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Ryan Truesdell – The Gil Evans Centennial Project

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First, and probably most unique of all, was Evans’ capacity to “hear and discern” the sounds that swirled around his head. Here he in the sole company of Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus in the dialect of jazz and if the circle were widened for all the aforementioned writers and arrangers, in the celebrated company of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.

Among some of the most significant aspects of the career of the legendary Gil Evans that seems lost to listeners of great music is that his reputation rests on the shoulders of Miles Davis. Anyone familiar with his seminal work with the Claude Thornhill Orchestra and with his magnificent 1964 Verve music release, The Individualism of Gil Evans would understand that the genius of the Toronto-born composer and arranger, and steward of what came to be known as the “cool” sound, goes far beyond the five famous albums he arranged for Davis. Surely it will take just one listen to Ryan Truesdell’s remarkable album, Centennial—Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans to be re-oriented with the singular genius of one of modern music’s true masters. Just what did Gil Evans’ genius comprise of?

First, and probably most unique of all, was Evans’ capacity to “hear and discern” the sounds that swirled around his head. Here he in the sole company of Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus in the dialect of jazz and if the circle were widened for all the aforementioned writers and arrangers, in the celebrated company of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. This, of course, has a direct impact on the wondrous palette of colours that all three men brought to the music they conceived. Moreover, like the other two musicians, Evans’ music appears to have “The Hand of God” in it: it almost seems as if while holds the musical brush with which he paints his scores, the palette is in the hands of The Divine Master. This aspect of Evans’ ingenuity is all over the album of all but forgotten music that Truesdell has lovingly crafted to life.

The hypnotic opening of Gil Evans’ masterful chart “Punjab” contains another stroke of genius; this one is from the pen of Truesdell, who added the tabla in “jaap tal,” an elementally beautiful and impossibly entrancing Indian rhythm, which appears to interlock the theme and melody of the piece into a dusty stretch of rusts and gold’s, with splashes of vivid greens and reds of an Indian landscape. As the music cooks and boils and bubbles the exquisite glimmer and bronzy tones of brass and woodwinds carry the music upward. This is sensational and individual Gil Evans at his best and although the chart rings with Evans’ ingenuity it also smacks of Truesdell’s incredible talent as well.

Another aspect of Evans’ ingenuity was his ability to make a small ensemble sound like an enormous orchestra. Centennial contains several gems of an example of this aspect of Evans’ talent. One that is sure to beguile the listener and drawing in the mind’s mind is the chart, “Smoking My Sad Cigarette,” which features the achingly beautiful voice of Kate McGarry. This chart uses just eight (+the vocalist) musicians and with magical use of the tone and timbre of instruments such as the baritone saxophone and the piccolo, and the tenor violin as well trombone and bass trombone, the colours are multiplied and magnified so magically as to suggest an infinitely fuller ensemble. McGarry is mesmerising as she works the lyric in a series of tortured sighs providing such a memorable rendition to the music that only Gil Evans could have conceived.

Thus the third aspect to Gil Evans’ genius is revealed and this is his way with vocal music. The memory of some of his excellent work with Helen Merrill and, of course, Lucy Reed is conjured up by the three vocal charts on this record. In addition to Kate McGarry’s exquisite vocals, there are wondrous charts carried on the shoulders of Wendy Gilles (“Beg Your Pardon”) and the elementally sad “Look To The Rainbow,” which features the mystically beautiful voice of the inimitable Luciana Souza.

But just before that chart is what could easily be the tour de force, the magical medley “Waltz / Variation On The Misery”. This music picks up in scope and spread from where “Punjab” left off at the beginning of the record. It clearly shows the bold manner in which Gil Evans uses tones and textures to create a musical canvas like no other musician who has blessed the history of this art then or now. And bringing all this to life for again so all can remember his Evans’ true genius is a group of musicians led by an inspired conductor, Ryan Truesdell. All this music comes together to make not just one of the most memorable repertoire albums, but quite simply one of the most memorable albums in a long, long time.

Tracks: Punjab; Smoking My Sad Cigarette; The Maids Of Cadiz; How About You; Barbara Song; Who’ll Buy My Violets; Dancing On A Great Big Rainbow; Beg Your Pardon; Waltz / Variation On The Misery / So Long; Look To The Rainbow.

Personnel: Henrik Heide: flute, piccolo; Jesse Han: flute, piccolo, bass flute; Jennifer Christen: oboe; Sarah Lewis: oboe; Ben Baron: bassoon; Michael Rabinowitz: bassoon; Alden Banta: bassoon, contra bassoon; Steve Wilson: soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, flute, clarinet; Dave Pietro: alto saxophone, clarinet, flute, alto flute; Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Scott Robinson: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet. Brian Landrus: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, alto flute, piccolo; Charles Pillow: flute, piccolo, clarinet, oboe, English horn; Adam Unsworth: French horn; David Peel: French horn; John Craig Hubbard: French horn; Augie Haas: trumpet; Greg Gisbert: trumpet; Laurie Frink: trumpet; Ryan Keberle: trombone; Marshall Gilkes: trombone; George Flynn: bass trombone; Marcus Rojas: tuba; James Chirillo: acoustic guitar, electric guitar; Romero Lubambo: acoustic guitar; Frank Kimbrough: piano, harmonium; Jay Anderson: bass; Lewis Nash: drums; Joe Locke: vibraphone; Mike Truesdell: timpani, marimba; Dave Eggar: tenor violin; Dan Weiss: table; Kate McGarry: voice (2); Wendy Gilles: voice (8); Luciana Souza: voice (10).

Ryan Truesdell – Official website: www.ryantruesdell.com

Label: ArtistShare

Release date: May 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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