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Raul Agraz: Between Brothers

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Raul Agraz Between Brothers

Editor’s Pick · Album of the Month ·

Raul Agraz’s Between Brothers is welcome companion to his other releases. But more than that, it is an essential part of the growing trumpet repertoire on the sheer strength of these performances. In fact, I would go even further and say that there are few musicians who appear more steeped in their worlds than Raul Agraz. On evidence committed to disc here, one senses that the pure instrumental vein and gorgeous orchestrations free his spirit like none other. This is in no way meant to take away from the performances by the cast of luminous virtuosi including Paquito D’Rivera, Dave Samuels, Luis Perdomo, Luis Quintero and Dan Willis, to name but a few who appear on this record. On the contrary, it is their very performances that lift Agraz’s stellar turn on the trumpet to a rarefied realm.

The star trumpeter transcends even the magical repertoire with his pure and radiant tone. His is a distinctive and personal celebration of highly inflected playing in the company of friends – brothers, as he calls them. And challenging the status quo of Latin-Jazz through gloriously arranged material a luscious musical landscape emerges in which you experience a rare deportment of a musician who brings a rare blend of intensity and stillness to this music. The dynamic contrasts of ‘Obsesión’ for instance, rises above the art of conventional trumpet-playing through infectious musical curiosity, spinning the lines of the tune with irradiating grandeur and a kaleidoscopic range of intimacies, inferences and gestural landscapes which are both delectable and thrilling. Other music on the album is played with no less élan and arresting intonation.

But the electrifying and athletically awesome orchestral performances also set this album apart from many others, led by a trumpeter, which have appeared on this year. The reason for this is that the various writers on the date – notably Mark Miller and Doug Beavers – who emphasise the songful aspects; instead of concentrating on bravura in the passagework. This allows the music plenty of time to breathe, making for expressive detail in every phrase. In fact the entire programme is played with an air of exquisite emotion. The songs – all ten of them – are magnificently idiomatic in all of their arrangements. This produces an extraordinary range of tonal colours that adorns the already beautiful palette that Raul Agraz brings to the works. This makes for a mesmerising album. The transparency of sound also brings these works alive with quite remarkable results.

Raul Agraz – Between Brothers is a 2016 Latin Grammy Awards Nominee in the Best Latin Jazz Album Category

Track List: Obsesión; Between Brothers; Bossagraz; Song for You (Canción Para Ti); FDB; On a Sentimental Day; One Day at a Time; Sentimiento de Canción; Beautiful Diana; Concone #6.

Personnel: Ivan Renta, Javier Olivencia, Felipe Castro: woodwinds; John Walsh, Raul Agraz: trumpets; Doug Beavers, Luis Bonilla, Mark Miller: trombones; Randy Andos, Max Seigel: bass trombones; Jon Werking, Ricky Gonzales, Axel Laugart: piano; Jake Ezra: guitar; Ruben Rodriguez, Oskar Cartaya, Rodner Padilla: bass; Cliff Almond, Sean McDaniel, Anderson Quintero: drums; Roberto Quintero: congas & percussion; Antonin Silverman, Echo Todor: violin; Jonathan Linkage: viola; Anja Wood: cello; Dave Phillips: double bass; Guest Artists: Paquito D’Rivera, Dave Samuels, Luis Perdomo, Luis Quintero, Dan Willis.

Label: OA2 Records
Release date: March 2016
Running time: 50:09
Website: raulagraz.com
Buy album: amazon

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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