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Marco Granados is known for playing some of the most challenging music ever written for the flute, and much of it comes from his native Venezuela. Its wealth of local rhythms – some of them head-spinningly complex caught his fancy, and he’s devoted years to developing the skills needed to play them on flute.

Today he stands as one of the foremost ambassadors of Venezuelan music, with a technique so dazzling that the word “virtuoso” comes up in almost any description of him. Marco is renowned for his daredevil agility; he can breeze through difficult polyrhythmic tunes, often at bullet-fire speed and high altitude. A critic from the New York City Tribune remarked that his breath control “must be the envy of every wind player from here to the next world.” The late great saxophonist Michael Brecker called him “an incredible flutist and musician.”

This newest collection, recorded mostly in Caracas, Venezuela, showcases some of the best contemporary music from Marco’s country. Surrounding him are his Un Mundo colleagues – bassist Roberto Koch, Jorge Glem on cuatro (a four-stringed, ukelele-like Venezuelan guitar), and Manuel Rangel or Leonardo Granados (Marco’s brother) on maracas – plus various guest players. Together they give an authentic glimpse into a branch of Latin music that gets too little attention in the U.S.

UN MUNDO ENSEMBLE: MARCO GRANADOS flute,
JORGE GLEM cuatro, ROBERTO KOCH bass,
LEONARDO GRANADOS maracas, MANUEL RANGEL maracas.

Guests: FRANCISCO FLORES trumpet, HECTOR MOLINA
cuatro, GONZALO TEPPA bass, HENRY LINAREZ cuatro,
ALEXANDER LIVINALI bumbac, bells

This CD is a series of 15 native Venezuelan songs, recorded in Caracas, Venezuela, with Un Mundo Ensemble and five Guest Artists. The accompaniment to Marco Granados’ flute themes includes a trumpet, two basses, two sets of maracas, bells, Bumbac, and two cuatros. The musical effect is light, joyous, and authentically folkloric. Marco Granados leads all 15 tracks with spirited enthusiasm, tonal clarity, and seasoned dexterity.

Notable tracks:

#7 – Cañoneando (“Street Playing”) – Composed by Aquiles Báez. Marco Granados’ fluttering flute, cuatros, and pulsating percussion all lead this joyous track. Granados shows his superb musical mastery with elongated solo notes, defying human capacity.

#9 – La Encantadora (“The Enchantress”) – Composed by Julio Mendez. This song has youthful vibrancy with Granados performing in rapid, rambunctious style. Gonzalo Teppa takes a riff on bass, while the maracas mark the beat.

#12 – Tema y Variaciones de “El Gavilan” (“Theme and Variations on ‘El Gavilan’”) – Composed by Agelvis Sánchez. Granados’ solo flute opens this piece, and about halfway through the track the strings create strong Latin rhythms. A swirling dervish ensues, a driven dance.

#15 – El Vuelo de la Mosca (“The Flight of the Fly”) – Composed by Jacob do Bandolim. Francisco Flores, on trumpet, adds musicality and Latin fervor. This track races toward the recording’s finale with sizzling speed.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower

http://robertaonthearts.com/cd/idCD30.html


Marco Granados states in the liner notes of his beautiful serenade to his country Music of Venezuela, that the music of Venezuela is one of the rare treasures of Latin America, it seamlessly combines cultures, musical traditions, rhythms and the spirit of a people in a joyful and innocent voice.

 

The artist very eloquently said this with deep thought and respect for his heritage. His flute playing embodies that very thought as Marco very precisely and exquisitely takes you on a trip through the land he loves in 15 tracks of fast-paced jazz tinged Latin-World music.

Marcos and his Un Mundo Ensemble are Jorge Glenn (cuatro), Roberto Koch (bass), Leonardo Granados (maracas) and Manuel Rangel (maracas). His guest contribute plenty of heart and soul to the mix, particularly the acoustic strumming on Cuatro (a Latin American instrument with four strings), which is all very fast in order to keep up with Marcos’ rapid accession of notes coming from his flute. Three men encompass this very large contribution including Hector Molina, Henry Linarez and Jorge Glem. All three are incredibly good at utilizing the four stringed instruments, so well that you would never know there were two less strings than a standard guitar. I have to admit that their adeptness was equal to the task and rose to challenge of the excellent flute playing of Mr. Granados.

Marcos was apparently very determined to find musical partners on equal ground in order to produce the finest representation of his treasured music of Venezuela. As it turns out for the listener, it actually is like finding a lost treasure and once you have it you will never let it go.

