It is not easy – by any stretch of imagination – for a drummer to restrain his instrument from taking over the musical soundscape thereby making everything overwhelming “rhythmic”, a blemish that would ruin a recording. Striking the right balance between melodic content, harmonic conception and rhythmic pulse is the key to everything musical. This is where the Brian Andres Trio Latino scores its highest marks. Of course, it is not the only reason why this recording, Mayan Suite is so eloquently appealing. Each of the three individuals making up this trio are virtuosos on their respective instruments and are heard here on top of their game as the incessant dynamo of the music powers through the repertoire.
Your expectations upon hearing about this Mayan Suite may – just may – lead you to believe that the music will be locked in the rhetoric of something old – even dead; a relic from a museum. But you will be hugely surprised right out of the gate, so to speak: Christian Tumalan’s superb arrangement of Chick Corea’s “Got a Match?” is the catalyst for a brilliant ignition and Mr Tumalan never lets up throughout the recording. His pianism is almost supernatural; characterised by an almost insolently debonair virtuosity. Of course, Mr Tumalan is not only driven by the need to power his way to everything. His ballad “Si Tú Vez”, which takes its cue from the Afro-Cuban bolero, proves that he is eminently capable of playing with great emotion as well – something he displays earlier and later on this recording too.
The same could be said of bassist Aaron Germain, whose playing is grounded in the dark rumblings of the contrabass and whose fine performances on the instrument are interspersed with soaring performances on the electric bass, on which he bends and shapes musical soli to his will. His performance on “Si Tú Vez” is matched by superb turns on “Islands” and on the tender playing of the electric bass on his own composition “Higashi Nakano”.
Brian Andres’ musicianship swirls around the whole fabric of the music keeping it from wafting away into faraway places from which it might never return. Mr Andres’ performance throughout, especially on Mr Tumalan’s “Mayan Suite”, has an unique character, unlike many drummers today. What sets his musicianship apart is that his rhythmic conception is impelled by an in-built harmonic conception. His approach to rhythm is symphonic and often evokes other instruments so that the music itself is raised to an orchestral level. “Got a Match?” sets the tone – and a very high standard – for the entire album.
Mr Tumalan also deserves recognition for the superb architecture of his compositions. The “Mayan Suite” is a terrific example of his prodigious gifts in this regard. He seems to think not simply as an architect but – in conception and execution – he is more like a town-planner who sets the stage for elaborate musical townships. This is what he has done with throughout the repertoire of the Mayan Suite album and this is why it is so compelling a recording from start to finish.
Track list – 1: Got a Match? 2: Viento Solar; 3: Mayan Suite – a: The Mayan Emperor, b: Sacrifice Ritual; c: Mayan Dance; d: The Return of the Mayan Emperor; e: Ball Game; 4: Escucha; 5: Someday My Prince Will Come; 6: Islands; 7: Morning Sprite; 8: Si Tu Vez; 9: Higashi Nakano; 10: On Green Dolphin Street
Personnel – Christian Tumalan: grand piano; Aaron Germain: contrabass and electric bass; Brian Andres: drum set
Released – 2020
Label – Bacalao Records 
Runtime – 1:03:11