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Brenda Hopkins Miranda: Aeropiano

James Nadal By

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The aphorism that art imitates life is appropriate in describing pianist Brenda Hopkins Miranda. A consummate traveler and beneficiary of a bilingual and bicultural environment, her sense of purpose is to genuinely exploit the piano as a personal extension to convey melodious concepts with deft imagery and drama. Aeropiano is a passage through myriad influences and experiences leading to destinations both real and imagined, where the key is to listen.

The title track is introduced by bomba drums courtesy of Tambores Calientes, a hard driving Puerto Rican folkloric ensemble which lays a beat for the percussive piano. Hopkins has been around complex Afro-Caribbean rhythms for a lifetime now, and ventures in without intimidation or apprehension. The group is featured again on "El Puente de los Abrazos/The Bridge of Hugs," and "Pa'Lante/Moving Forward," strategically placed in the album line up to add spice and heat.

This is not to say that the rest of the record is without strong Latin influences and characterization. As with previous recordings -"Recuerdos de Granada," (Zona Boricua 2009) and "Simple," (Zona Boricua 2012) -Hopkins portrays a rhythmic wandering within her repertoire's defined tempos, exhibiting flamenco, salsa, and tango variations melded with innovative dashes of improvisation.She is accompanied on most of the Aeropiano sessions by Luis Edgardo "Egui" Sierra on bass and Hector Matos on drums, a dynamic duo with total mastery of the task at hand.

"Alma Libre/Free Soul" and "Tinto de Verano/Summer Red" showcase a compositional capability of commencing a song with a ballad intonation, then layering the accompaniment to a crescendo finale.

There is a gentle interlude in the trio of songs "Angela," "Buscame en el Viento/Look for me in the Wind," and "Vincent." Dedicated to the passing of a beloved friend, and to her grieving husband, Hopkins undertakes the solemn task of commemorating life while acknowledging death. It is in these quiet, somber moods that her classical preparation and discipline comes to light, reflective of a mature artist illuminating sentiments few dare to reveal.

The record ends with Hopkins' nod to American ancestry in "Seven Mile Road." With an American father and Puerto Rican mother, she has straddled music of both cultures throughout her career, demonstrating comfort and confidence while remaining innovative and sincere. Recorded in three days, with an intense outpouring of material clocking in at just under eighty minutes, Aeropiano is the well-crafted consequence of an artist on a perpetual quest to express music on her own terms, in her own time.

Track Listing: Aeropiano; Boricua a Bordo/Boricua on Board; Cuesta de San Gregorio; El Puente de los Abrazos/The Bridge of Hugs; Alma Libre/ Free Soul; Corozaleando; Westland Ave.; Angela; Buscame en el Viento/Look for me in the Wind; Vincent; Pa’Lante/Moving Forward; Cosmopista; Tinto de Verano/Summer Red; Hop Times; Seven Mile Road.

Personnel: Brenda Hopkins Miranda: piano, percussion (11); Hector Matos: drums(2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 12, 14, 15); Luis Edgardo “Egui” Sierra: bass (2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 12, 14, 15); Enrique “El Peru” Chávez: percussion (1, 2, 3, 6); Osvaldo A. Ortiz Allende: cello (1, 5, 9, 10, 13, 14); Jorge Luis Morales: tabla (5, 10, 13); Maria de los Angeles Argote Molina: voice (8); Tambores Calientes: Harold Hopkins Miranda: bass (1, 4, 11); Gilberto Alomar: guitar (1, 4, 11); Marcos Peñaloza: percussion (1, 4, 11); José L. Elicier: percussion (1, 4, 11); Angel M. Dávila: percussion (1, 4, 11).

Title: Aeropiano | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Bhm Music

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