There is a rare and celestial beauty that pervades throughout De Bach á Jobim, the album by the legendary a capella Brasilian group, Trio Esperança, who share a very special connection with the 10-voice ensemble, Grupo Vocal Desandann. Both ensembles use the oldest instrument known to human kind in intricate harmonies that a spiritual connection seemingly as old as the Psalms of David. However, from the historical perspective, Trio Esperança first made musical waves in 1958, releasing their first album Nós Somos o Sucesso, then becoming an integral part of Bossa Nova and the celebrated Musica Popular Brasileira tropicalismo mouvement.
However unlike Desandann, which remains principally rooted in Afro-Haitian spiritual verve, Trio Esperança have broadened the scope of their music to include classical music from several eras—from baroque to the Beatles—melding it with the Brasilian to produce a burnished music that swells with sensuousness and gushes in waves of mighty Amazonian splendour.
De Bach á Jobim recorded after a span of five years since Bis-Jovem Guarda (EMI, 2006), is short, but features a powerful repertoire that spans 400 years—literally—from arias written based on suites and a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach to classic charts by Antônio Carlos Jobim, an eternal song by Chico Buarque, “Joana Francesca” and a couple of Beatles favourites. “Penny Lane” has been rendered in Portuguese and is tinged with sadness. It melds the story of the Beatles original with the melancholy of chorinho with the splendour of a baroque choir. “Blackbird” is sung a Capella, in English, one of three or four languages that the group sings in. Both are masterful versions of songs that once defined popular culture. Here lies the rub. What sets Trio Esperança apart from any a Capella ensemble today is that they slide perfectly into popular culture today as they once did with Bossa Nova and MPB.
With contralto, mezzo soprano and soprano voicings the ladies of Trio Esperança direct their intakes of breath with such wonder that they are able to hang on to notes and make them vibrate with tremulous wonder. They do so on a superb version of “Joana Francesca” and “Romaria” and when they are joined on the surprise hidden track by their brother, Mario, which quotes freely from Puccini’s Turandot in a memorable manner.
The arrangements on this album are the sublime handiwork of Eva Corrêa’s husband and the group pianist, Gérard Gambus. The production is masterful, with the violão of Marcio Faraco just where it should be, weaving a musical tapestry in and out of the heavenly voices of Trio Esperança as they guide the wide-eyed and the breathless on a memorable musical journey from Bach to Jobim.
Tracks – Caminho Da Razão; Upa Neguinho; Desafinado; A Rosa (Rancho Das Flores); Penny Lane; Blackbird; Samba Do Avião; Cantiga; Odeon; Joana Francesca; Uma Gota Do Mar; Romaria.
Personnel – Eva Corrêa: vocals; Mariza Corrêa: vocals; Regina Corrêa: vocals; Mario Corrêa: vocals; Marco Faraco: violão; Silvano Michelino: percussion; Inor Sotolongo: percussion; Marc Berthoumeiux: accordion; Gérard Gambus: piano. Strings of the Budapest Symphonic Orchestra.
Released – 2010
Label – Disques Dreyfus
Runtime – 40:45
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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