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Jimmy Branly - The Meeting

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    Posted: 06 Jun 2022 at 7:33pm
Available on CD May 27th, 2022

Drummer JIMMY BRANLY has been so busy touring with and playing on albums for other A-list jazz artists that he has put his own career as a leader on the back burner. Branly has now recorded as well as engineered THE MEETING, an auspicious trio date that showcases not only Branly’s adventurous and sensitive playing, but his predilection for melding World music and jazz. The performances on the album are rhythmically and harmonically sophisticated, and the music is thoroughly engaging.
Branly is joined on THE MEETING by two top Los Angeles-based players. Guitarist and composer WILL BRAHM was a semifinalist in the 2019 Herbie Hancock International Guitar Competition. He has performed, recorded, and toured with artists including Arturo Sandoval, the New West Guitar Group, Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, Kim Richmond, Otmaro Ruiz, Sara Gazarek, Jane Monheit, and Gretchen Parlato. Turkish-born bass player AHMET TÜRKMENOĞLU received a music degree in Bass Guitar and Double Bass from Bilgi University in Istanbul and a master’s degree in Jazz Studies from USC. He has performed at many international jazz festivals and clubs around the world, including France, Russia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan.
Branly was born and raised in Cuba. Although the island nation was steeped in its own rich musical heritage, there were few options to study music, and Branly had a different vision for himself. He became interested in rock ‘n roll at the age of nine when his father introduced him to Deep Purple’s 1972 album Made in Japan. He was particularly struck by the band’s drummer and was inspired to learn to play drums. Due to economic conditions, it was very difficult to obtain a drum kit, so Branly made his own out of spare parts, forming the drum skins out of x-ray film and other materials. He also listened to other rock groups like Led Zeppelin, Rush and the Beatles, as well as artists like John Coltrane and Chick Corea. He didn’t own a real drum set until he started touring professionally.
Branly became a professional musician at 15 when a band with older, professional musicians suddenly needed a drummer and heard about Branly. They picked him up after school one day and drove him straight to the studio. He never returned to music school but built a career playing with different bands, many of whom were influenced by New York jazz players. He had been working in Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s group for several years when, in 1998, he had the opportunity to tour in North America with a group of American and Cuban musicians. Rather than return to Cuba, he applied for a U.S. Visa and never returned home. With the help of some Cuban and American friends, he settled in Los Angeles and found work immediately.
The list of artists he has performed with is extensive. It includes Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Chucho Valdez, Flora Purim, Airto Moreira, Michael Nesmith, Strunz and Farah, Celia Cruz, Sheila E, Jimmy Haslip, Russell Ferrante, , Bob Sheppard, Celia Cruz, Luis Conte, Ronnie Foster, Justo Almario, Otmaro Ruiz, Oscar Hernandez, Brandon Fields, Alex Acuña, Bob James, David Garfield, Carol Welsman, Doc Severinsen, Don Grusin, Tom Scott, Keiko Matsui, Colin Hay and Lyle Mays, among many others. Branly says, “It took a long time to establish myself as a drummer in Los Angeles and not be mistaken as a Latin percussionist just because I was born in Cuba.”
Although Branly is an expert in Cuban rhythms, he cites ECM-Jazz as a major influence. The ECM sound refers to the feeling of spaciousness and the influence of World music in its recordings. The label’s catalog includes such diverse musicians as Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, and Pat Metheny, as well as British reed player John Surman, Moldavian pianist Misha Alperin, Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem, and Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Egberto Gismonti. Branly says, “I like the openness of ECM records. I love beautiful melodies and simpler rhythms that allow a musician to put his own feelings and artistic vision in the music. Some composers write very complicated charts. I do enjoy playing them, but then you’re usually locked in to the composer’s vision. For my own music, I prefer a more spontaneous, open feel. I let the melody dictate the rhythm and where the accents land. I want the listener to feel the pulse of the music in his or her body.”
The music on THE MEETING is influenced by World music, particularly Cuban styles, but performed with a straight-ahead jazz feel and sound. The compositions are mostly played in either 4/4 or 6/8, and the melody determines where the accents fall, creating the illusion of unusual rhythms.
The album features original music by all three band members as well as some of Branly’s favorite jazz standards. The opening track, “Bis Bis,” is a straight-ahead Afro-Cuban jazz number composed by Brahm, who also wrote “Presume,” employing Brazilian rhythms, and “Blues 14,” a fusion of blues and Cuban music. Türkmenoğlu composed “One Day,” a ballad played with a double time feel, and Branly composed “The Meeting,” the title track.
Standards include “If I Should Lose You,” played with a Cuban feel; “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” which employs the Danzon rhythm, a Cuban musical style; Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes,” here performed as a Bolero and on which Branly uses his brushes to deliver a more traditional sound; “Gazelle” by Joe Henderson, is usually played as a swing tune, but Branly turns it into a Latin/fusion number; and “Cherokee,” which Branly slows down to a medium tempo played in 6/8 time.
Jimmy Branly’s music comes from the heart. He has to feel the essence of a tune to know how to approach it. He uses subtle dynamics to generate energy rather than playing loud and fast and showing off his considerable chops. He wants the audience to be able to tap their feet and enjoy the melody. THE MEETING is an eminently satisfying entree into Branly’s personal aesthetic.
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THE MEETING is set for release on CD on May 27th, 2022 and was available digitally as of January 21st, 2022.
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