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Renaud García Fons – Mediterranées

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In the beginning there was the contrabass. Then came the men who revolutionized it: In one world these were men such as Domenico Dragonetti and Serge Koussevitsky and a slew of others including Francois Rabbath, godfather to the modern chamber bass Joel Quarrington and others. From another world came Jimmy Blanton, who begat Charles Mingus who begat a slew of others from Scott Lafaro to Red Mitchell; even perhaps Jeff Sarli and others… Then came Renaud García-Fons, who melded all of this together , swathing it all in the diaphanous gown of a whirling dervish and a man who, setting out from the Mediterranean to the world of everything from flamenco to the voices of the Romani of Hungary and elsewhere. García-Fons the great bassist who would claim origins from Catalonia and France and who then spread his wings so wide that he flew, metaphorically, touching the ends of the world.

García-Fons—the only other bassist like him today is Glenn Moore of the group, Oregon—is the epitomé of a modern bassist who has drunk from the well of the ingenious spirit music of the world. His music, albeit flavored by the Mediterranean, is impossible to put into a category. His is a music that is at once classical and oriental—and it swings like made, which brings it into the realm of jazz. But then it is also Spanish and all things Latin in its soul and intellect. Lest that sound as if García-Fons’ music is slightly stilted it bears mention that it also shuffles and swerves like music that precedes the main samba or a rumba event. Perhaps the only thing that can be said about García-Fons with any degree of certainty is that he is technically such a virtuoso that it might take another generation to reach his level of proficiency. Like Mingus, before him, García-Fons plays both pizzicato and con arco as if he were speaking to the strings from deep within his soul; or that he were just a medium through which the Divine Spirit were pouring out liquid music from a deep and eternal source. With fingers moved by God, as Mingus once said.

On one of two memorable albums released in 2012, entitled Mediterranées Renaud García-Fons returns to his Oriental roots. The bassist once again gives it his all. His technique is flawless and he plays with soulful expression, as if standing alone on the high mountain of “Sinaï” itself, almost too close to the proverbial Burning Bush. The searing heat touches every note he plays as if it were his last. It is impossible to sound so deep and wholesome by simply playing from even his guts. García-Fons dugs even deeper, possessed by the spirit of a musician who inhabits not just three but four dimensions. Here he is also surrounded by an ensemble that is inspired by his leadership to reach deep within themselves and give of their souls.

This is not something that happens regularly, but rarely in the lifetime of musicians. When it does, albums such as this one are produced. García-Fons must also be given credit for his compositions here; and his arrangements. This is the stuff that dreams are made of aroused by a spiritual dimension. But then this is Renaud García-Fons, a musician so special that he walks and plays on a rarified plane of the earth.

Tracks: Aljamaido; Luces de Lorca; Forteleza; Los Secretos; Las Ramblas; La Demoiselle de Céret; Camp d’Argeles; La Strada; Romsarom; Iraklio; Dalmatia; Mythologie; Bosphore; Bekaa; Hmar Nadir; Sinaï; Safran; Poussière de Ksar.

Personnel: Renaud García-Fons: compositions and arrangements, double basses, tanbur, udu, bendir, cajon, daf, palmas; Claire Antonini: baroque lute, theorbo, tar, zither, bouzouki; David Venitucci: accordion; Kiko Ruiz: flamenco guitar, palmas; Adel Shams el-din: rik, derbouka; Bruno Caillat: zarb, rik, daf; Bruno Sansalone: clarinets; Solea-García-Fons: vocal (4).

Renaud García-Fons – Official website: www.renaudgarciafons.com

Label: enja Records

Release date: January 2011

Reviewed by: Raul da Gama

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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