The powerful, sinuous pizzicato of Roberto Occhipinti has bellowed from the depths of Jane Bunnett’s and Hilario Durán’s bands for several decades. During that time the bassist has also grown his repertoire, performed many a wondrous solo and led some memorable ensembles of his own. Some of his arrangements of Jazz classics have been truly unforgettable; who can forget his version of Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” with Hugh Marsh’s heart-stopping violin ascending, solo, out of the rumble of Occhipinti’s beautifully written (and played) bass line on the song from his album the Alma Records album Trinacria? And the profound voyage down the Congo in Bend in the River, that relocated some of VS Naipaul’s classic book of the same name to music.
Now, sixteen years after that Alma Records album, Roberto Occhipinti has proffered us Stabilimento, a display of his richest work for small and large ensembles complete with brass, reeds winds and strings each a vibrant-sounding stabilimentum rising from the ruins of the legendary one on the cover of the album jacket. The core group of musicians forming this busy establishment comprises Tim Ries on tenor and soprano saxophones, Luis Deniz on alto saxophone, Kevin Turcotte on trumpet, Dafnis Prieto on drums, Manuel Valera on piano and of course Roberto Occhipinti himself on bass. Three tracks also bring Occhipinti together again with the piano maestro Hilario Durán and extraordinary drummer Mark Kelso, who together form Durán’s most enduring trio.
In some of his best writing to date, Roberto Occhipinti ignites a fuse with a growling riff based on the opening of Charles Mingus’ “Haitian Fight Song”. Thus he deploys the music of “Tuareg” a piece reminiscent of the peripatetic Malian tribe after whom it is named. Its undulant rhythms rise out of steaming heat and silken harmonies of Tim Ries’ and Luis Deniz’s saxophones. Manuel Valera is masterful on this piece, building his solo from the guts of the melody until it emerges like an astounding work of musical architecture. Drummer Mark Kelso’s thundering rhythmic tattooing on “Markato” is the catalyst for the huge explosion that closes the album. In between are seven other works of memorable musicality, including four more from the pen of Roberto Occhipinti.
The Canadian bassist has considerable riches to offer and he spreads these throughout the performance favouring – rightfully so – the bottom end of his lusciously-toned instrument. Occasionally he leans into the bass to ascend from its roiling depths into the upper registers where his solos howl and scream. But always, tone-colours are rich and full-bodied, while textures, like heavy-laden raw silk, are beautiful to behold. The strings are beautifully arranged here and slide organically into the music that is often bolstered by additional brass and reeds including some of Canada’s first-call musicians including Alistair Kay, Quinsin Nachoff, Les Alt and John Johnson.
In the riches and gravitas of writing, arranging and performance on Stabilimento Roberto Occhipinti seems to pick up from where he left off on A Bend in the River, with music of riveting narrative and absorbing, sweeping pictures. All of this played with deeply-felt emotion and enviable virtuosity.
Track List: 1: Tuareg; 2: Dom De Illudir; 3: Op. 132; 4: Que Bolá; 5: Another Star; 6: Stabilimento; 7: Penelope; 8: Trinacria; 9: Markato.
Personnel: Roberto Occhipinti: bass; Tim Ries: tenor and soprano saxophones; Luis Deniz: alto saxophone; Dafnis Prieto: drums; Manuel Valera: piano; Kevin Turcotte: trumpet; Quinsin Nachoff: tenor saxophone (7 – 9); Hilario Duran: piano (7 – 9); Mark Kelso: drums (7 – 9); Alister Kat: trombone; Gabriel Radford: French horn; John Johnson: bass clarinet; Les Alt: flutes; Luisito Quintero: percussion; Drew Jurecka: violin; Rebekah Wolkstein: violin; Steve Dann: viola; Andrew Yee: cello; Stas Pronin: violin (7 – 9); Yunior Lopez: viola (7 – 9); Peter Cosbey: cello (7 – 9).
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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