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Rosa Avilla: Kind of Rose

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Singer, Doctor and Businesswoman Rosa Avilla
Singer, Doctor and Businesswoman Rosa Avilla

What’s not to love about Kind of Rose, an album by the Brasilian vocalist Rosa Avilla. Her’s is the kind of voice that you would hear in your mind’s ear: youthful, evenly balanced with mellifluousness and with a touch of sinew. Miss Avilla is also a sensitive interpreter of noir ballads from the Songbook that extends from the 40’s to the present day.

Miss Avilla’s luminous interpretations of Lover Man and Fine and Mellow resurrect the indomitable spirit of the celebrated Billie Holiday. Meanwhile in bringing this short album to a rhapsodic finale she pays homage to another blithe spirit – George Shearing – with Lullaby of Birdland, an iconic song that, whenever played and – especially, sung as well as she does here – conjures the vivid memory of a time when the very streets of New York City echoed and came alive with the music of Birdland’s legendary namesake: Charlie “Bird Parker.

Rosa Avilla: Kind of Rose
Rosa Avilla: Kind of Rose

It bears mention that Miss Avilla is not what one may call a musician beholden to the music of the past. Clearly she approaches music as a wonderful continuum that goes well beyond Miss Holiday, to the music of George Bizet and then looks forward to music by Elton John. Granted this repertoire presets music of a similar tempo from song to song, but this is only because Miss Avilla knows that her lustrous is best put to use in the realm of balladic music or music which lyrics evoke the bittersweet emotions that affect the more sensitive side of human beings.

In this regard, Miss Avilla uses her luminous contralto to caress – rather than sing heart-soft lyrics. She lets her delicious voice roll languorously over poignant phrases, which as often as not end with a hint of a sensuous, tremulous vibrato. Harold Arlen’s magnificent The Man that Got Away is a fine example of this kind of execution. Fine and Mellow by Miss Holiday and Elton John’s Blue Eyes are also such beauteously sung ballads.

In symbiotic accord with some fine musicians – pianist Ricardo Castellanos, bassist Marcelo Rocha and drummer Edson Ghilardi – Miss Avilla continues to hold her own regularly phrasing with eloquence, pointing salient words with a liquid legato. The George Shearing number is a classic example of this.

Her diction is a model, both expressive and crystal clear and she excels in the wondering or expressive tenderness of this repertoire – which one ends up hoping that there was more of before this beautifully produced and recorded, all-too-short album comes to a close.

It should be noted the excellent work executed by producer David Pasqua. This album was recorded in his studio as a live session, all musicians performing together, all instruments at the same time.

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Tracks – 1: Lover Man; 2: Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word; 4: Habanera; 5: Fine and Mellow; 6: Blue Eyes; 7: Lullaby of Birdland

Musicians – Rosa Avilla: vocals; Ricardo Castellanos: piano; Marcelo Rocha: contrabass; Edson Ghilardi: drums

Released – 2022
Label – Independent
Runtime 28:38

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YouTube Audio – Rosa Villa – Kind of Rose: Lover Man

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.

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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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