The ingenuity of Renaud García-Fons knows no bounds. As a bassist his musicality is informed by the purest of techniques—whether he is playing pizzicato or con arco—and his expression and dynamic is so profound that he makes the contrabass a magical extension of a human voice. As such then, everything he plays becomes a magnificent aria and when he employs the harmonics of delays, loops and other devices on this live record, Solo – The Marcevol Concert, he appears to be accompanied by a choir of heavenly hosts. One thing is certain, when García-Fons plays music the air is fraught with excitement as melodies make unexpected turns, rising to great heights in the upper register—provoked by beautiful harmonies—then leaping suddenly to nether planes; or zigzagging their way through several registers before shooting out and dispersing its notes into a rarified atmosphere. His use of double stops, slapping of his fabulously toned French bow onto his marvelously tuned instrument—featuring its fables fifth string—is breathtaking and this makes his music all the more glamorous and bewitching.
García-Fons’ music sweeps across continents in its flavor and meets at the confluence of the bassist’s own background. This is a beguiling mix of European (gorgeous French impressionist sub-tones) and Mediterranean (Spanish and Middle overtones) influences and it is a joy to hear both dignified and wild ululations that “sing” amid melodies that sway and lilt toward their crescendos. However nothing is predictable and when García-Fons is powering his way, eyes closed and body bent forward, through one of his exotic melodies the result is quite breathtaking. The bassist’s use of delays and loops may not be new and the great Eberhard Weber used them on his solo ECM recording Pendulum several decades ago. However, García-Fons employs masterly technique to such effect that when he activates one of his enchanted pedals the result is absolutely heart-stopping. This is a frequent occurrence during the concert, albeit, comprised of beautifully impulsive harmonics. The striking accelerations on “Kalimbass” and the dramatic ritardandos on “Voyage à Jeyhounabad” are spectacular and unforgettable.
This CD package comprises an audio recording and a beautifully photographed video of the concert that was held at Le Prievré de Marcevol, a gorgeous medieval location in Pyrénées Orientales, in France. This was an expensive shoot and included three cameras plus a Polecam, operated by Bachir Benfaida, which provided some of the dramatic close-ups and heightened the view of Renaud García-Fons’ extraordinary technique. Between Director of Photography, Archibald Dekiss and project Director and Editor, Nicholas Dattilesi, this project has been turned into one as artistically designed as the music itself. This, in itself makes this a priceless acquisition for the avid Renaud García-Fons fan as well as simply a music aficionado. However, for Renaud García-Fons this appears to be par for the course as the majestic sweep of his playing and his music deserve nothing less. It must also be noted that his German label, “enja” appears to be lavishing great care in producing wonderful packages of music in recent times—both technically as well as aesthetically.
Tracks: Palermo Notturno; Hacia Compostela; Kalimbass; Marcevol; Bajo De Guía (Bulería); Voyage à Jeyhounabad; Yupanqui; Kurdish Mood; Pilgrim; Rock Wandering; Far Ballad.
Personnel: Renaud García-Fons: acoustic bass.
Renaud García-Fons – Official website: www.renaudgarciafons.com
Label: enja Records
Release date: January 2011
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama
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
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