This is music to take you away to another world and even though it is face paced it still has a calming spiritual effect upon your senses, as if he were the pied piper of Latin America inviting you to take a vacation while you experience everything that happens visually through his looking glass of music.

4/5 Stars


Brazilian jazz is probably the first type of music that comes to mind when you think of Latin jazz but there are many others, and one of the best is Venezuelan. Doing his part to help expose jazz lovers to the music of his homeland, flute virtuoso Marco Granados is offering up his latest album on the Soundbrush label, the appropriately titled Music Of Venezuela.

 

The son of a violinist/music teacher, Granados showed early promise while growing up in Venezuela. He eventually received a classical musical education that included stints at Julliard and other institutions, and he also studied with flute legends James Galway and Jean-Pierre Rampal. In the last decade or so, he’s appeared in a number of venues (including Lincoln Center) and on many albums.

His newest effort is a showcase for the music of his homeland, but it also displays his instrumental talents. Although he’s accompanied by several solid musicians, including his brother Leonardo on maracas, Marco dominates almost every track with his remarkable flute play.

The 15 cuts on the album include a number of styles, ranging from the sweet and slow ballads, such as “Confesion a Las Estrellas (Confession To The Stars),” to pure dancing music, such as the merengue-flavored “Cañaneando (Street Playing).” The latter is a delight, with Granados demonstrating astonishing skill and speed. It was one of my favorites.

Granados also demonstrates loyalty to the simple, rural Venezuelan music of his youth by featuring several pieces written by one of his inspirations, Alberto ‘Beto’ Valderrama, a legendary musician who lives a simple life on an island off the coast of Venezuela. The best of those is “El Avispero (The Wasp’s Nest),” which includes some fiery trumpet play from guest artist Francisco Flores.

This is an outstanding collection of Latin jazz, especially for those who appreciate amazingly fast and intricate flute play from a master. Highly recommended.

GEEZER MUSIC CLUB


Marco Granados plays the flute like Randy Johnson pitches-fast and accurate. The music, like the fastball, just keeps on coming and coming, and all you can do is just sit there in awe and bewilderment. Granados has selected from a cache of contemporary Venezuelan composers, and along with his band Un Mundo (Roberto Koch/b, Jorge Glem/cuatro, Manuel Rangel & Leonardo Granados/maracas, among guests) he floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee with alarming agility. Tunes like “Pa’ Oriente Compay” display his bright and high energetic style, with tenacious rhythm supplied by the cuatro (which is like a ukulele). The complex rapid note runs, along with Francisco Flores’ chop busting trumpet on “El Avispero” is a tour de force. Contrarily, the Handel-like “Confesion a las Estrellas” has a pastoral beauty to it. Koch’s flexible bass keeps the music together adroitly, as his work on “Los 12” leads to a fiendishly complex line. It’s nice to know that something besides oil and anti-American propaganda are being exported from Venezuela.

 

By George W. Harris
http://www.jazzweekly.com/

Marco Granados is known for playing some of the most challenging music

ever written for the flute, and much of it comes from his native Venezuela.

Growing up there, he was steeped in a musical tradition he describes as “very

happy, very up, with a lot of energy.” Its wealth of local rhythms – some of

them head-spinningly complex – caught his fancy, and he’s devoted years to

developing the skills needed to play them on flute.

Today he stands as one of the foremost ambassadors of Venezuelan music,

with a technique so dazzling that the word “virtuoso” comes up in almost any

description of him. Marco is renowned for his daredevil agility; he can breeze

through difficult polyrhythmic tunes, often at bullet-fire speed and high

altitude. A critic from the New York City Tribune remarked that his breath

control “must be the envy of every wind player from here to the next world.”

Michael Brecker – the jazz saxophonist who passed on to that next world in

2007 – called him “an incredible flutist and musician.”

Marco’s crowd-pleasing performances are popular worldwide. He leads

his own Venezuelan ensemble, Un Mundo; he’s played with the Chamber

Music Society of Lincoln Center and with symphonies throughout the U.S.

and Latin America. His CDs explore a wide swath of Latin music. In Tango

Dreams he saluted the tango master Astor Piazzolla; Luna is a program of

romantic pieces for flute and guitar. He appears on Pensando en Ti, a

collection of rumbas and boleros by Roger Davidson, the acclaimed modern

composer (and founder of Soundbrush Records, Marco’s current label).

Several of his other albums, like Amanecer, preserve the Venezuelan music

he loves.

