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Raymond Torres-Santos: Antillano



Raymond-Torres-Santos-LJNThe best performance here is an extraordinary rendition of Juan Tizol’s “Perdido”. Transferred to the piano’s upper register and played with rhythmic elegance, its joyous character is given an amplified radiance I’d not heard before. Although there may not be an edge-of-the-seat virtuoso risk-taking Raymond Torres-Santos, an obsessive perfectionist, has polished these works into gleaming gems. As a composer who plays the piano he writes for the instrument idiomatically. I have enjoyed every one of the songs thoroughly. First of all Raymond Torres-Santos’s pianism is stirring. His voicing is precise and skilfully balanced. His phrasing sings wonderfully especially when it pays tribute to the music of Puerto Rico, the fingerwork is scintillating; the true sign of a virtuoso. He paints the broad brush-strokes of his musical tapestry with exquisite runs; intricate twists and turns, leaps and tumbles. But Raymond Torres-Santos is subtle in his playing. His interpretations of Puerto Rican rhythms and tempi seem to get under your skin.

Antillano - Raymond Torres-SantosThere seems to be an almost secretive manner in his playing. You forgive him for this, for the manner in which he manipulates the senses. The journey through the musical topography of Puerto Rico is exhilarating. Affectionate performances that radiate charm – as in “Antillano” – from every musical pore, bringing the ensemble’s beautiful readings of Mr. Torres-Santos’ music and highlight the pianist’s compositional skill with sheer joy, surprise and brighter, edgy ingenuity. The soft, beautiful engineering highlights the disarmingly natural and eloquent performances, bringing to life the music’s inherent drama and with deft touch the musicians indulge in Mr. Torres-Santos’ lyrical instincts to the full. Folk rhythms such as on “Aguinaldo/Mapayé”, “Gozando”, “Monchito” and “Qué Sabes Tú” is meticulously balanced in a deeply-felt chamber-scale sort of way. The video at the end of this review highlights the masterful work of Raymond Torres-Santos in another – classical – incarnation.

But this is a recording full of astonishingly insightful playing, captivating and technically blemishless. Each and every phrase rings so completely true that you can’t imagine the music being played any other way. And the beauty of all of this lies in an extraordinarily engineered sessions by Gerardo López, Carlos Cruz who recorded the brass sessions and the mastering of Garth Bartheld, who mastered the project. Add it all up and you have a must-have work of music by Raymond Torres-Santos.

Track List: Antillano; Aguinaldo/Mapayé; Celebremos/Rejoyce; Like the First Time; Gozando; Monchito; Impromptu; Qué Sabes Tú; What If?; Aurora; Perdido; Felices Días; Aruba.

Personnel: Raymond Torres-Santos: pianos and keyboard programming (vibes, harp, steel-drum, clavinet, etc.); Egui Sierra: electric bass; Ricardo Lugo: acoustic bass; César Pavel: electric and acoustic guitars; Gonchi Sifre: drums; Ricky Rodriguez: percussion; Carlos Cruz: drums and percussion programming; Angel Torres: tenor and soprano saxophones and flute; Luis Aquino: trumpet and flugelhorn; Fernando Medina: string session contractor.

Label: RTS Music Records
Release date: December 2013
Buy music on: amazon

About Raymond Torres-Santos

Raymond Torres-Santos has been described as the most versatile Puerto Rican composer active in the 21st century by Malena Kuss in her book, “Music in Latin America and the Caribbean: An Encyclopedic History.” His multifaceted career encompasses an amazing wide range of musical talents as a composer, conductor, educator, pianist and arranger, equally at home in both classical and popular music. His works include orchestral, electronic and vocal music for the concert hall, ballet, film, theater, television and radio. 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



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.

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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