Sammy Morales has been for years, one of the most respected musicians in the Puerto Rico music scene, and a bassist with vast experience playing with some of the most recognized pop artists in the island. Morales waited a long time for the release of Historias, Cuentos y Canciones, his debut album, and the waiting was worthwhile. All the outstanding compositions on this release are originals by Sammy Morales, and each one reflects the diversity of influences in his music.
The waltz fused with South America Chacarera in “Vals para Gaby” is the first track in a voyage of provocative melodies and ingenious arrangements. The chacarera rythmh can also be heard in “Canto al Sur”. Morales also waited to have the right kind of musicians for his album, a group of talented young artists, Liza Micelli on Piano, Gabriel Vicéns on guitar, Ricky Martínez on accordion and flute, and Mario Pereira on drums. This group has the ability to speak to one another with ease and create a unique sound.
Gabriel Vicéns adds his lyrical soloing and tonal beauty to “Las Preguntas”, a smooth jazz piece, reminiscent at times of the music of Pat Metheny. Morales demonstrate his technical ability on bass and Micelli shows a strong command of the jazz language in her improvisations on this track and on the jazzier piece of the album “Desamor”.
The accordion on the cinematic “Soledad Imperfecta” and the haunting composition “Pequeño Pintor”, gives the tracks a distinctive European sound. Micelli plays some soulful and bluesy solos on “Pequeño Pintor”, adding to the nostalgic feel of the piece.
The energy increase on “Rumbita”, a composition with touches of rumba flamenca. Vicéns and Martínez harmonized melodies gives way to a richly inventive bass solo by Sammy Morales. Micelli, a Boston native, shows her command of the Latin language, playing some intense harmonic and rhythmic lines and solos.
“Ni Bomba, ni fuga, ni ná” seamlessly flows from classical music to Fusion Jazz, to the rhythms of Puerto Rican Bomba. Micelli adds some thoughtful solos and Gabriel Vicéns displays breathless energy on his improvisations.
Morales’ distinct, sharp bass sound carries the melodies in “El Reposo”, a piece with influences of smooth jazz and funk, with similarities to the music of Bob James. Morales always display a sixth sense for timing, rhythm and harmonic structure that creates a balance in his playing. Already known as one of the best bassist in Puerto Rico, with the storytelling compositions of Historias, Cuentos y Canciones Morales reveals himself as an accomplished composer and arranger.
Tracks: Vals para Gaby; Las Preguntas; Pequeño Pintor; Rumbita; Ni bomba, Ni fuga, Ni ná; El Reposo; Soledad Imperfecta; Canto al Sur; Desamor.
Personnel: Sammy Morales: bass; Gabriel Vicéns: guitar; Liza Micelli: piano, keyboards; Mario Pereira: drums; Ricky Martínez: accordion, flute.
Label: Independent Release | Release date: August 2012
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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