This newest collection, recorded mostly in Caracas, Venezuela, showcases

some of the best contemporary music from Marco’s country. Surrounding

him are his Un Mundo colleagues – bassist Roberto Koch, Jorge Glem on

cuatro (a four-stringed, ukelele-like Venezuelan guitar), and Manuel Rangel or

Leonardo Granados (Marco’s brother) on maracas – plus various guest

players. Together they give an authentic glimpse into a branch of Latin music

that gets too little attention in the U.S.

Marco was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second largest city (after

Caracas), in 1961; his family moved later to Colón, a city in the Venezuelan

mountains near Colombia. At a music school founded by his father, a

violinist, an eleven-year-old Marco took his first flute lessons. He grasped the

basics so quickly that his father began taking him along to serenades – a

Venezuelan holiday tradition in which musicians go from house to house and

perform for friends and strangers. Marco embarked upon years of classical

study. In 1978 Julius Baker, the New York Philharmonic’s longtime principal

flutist, invited him to move to New York to study at the Juilliard School.

Three years later he entered the Mannes College of Music (The New School

for Music). During that period Marco scored a remarkable coup. He appeared

as a soloist at Gracie Mansion, and Mayor Ed Koch was so smitten by his

playing that he invited him back several times to entertain the likes of Henry

Kissinger, Plácido Domingo, and the whole State Assembly.

Over time, Venezuelan music became his focus. After the release of his

1998 CD Amanecer, he visited Julius Baker, his former teacher. Hearing the

album, Baker was so enthused that he proclaimed the nimble, effervescent

sounds therein “the future of flute playing.”

“I thought, my goodness, what a responsibility!” says Marco. “Ever since

then I’ve had a mission to make people know about this music.” His efforts

range from children’s workshops to constant touring to CDs such as this one.

It includes the work of several gifted writers who are barely known outside

Venezuela. One of Marco’s favorites is Alberto “Beto” Valderrama (born

1949), a multi-instrumentalist who lives on Margarita, an island in the

Caribbean Sea off Venezuela’s northeastern coast. The region is called

Oriente. Rather than moving to Caracas, where most of the musical action

occurs, Beto, says Marco, “leads a very humble life in a village where he’s the

town musician, and his family makes pottery to earn a living.”

Valdarrama specializes in the waltzlike, flamenco-inspired joropo, the

country’s national dance music. Pa’ Oriente Compay (To the Orient,

Compadre) belongs to a subgenre termed joropo con estribillo – a tricky

polyrhythmic style that shifts in and out of the joropo’s 3/4 meter. “It’s really

difficult to play, but fun to listen to,” says Marco. Flutist-composer Gary

Schocker, whose 2000 CD Airborne features Marco, had this to say about Pa’

Oriente Compay: “Playing in the highest register of the flute, he makes it

sound almost effortless. Note the beautiful entrance at the recapitulation on a

pianissimo high C - a real virtuoso turn.”

Los Tiestos de Moca (Moca’s Pottery) is Valderrama’s sprightly tribute to

his mother Moca. He wrote it in the style of the Venezuelan merengue, whose

5/8 rhythm distinguishes it from the 2/4 of the better-known merengue of the

Dominican Republic. Cuatro player Jorge Glem shakes things up by

switching to 3/4- time in the C-section. A third piece by Valderrama, El

Avispero (The Wasp’s Nest), is a breakneck duet with Francisco Flores, an

award-winning young trumpeter (born 1981 in San Cristóbal, Venezuela) with

a facility and precision to equal Marco’s.

Confesión a las Estrellas (Confession to the Stars) was penned by Orlando

Cardozo, a cuatro, flute, and clarinet player who tours with Catako, a

Venezuelan trio. One of the album’s two ballads, it spotlights Roberto Koch, a

bassist of rare melodicism. The high-speed polyrhythms return in La

Abuelita (The Grandmother), a showpiece by Aquiles Báez, a celebrated

guitarist and composer who leads a Venezuelan jazz quintet. Marco calls him

“a master of all the Latin forms – and he knows the jazz language, while

staying true to Venezuelan tradition.”

La Encantadora (The Enchantress) is by Julio Mendez, another talented

cuatro player who comes from the same mountain region where Marco grew

up. Mi Niña (My Girl) is a tender lullaby in 3/4 by Ricardo Sandoval, a

Chile-born mandolinist and composer who grew up in Venezuela. He wrote

this song for his baby daughter. Marco spins it out with the purest, most

delicate threads of sound.

