulful at times. Manuel Valera’s trio is very impressive indeed and traverses some incredible soundscapes. The two pieces honoring one of the most important musicians of our time, Wayne Shorter, take one down on a maddeningly alluring road and feature some of the most impressive three-way counterpoint you will ever hear on record. I certainly felt that way when I first spun the CD. Putting these two songs together, just after the bravura opener, “Spiral” might have been a bit risqué and typical of the bravado of Mr. Valera.

The pianist together with bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer EJ Strickland have clearly made great efforts to enter the expressive world of Mr. Valera’s (and Wayne Shorter’s and Pietro Mascagni’s) music and the performances show the highest level of technical assurance. The account of “Footprints” is one of the finest I have. At his first entry Mr. Valera uses more pedal than most pianists, surrounding the bass violin and the drums with a halo of sound. Earlier “Spiral” and later “Distancia” and “Intermezzo Sinfonico” of course create a magical atmosphere with all of the musicians as one finding a wealth of tone colours (and especially in the last piece), within a restrained, delicate ambience so that the passionate outburst near the end is doubly striking. In the latter songs as well, the lead-up to melody is perfectly paced, and Manuel Valera’s muted tone at the start of each imparts just the right feeling of tension. Manuel Valera, Hans Glawischnig and EJ Strickland take as their mission the aim of reinvigorating our experience of Jazz music. Their interpretations are lively and affectionate, imaginative and alert to opportunities for taking time and adding appropriately beautiful ornamentation. Their own dazzling contributions also confirm their special skills and command of idiom.

Mr. Valera, Mr. Glawischnig and Mr. Strickland emphasise the impressionistic qualities of the music contained here rather than its declamatory fervour. And it is here that I feel pianist and percussion colourist achieve a better balance, combined with the extraordinary verve of Mr. Glawischnig’s remarkable bowing (when he does go con arco) and sinuous plucking, and it behoves vehement recommendation of this recording for just this reason. I rate the performances of the three men highly; their playing, always thoughtful and imaginative, casts individual lights on this complex, endlessly absorbing work.

Track List: Spiral; Wayne; Footprints; Distancia; En Route; Intermezzo Sinfonico (from Cavalleria Rusticana); Lírico; Century.

Personnel: Manuel Valera: piano; Hans Glawischnig: acoustic bass; EJ Strickland: drums.

Label: Mavo Records
Release date: March 2015
Website: manuelvalera.com
Buy music on: amazon

About Manuel Valera
The artist Based in New York City, Grammy nominated pianist and composer Manuel Valera was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. Since arriving in NYC, he has become well known in the NYC modern jazz scene, garnering national reviews and lending his talents as a pianist and composer to such notable artist as Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D’Rivera, Brian Lynch, Dafnis Prieto, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Chris Potter, Dave Binney, Adam Rogers, Mark Turner, John Benitez, Samuel Torres, Joel Frahm, Yosvany Terry and Pedro Martinez among many others. Read more…

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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