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Rubén Blades con Roberto Delgado & Orquesta · Son de Panamá

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Rubén Blades - Son de Panamá

In 2013, at the great salsa festival “Salsa al Parque” in the city of Bogotá, I had the privilege of listening to one of the most emblematic salsa legends of all times, Rubén Blades. He is synonymous with passion, feeling, catchy sound, smart lyrics and commitment to the musical community and society. After the break-up of Blades and Seis del Solar, thousands of fans wondered when and how Rubén would make a comeback to the stage with other musical bands. Seis del Solar has been considered a gem in the industry for its contribution to the evolution not only of salsa but also to Latin jazz. This group was part of the particular and unique sound Blades created, a stamp that distinguished them among dozens of musical projects around the world. But life continues, the magical world of music continues too so a genius like Rubén continues contributing his talent to the world scene. The first thought that came to my mind that day as I watched Rubén Blades was “What an orchestra Blades has!”, answering any of the doubts that many of us had for years when Ruben stopped his career to work as Minister of Tourism in his beloved Panama.

Followers were not disappointed by the Panamanian singer-songwriter because his comeback was warranted in terms of music. Mr. Blades entrusted his arrangements and instrumental accompaniment to one of his compatriots, Roberto Delgado, a talented bass player, singer and composer who studied at Conservatorio de Musica de Bellas Artes in Mexico and the Golden West College of Huntington Beach, California. From the time he was a young musician, Mr. Delgado has created several musical projects including Grupo Alma Joven (1973), Orquesta Fantasía (1978), Grupo Experimental de Latin Jazz (1985), Orquesta de Pedro Azael (1986), Grupo Kristal (1988), Grupo Fiebre (1989), Cutito Larrinaga (1991) and Orquesta Cimarrón (1993) among others. He has also worked with great figures in the world of Latin music like Cheo Feliciano, Luis Perico Ortiz, Ismael Miranda, Tito Nieves, Yolanda Rivera, Angel Canales, José Alberto el Canario just to mention a few.

Son de Panamá is the new work of Rubén Blades, as usual, this album is full of profound lyrics where the listener can appreciate poetry and commitment as Blades has shown during his career as a composer and singer. In this project some themes from previous albums have been included like “Las calles” (The Streets), “Ojos de perro azul” (Blue Dog’s Eyes), “Vino añejo” (Matured Wine), and “La Caína”. Great songs that Blades and Delgado’s orchestra bring again with great energy and pure mastery in musical interpretation. The perfect example is the mythical “Ojos the perro azul”, a piece recorded in the album Agua de Luna (Moon Water) with the band Seis del Solar: in this song, the basic arrangement of Oscar Hernández is kept but Mr. Delgado proposes a version where the brass takes a leading role enhancing the sound of this unforgettable theme. Another song to mention is the beautiful interpretation of the “Vino añejo”, a melody included in La Rosa de los Vientos and composed by the Panamanian Roberto Cedeño. Delgado and his orchestra reinvigorate this classic with catchy vibraphone lines, powerful brass sessions and an unparalleled team of singers that enhances the entire piece, giving the listener a new and renovated sound that goes perfectly with the tremendous feeling that Rubén Blades put into it.

From other composers, Blades recorded some themes for the first time including the bolero “Me recordarás” composed by the Cuban Frank Domínguez, and three songs written by Panamanian composers; “Otra canción de amor” (Rómulo Castro), “Teresa Batista” (José Calderón), and “Perdón” (Omar Alfanno). To match the title of this work, several songs on this new album, created by Panamanians, were included as a way to pay tribute to the music of Blades’land.

Creativity is part of Mr. Blades’life. This album could not be recorded without some original compositions by this legend. “Caín”, “Parrhesia”, “Olaya”, and “En esa casa” (In that house) are the new songs on Son de Panamá. Of these four new pieces, three of them are about the typical and profound ideas about life and society that Rubén discusses in their interpretations: “Caín” talks about how to make amends after doing bad things to others based on the biblical story of Caín and Abel. “Vive el arrepentimiento” (feel regret) is a moving phrase that has the ability to evoke tears and reflection, this phrase makes the listener vitally move while they cry the reflection. “Parrhesia” could be identified as the masterpiece of this album, a sincere composition where Mr. Blades reflects on the contradictions of human beings with respect to the political decisions made by the “richest” and most “powerful” countries over other nations. Fascinating and smart lyrics are the poetic framework of Son de Panamá, an exquisite musical project which has the stamp of the committed, brave and brilliant Ruben Blades.

Track List – Las calles; Caín; Ojos de perro azul; Vino añejo; Parrhesia; Me recordarás; Olaya; La Caína; Otra canción de amor; En esa casa; Teresa Batista; El perdón; La caína.

Personnel – Roberto Delgado: bass and voice; Luis Enrique Becerra: keyboards; Juan Carlos “Wichy” López: trumpet; Francisco Delvecchio: trombons; Carlos Pérez Bidó: timbales; Juan Berna: piano; Marcos Barraza: congas; Raúl “Toto” Rivera: bongó, campana, güiro and maracas; Ademir Berrocal: drums; Carlos Ubarte: sax baritone.

Guests – Eduardo Pineda: piano; José Ramón Guerra: congas; Mayito Travieso: tres; Medoro Madera: voice.

Released – 2015
Label – Rubén Blades Productions
Runtime – 63:00

Oscar graduated in journalism and education in Colombia, and completed a postgraduate program in Creative Writing in Canada. He works as an English teacher, translator and freelance writer in Bogotá. Oscar is a music collector, explorer and promoter of World Music and Jazz.

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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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