Connect with us

Album Reviews

Otmaro Ruiz Presents Sojourn

The Chambers Dictionary describes the word “sojourn” as “a temporary residence or stay, as of one in a foreign land.” Pianist, Otmaro Ruiz’s musical journey offers all the right cues for his Sojourn being so apt to document, because even though it gets somewhat personal at times, it is one that is memorable for anyone interested in taking the journey with him […]

Published

on

Otmaro Ruiz - Sojourn

Otmaro Ruiz - Sojourn

Pianist, Composer, Otmaro Ruiz in his musical journey, offers all the right cues for his Sojourn being so apt to document, because even though it gets somewhat personal at times, it is one that is memorable for anyone interested in taking the journey with him. The Chambers Dictionary describes the word “sojourn” as “a temporary residence or stay, as of one in a foreign land.” The obvious association of the word “Sojourn” is where all of Ruiz’s simplicity ends. He has a truly complex character, in the best possible sense of that (latter) word. More accurately—and stemming from his compositions to start with—he is a subtle musician. Naturally this calls for a nuanced application of tonal color in his work.

Conceptually the whole sojourn piece is a wonderful way to express himself—at least for now. The care with which Otmaro Ruiz has arranged his expedition, right down to the order of the tracks is proof enough of a great ear for the sounds of the “places” he visits musically. This spans distant lands, from the place of his birth, Venezuela, to Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the Caribbean to Africa and then swinging back in a wide arc, to the USA—through a remarkable version of a Broadway classic and some pretty memorable work in a remake of the Leonard Bernstein song, “Somewhere,” from West Side Story.

“And Then She Smiles (Maya’s Song)” establishes the deeply personal nature of some of this record. It is about relationships and bonding—this one with the musician’s two-year-old daughter. Then the branching out, to Cuba, via Africa on “Claveao,” a track wonderfully underscored by Ruiz’s sense of Afro-clave, hidden in the melody of the piece. “In The Shadows” and “The Simple Life” have a nostalgic ring as the pianist traverses the landscape of Venezuela, the former, in striking “Merengue” meter. There is much more than calypso in “Tobago Road,” as the musician promises. “Nube Negra” is a true fiesta.

“Easy to Say” pays fine tribute to the samba—and to the oeuvre of percussionist Airto Moreira and “Living Pictures” beautifully captures a wide swath of rhythmic territory, from Samba to Maracatú to Capoeira to Afoxé and much more in a rich mélange of ideas couched in harmony as well. “Prelude to Life” and “Road Stories” are two tracks that go a long way into establishing Otmaro Ruiz’s reputation as a composer of epic songs. The former, written as a tribute to tenor saxophonist, Michael Brecker is memorable. The late musician also played EWI (electronic wind instrument) replaced her, ever so cleverly by the bassoon.

And then there is the horn player, Ben Wendel who has an “old soul” charm and brings considerable charm and erudition to this project. His repertoire on bassoon—on “The Simple Life” too—is not just rare, but simply remarkable as well. Bassist “Carlitos” del Puerto and the self-effacing drummer, Jimmy Branly, are also reasons why this record will remain in memory for a long time.

Track Listing: 1. And Then She Smiles (Maya’s Song); 2. Claveao; 3. In The Shadows; 4. Tobago Road; 5. Nube Negra; 6. Until Tomorrow; 7. Living Pictures; 8. Prelude to Life; 9. Somewhere; 10. Easy to Say; 11. The Simple Life; 12. Road Stories.

Personnel: Otmaro Ruiz: piano, Fender Rhodes, additional keyboards, percussion and vocals; Ben Wendel: tenor and soprano saxophones, bassoon; Carlos Del Puerto Jr.: acoustic bass; Jimmy Branly: drums.

Label: Minina Music
Release date: November 209
Running time: 1:17:45
Website: www.otmaroruiz.com
Buy Otmaro Ruiz’s music: amazon

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8UK-DVRlog

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.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured Albums

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

Published

on

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

Continue Reading

Most Read in 2022