To call this album Entre Amigos by Günther Brück magnificent and brilliant – or using another superlative epithet to describe the repertoire on it would be a gross understatement. It is so much more than most – if not all – words that could be used to describe its contents. To begin with these are superb compositions – written by an European artist inhabiting a Latin American skin. Even the two Latin American standards – Ernesto Lecuona’s “A la Antigua” and Osvaldo Farrés’ “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás” and the interpretation of the classic bolero by Vicente Fernández, “Cenizas” – are transformed again. Transformed because this time Mr Brück has let the sensibility of his musicianship penetrate the cultural topography of the songs, to listen with his heart and then used his uncommon genius for composition and arrangement to render what he heard in his heart.
All of this is enhanced by the pianism of Mr Brück. His intelligent musicianship and cultivated sonority impress, along with a few unusual yet convincing tempo options, such as the alla breve [sort of] conception of the Lecuona danza, “A la Antigua”. And he uses this tempi/device immediately after than to transform the bittersweet bolero “Cenizas”. The latter is quite magical as it also features two additional elements: the smoky eloquence of the voice of Kristïna Trezune and a magnificent performance on soprano saxophone by Julian Argüilles, before switching to tenor during the coro that brings the bolero home.
Mr Brück’s full-bodied keyboard writing and arranging [and, indeed, his playing of the piano] conveys the pieces’ mood swings beautifully – from dark to light with a myriad of shades in between. He animates dances – Cuban and Venezuelan [the swinging joropo – “Pajarito Negro”] with vivid, linear transparency. His soli are nimble and his left-hand tumbao [bassline melodies] are warm, witty, and appropriately heavy [as they should be], while still remaining danceable. Best of all Mr Brück has a distinctly lyrical approach to music and he delivers this in spades throughout the impressive array of compositions – six of nine – on this album. He could hardly have found better and more elegant support in the rhythmic realm as from percussionists Roberto Quintero [who knew that he was a great maraquero?], Alberto Lovision and bassist Roberto Koch.
There is also a small matter of picking a stellar cast all of whom support the artistic vision of the leader with idiomatic grace and beauty. It is difficult to single out any one musician over the other although Julian Argüilles imbues each song harmonic variations – one seemingly better than the other. Venezuelan percussionist Mr Quintero is inimitable; his approach to rhythmic colourations is as lyrical as it is appropriately substantial, and radiates vividness of rhythm, warmth and gleaming musical sensibility. The inclusion of Juan Diego Mateos on Flamenco guitar and Juan Peña “El Chispa” on cajón is a stroke of genius; especially the latter whose skittering rhythms seem to mimic the wings of a butterfly; indeed sending the song on a magnificent whirling flight.
Then there is the masterful interpretation of Mr Farrés’ classic “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás” on which Mr Brück controls the mood changes, masterfully interspersing ink-dark sorrow with sunlit joy simply by alternating minor and major scales. Mr Quintero, following the lead, plays a myriad of percussion instruments to complement the pianist. Although he never solos, Mr Quintero – ever the percussion colourist – is omnipresent. Soli by Mr Argüilles, bassist Roberto Koch [who knew that he was also brilliant on the Venezuelan cuatro, as evidenced on “Pajarito Negro”?] are exquisite. Of course Mr Brück is sublime throughout.
It’s going to be a tall order to better an album like this…
Tracks – 1: Havana; 2: Pajarito Negro; 3: Ranacer: 4: A la Antigua; 5: Cenizas; 6: Mambo Misterioso; 7: Un Trago de Jerez; 8: Quizás, Quizás, Quizás; 9: Danzón de la Noche
Musicians – Günther Brück: piano, compositions and arrangements; Roberto Quintero: percussion; Julian Argüilles: saxophone; Roberto Koch: bass and cuatro; Alberto Lovision: drums. Guest musicians – Kristïna Trezune: vocals ; Juan Diego Mateos: Flamenco guitar and palmas ; Juan Peña “El Chispa”: cajón and palmas 
Released – 2019
Label – austro-machana [WBL-087]
Runtime – 1:02:01
Featured photo of Günther Brück by Silvio Rether