Aquiles Báez wrote Cañoneando (Street Playing) to evoke the lively

merengues played in Venezuelan street festivals, in which locals do dance

processions. Marco offers a slower, more somber merengue with Regresan-

do (Returning), penned by Gonzalo Teppa, a leading jazz bassist in

Venezuela. Teppa wrote the song for a woman he married there after he’d

spent years in the States. Subsequently Marco went back to Venezuela

following a long absence of his own, and Teppa gave him a copy of

Regresando. “For me it also meant a return,” he says. They recorded it

together for this album.

Recordando a Tila is another joropo con estribillo, written for Marco by

Aquiles Báez. Like Pa’ Oriente Compay it exploits the flutist’s cloudless

tone in his instrument’s stratosphere, but this time he’s floating above a

progression of jazzy harmonies. The title literally means “Remembering the

Lime Tree,” but in fact it contains an in-joke. Back when Aquiles and Marco

were touring together, the band held contests as to who could tell the most

off-color joke. Whoever won was called Attila, after Attila the Hun. The

piece is a wink at those days. Los Doce (The Twelve) comes from a

Colombian composer, Alvaro Romero. The flutist was “blown away” when

he heard it played on mandolin by Cristóbal Soto, a member of Venezuela’s

acclaimed Ensamble Gurrufío. Marco transcribed it from their record.

Every Venezuelan knows El Gavilán (The Hawk), a classic joropo. That’s

why Agelvis Sánchez, a young, classically-trained composer, felt free to

write the variations Marco plays here. But only in Venezuela’s rain forest is

one likely to hear calypso, the throbbing Afro-Caribbean music that

emerged from the island of Trinidad. Decades ago, explains Marco, an effort

was made to recruit men to work in the ore mines, which reside in the rain

forest. “The only people they could get came from the islands by boat. They

brought their music with them, and it became popular in the middle of the

sound almost effortless. Note the beautiful entrance at the recapitulation on a

pianissimo high C - a real virtuoso turn.”

Los Tiestos de Moca (Moca’s Pottery) is Valderrama’s sprightly tribute to

his mother Moca. He wrote it in the style of the Venezuelan merengue, whose

5/8 rhythm distinguishes it from the 2/4 of the better-known merengue of the

Dominican Republic. Cuatro player Jorge Glem shakes things up by

switching to 3/4- time in the C-section. A third piece by Valderrama, El

Avispero (The Wasp’s Nest), is a breakneck duet with Francisco Flores, an

award-winning young trumpeter (born 1981 in San Cristóbal, Venezuela) with

a facility and precision to equal Marco’s.

Confesión a las Estrellas (Confession to the Stars) was penned by Orlando

Cardozo, a cuatro, flute, and clarinet player who tours with Catako, a

Venezuelan trio. One of the album’s two ballads, it spotlights Roberto Koch, a

bassist of rare melodicism. The high-speed polyrhythms return in La

Abuelita (The Grandmother), a showpiece by Aquiles Báez, a celebrated

guitarist and composer who leads a Venezuelan jazz quintet. Marco calls him

“a master of all the Latin forms – and he knows the jazz language, while

staying true to Venezuelan tradition.”

La Encantadora (The Enchantress) is by Julio Mendez, another talented

cuatro player who comes from the same mountain region where Marco grew

jungle.” Ricardo Sandoval wrote Bumbac, the airy, dancing calypso heard

here. It’s named after a drum popular in the rainforest – one that makes the

sound “BOOM-bak” when stroked. Marco invited the leading bumbac player

of Caracas, Alexander Livinali, to participate.

The bassist and keyboard player Rodner Padilla hails from Caja de Agua, a

town outside Caracas. When he showed his band a new piece he’d written,

they jokingly named it after him: El Negrito 'e Caja de Agua (The Little

Black Boy from Caja de Agua). Composer Jacob Pick Bittencourt (1918-1969)

became a legend in his native Brazil under a nickname of his own, Jacob do

Bandolim – so given him because of his breathtaking mandolin-playing. He

specialized in the choro, a tuneful, energetic, African-influenced style that

flourished in the first half of the twentieth century. Jacob do Bandolim’s fame

spread to Venezuela, where his El Vuelo de la Mosca (The Flight of the Fly)

remains a favorite. Marco and Francisco Flores deliver this high-octane tour

de force in joropo style – sometimes playing in perfect unison, sometimes

shadowing each other with the same pinpoint accuracy. Like the rest of this

CD, El Vuelo shows the unique capabilities of the flute – and of a musician

who keeps raising its potential in exciting ways.

 

James Gavin, New York City, 2008

[James Gavin, a contributor to Time Out New York, is the author of

Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker, published by Knopf.]