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Robby Ameen – Days in the Life (Two and Four Records – 2009)

Robby Ameen is one of those first call percussionists who has been chaffing at the bit to produce something all his own. Now he has his chance, with Days in the Life and he acquits himself with excellence. Things might have very well gone awry, as so often happens when self producing the first record. This, however, does not happen with Ameen, as he is careful to avoid the […]

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Robby Ameen is one of those first call percussionists who has been chaffing at the bit to produce something all his own. Now he has his chance, with Days in the Life and he acquits himself with excellence. Things might have very well gone awry, as so often happens when self producing the first record. This, however, does not happen with Ameen, as he is careful to avoid the obvious, at all costs. The percussionist is well known for his abillity to slip into almost any kind of rhythmic mode, whether deriving from samba, or with clave or swing. He does just that and then some… Ameen soaks it all and, as it percolates in his percussion brain, he channels it out through his arms and fingers into a mix of rhythms that comes alive with surprises at almost every turn.

It seems that the prime directive of the music is to dance madly as one on hot coals or a tightrope or a trampoline. There is never a dearth of surprise in anything that Ameen does–alone, or in conjunction with bandmates such as guitarist Wayne Krantz and bassist Lincoln Goines. Of course the brassmen–Conrad Herwig and Brian Lynch, both deeply in the pocket at all times, light blue flames to the melody trailing in behind it or racing in front with florentine swirls and madcap runs. Trombonist Herwig, in particular, solos in great swathes of sound that begin rather quietly and then build up into mountainous tones of great harmonic consequence. John Beasley–probably missing clave in his wrists–makes up for it all by playing beguiling lines on Hammond B3 and Fender Rhodes.

Ameen is fiery on almost every song, but really pulls out the stops on his stunning composition, “Skateboard Intifada.” The title is brazen as his drumming, with furious rolls of the tom toms and heavily laid bombs on the bass drum at breakneck speed. The funky riff is followed simply but memorably by Goines, Krantz and especially Beasley. The composer also shows great tenderness in his ballad, “Una Muy Anita” and brings new fire to Joe Farrell’s “Sound Down.” “Stagger” is a fine example of a visually driven piece, where Ameen shows great skill in varying the beats to create a feeling of unsteady, but purposeful movement. His off-key figure with guitar and organ is also well knit into the melody. Krantz plays in gut-wrenching style. “RR” is a spectacular duet with conguero, Ritchie Flores.

Essentially, though this is a vehicle, which is crafted to display Ameen’s compositional skills. In this department, he brings off a near flawless performance. The percussionist also shows that he is unafraid to step outside the comfort zones of easy-to-execute rhythms. Nor does he shy away from brash and forthright manners of expression. His songs are based on sound melodies, which he writes cleverly for the bass as well as treble clefs, and this is a rare feat indeed for any percussionist to pull off.

Tracks: 1. Swiftboating; 2. Baakline; 3. Sound Down; 4. 2’s & 3’s; 5. Una Muy Anita; 6. Skateboard Intifada; 7. Ceora; 8. Stagger; 9. RR.

Personnel: Robby Ameen: drums, percussion; John Beasley: piano, Hammond B3, Fender Rhodes; Lincoln Goines: acoustic and electric basses; Wayne Krantz: guitar (1, 2, 4, 6, And 8); Ritchie Flores: congas (3 – 5, 7, 9); Conrad Herwig: trombone (2, 3, 5, 7); Brian Lynch: trumpet (2, 3, 5, 7).

[audio:http://www.latinjazznet.com/audio/reviews/Robby-Ameen-Ceora.mp3|titles=Track 7 – Ceora by Robbie Ameen – From the CD “Days in the Life”]

Robby Ameen on the web: www.robbyameen.com

Review written by: Raul da Gama

Founder, Editor, Webmaster: Latin Jazz Network, World Music Report, That Canadian Magazine. A passionate and committed communicator with a sensibility for the arts based in Toronto, Canada.

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Featured Albums

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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