There is a breathtaking array of music on this album Passion by Raquel Cepeda – music from an array of South American traditions as well as from the northern realm of Jazz. But it is no vanity project or publicity stunt either. Judging by the results it’s probably a given that the composers of this music would have approved whole-heartedly of Miss Cepeda’s decision to take the solo (lead) part throughout. Her uncompromising professionalism and prodigiously gifted artistry shines throughout the hour-or-so of music. It’s simply not a stretch at all for her to traverse the varied cultural topography with disparate music, making this into a journey of a myriad of soundscapes; disparate ones woven into a magical tapestry of sound.
Miss Cepeda’ uses the full range of her vocalastic skills here; her nasal voice, throat voice and her chest voice – each artfully engaged where the music demands it with such utter brilliance as to make the lyric come alive convincingly. I find her Brasilian repertoire here perhaps the most alluring, given the complexity of the imagery – which is Afro-Brasilian, syncretic-spiritual, sensual (even sexual) and secular. Her performance on “Berimbau” and “Canto de Ossanha” is thus – for me at least – the crowning glory of this album. But while that’s personal, there is much more here to cheer about than just those two songs. Miss Cepeda’s wonderful version of Ellingtonia is also quite magical. She opens and closes the album with “Caravan” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing)” respectively. The latter ends the programme with requisite joy and with a breathtaking version of “Quimbara” appended to the Jazz classic.
The vocalist is also joined here by star musicians, the collection of which amounts to a whole stellar constellation. Pianist Barry Sames, percussionist Cassio Duarte, reeds and winds master Ernesto Vega, celebrated bandoneon player Héctor del Curto (on the mesmerising version of the tango “Little Gem”), the great cuatro player and fellow Venezuelan, Jorge Glem and the great drummer and percussion colourist Marlon Simon (also a fellow-Venezuelan of Miss Cepeda) are just a few of those who have joined Miss Cepeda on this memorable album. They and others are fully attuned to her vision and artistry. And that’s the other reason why Passion is absolutely an album to die for.
Track list – 1: Caravan; 2: Moliendo Café; 3: Berimbau; 4: From Afar; 5: Mil Congojas; 6: Llorarás; 7: Dentro Dos Olhos Seus; 8: Little Gem; 9: (You’d Be So) Easy to Love; 10: Luz de Luna; 11: Canto de Ossanha; 12: Your Return; 13: It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing)/Quimbara
Personnel – Raquel Cepeda: vocals; Barry Sames: piano; Thomas Helton: contrabass; Cassio Duarte: percussion (1 – 9, 11 – 13), berimbau (3); Adriano Santos: drums (1 – 5, 7, 11, 12); Orlando Fuentes: drums (6, 9, 13); Ernesto Vega: tenor saxophone (1, 4, 9, 11 – 13), soprano saxophone (3) and flute (6); Omar Martinez: trumpet (1 – 3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 13) and flugelhorn (7); With Special Guests – Héctor del Curto: bandoneon (8); Jorge Glem: Venezuelan cuatro (10); Marlon Simon: drums and percussion (8, 11); David Cáceres: back-up vocals (13)
Released – 2019
Label – Raquel Cepeda Music LLC
Runtime – 1:07:36
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
Juan García-Herreros · The Snow Owl: Normas
Raphael Cruz Reaffirms his commitment to Latin Jazz!
Edy Martínez, the Music Architect Behind the Piano
Rubén Blades con Roberto Delgado & Orquesta · Son de Panamá
Cubano Be, Cubano Bop: A Memorable Night in Toronto with Poncho Sánchez
Celebrating Emiliano Salvador and his Musical Legacy
A Conversation with Percussionist, Bandleader Poncho Sanchez
The Odyssey of Anat Cohen
Paquito D’Rivera & Quinteto Cimarrón · Aires Tropicales
Have You Seen My Nana? The Enduring Genius of Moacir Santos
The Latin Side of Jazz · Episode 26
Artist Profile: Adrien Brandeis
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Cubismo & Jazz Orkestar HRT-a: Tumbao
Ella & The Bossa Beat: In the Moment
Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band to release new recording: “Vox Humana”
Gia Fu Presents: Ángel Meléndez X Big Band Máquina
Julian Gutierrez To Release His Second Album: “Goldstream”
Grammy Nominated Jane Bunnett and Maqueque to release new recording: ‘Playing With Fire’
Rosa Avilla: Kind of Rose
Most Read in 2022
News11 months ago
SANTOS – Skin to Skin – A Searchlight Films Production
Featured11 months ago
In Conversation with Carlos Cippelletti
Featured Albums7 months ago
Chucho Valdés & Paquito D’Rivera Reunion Sextet: I Missed You Too!
Featured9 months ago
The Feeling Messengers, Past and Present (Part I)