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Ronnie Cuber – Boplicity

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In an age when Man clings on to the things that a comic book superhero stands for—both in the print and on film media—it is almost as if the only living and superior-thinking thinking work of God’s hands has forgotten the recent age when music, at least, was governed by angels and archangels, and saints who could do no wrong; all of whom were reared by Titans.

Fortunately there are still reminders: men like Curtis Fuller, Ornette Coleman, and, among a handful of others, chief among them baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber—all of whom inhabit the rarefied realm that separates Man from God. And when Cuber plays he makes it a point to remind those who will listen, that there still is one and he is guiding the spirit of men like Cuber so they can protect the men who went before him> On Boplicity, an extraordinary record by any standards, the great baritone saxophonist “sings” in praise of two plus one of those musicians who passed on into the communion of saints before him: These men were: trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, his soul mate, the great alto saxophonist Charlie Parker and in naming his album just so, he pays homage to another great one: Gil Evans (aka Cleo Henry).

But it is in the gentle growls and throaty smears, and in the temperate snarls that Ronnie Cuber pays tribute to the ancestors. Cuber proves yet again that he is a singular voice deeply connected with many baritone saxophonists who went before him. His is lyrical to the point where he embodies the ancient yin-yang symbolism: dark and feminine, yet bright and sinewy and masculine. He plays with such a gush of molten fluidity that his lines lope and bubble along beginning excitedly, like a brook, and then gathering speed, there is the proverbial gush that rushes like a river in spate. Cuber’s musical topography is the whole register of his big blasé horn. His playing is spiritual. Notes often hang in the air above his horn, poised like offerings to God. Then they melt and pout out like libations. Always the music emerges from the Cuber’s soul. It has always been that way with Cuber. This is what endeared him to the great Charles Mingus.

On this record, Ronnie Cuber has been joined by true royalty. Bassist, Cameron Brown has played with every possible musician from vocal spirit, Sheila Jordan to another tenor Titan, Archie Shepp and is a sublime harmonic colourist. His playing on Gil Evans’ “Boplicity” is sensual and achingly beautiful, capturing the wryness of Evans’ chart in all its majesty. Elsewhere when Ronnie Cuber calls more hip and breathtakingly swinging bebop charts, Brown’s fingers become embellished and more fleet as they speak in the stuttering grandeur of Bop’s outstanding language. Charlie Parker’s classics, “Quasimodo,” “Cheryl,” superbly motivic “My Blue Suede Shoes” and the great bebop chart, “Now is the Time” have a magnificent, sweeping elasticity to them. Cuber’s melodicism and his gushing harmonies are superbly colourful.

Dizzy Gillespie is also represented by the miraculously beautiful “Groovin’High,” a chart that sees pianist Michael Wolff stretching and displaying extraordinary chops. Moreover the fervour of his playing is remarkable and he recalls the heightened spirituality of early Bud Powell. Johnathan Blake is an inspired choice and he keeps recalling the robust drumming that Kenny Clarke once brought to the beboppers. But it is Cuber who somehow raises the bar on bebop. Moreover his majestic tone is so utterly memorable that it seems to come not only as a blast from the past, but reconnects that era with the future with a rollicking performance in the here and now.

Tracks: Ow!; Quasimodo; Cheryl; Boplicity; Groovin’High; My Little Suede Shoes; Now’s The Time; Out Of Nowhere; Night In Tunisia.

Personnel: Ronnie Cuber: baritone saxophone; Michael Wolff: piano; Cameron Brown: bass; Johnathan Blake: drums.

Ronnie Cuber – Website: www.artistdirect.com

Label: SteepleChase Records

Release date: February 2012

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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