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Noah Bless: New York Strong – Latin Jazz!



Noah Bless

There’s uncommon poise and elegance in spades in this incredible debut recording of Noah Bless; incredible because Mr Bless has, for years, brought his gifts to numerous dates with the likes of legendary Afro-Cuban musicians such as Mario Bauzá and Celia Cruz, equally legendary Nuyorican master musicians such as Willie Colón and Eddie Palmieri, and great ensembles, among them Arturo O’Farrill’s Lincoln Center Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra and Oscar Hernández’s Spanish Harlem Orchestra.

Through all this celebrated history Mr Bless remains quietly earthy, voicing his instrument of choice – the trombone – with a poetic lilt that has made him an artist of the first order. He is not only one of the most gifted instrumentalists of his generation, but also an arranger and interpreter of consummate skill. This can be savoured by the superbly produced music, which includes some classic repertoire that is played with technical brilliance and emotional eloquence. Throughout Mr Bless also reveals that he has feel for the art of melodic feeling, tempered by a harmonic and rhythmic genius, all of which he displays in the way he masters changes in mood, colour and tempi.

Mr Bless’ album New York Strong-Latin Jazz! Features beautifully crafted arrangements of beguiling variety and sensuousness, not simply played with, but lovingly caressed in every phrase and melodic variation. His chosen material is, without exception, judiciously chosen – focusing on well-known Brasilian songs form the pens of Baden Powell and Tom Jobim to an old chestnut from James Taylor and one by the great Ray Santos as well.

Listening to the way in which Mr Bless seductively bends the notes in a soaring balladic rendition of “Ligia”; to the elemental wail on “Fire and Rain”; and how he sculpts the long, sustained inventions of “Canto de Ossanha” and on his original, “The Key”, it’s clear that there’s not a single semiquaver that hasn’t been fastidiously considered. Mr Bless’ musical cohort features some of the best-known, prodigiously-gifted musicians – including heavy-weights such as Mike Eckroth, whose genius for composition, performance and inventive interpretation of tradition has earned him the respect and adoration of composers and arrangers from Havana and New York.

The rhythm section includes the inimitable bassist Boris Kozlov and the drummer Pablo Bencid, whose power and musicality jumps out at you, as well as celebrated percussion colourist Luisito Quintero. Flutist Alejandro Avilés makes his enormous presence felt on two tracks. Every one of the musicians is completely attuned to Mr Bless’ artistry and vision and each – in solo and in ensemble – brings something special to this date, captured in the warmth of a truly memorable recording.

L to R: Boris Kozlov, Noah Bless, Luisito Quintero, Pablo Bencid, Mike Eckroth

Track list – 1: Chasing Normal; 2: Ganga; 3: Canto de Ossanha; 4: 49th Street; 5: Ligia; 6: The Key; 7: Fire and Rain; 8: Sunny Day

Personnel Noah Bless: trombone; Mike Eckroth: piano and organ [7]; Boris Kozlov: bass; Pablo Bencid: drums; Luisito Quintero: percussion; Alejandro Avilés: flute [4, 6]

Released – 2020
Label – ZOHO Music [ZM202010]
Runtime – 39:58

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



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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