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Brenda Hopkins Miranda: Recuerdos de Granada / Memoirs of Granada

James Nadal By

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Pianist Brenda Hopkins Miranda did not go to Spain to record an album. She went to study ethnomusicology in the city of Granada, and in the ensuing two years was drawn into the tablao or flamenco dance culture of the city. From listening to the opening flairs of Recuerdos de Granada/Memoirs of Granada it would be a logical assumption that the music chose her. The results of that encounter are heard in this recording.

The music on the record is exceptionally visual and its concept is intrinsically associated with the expression of dance. Hopkins, in her role of pianist, was invited to join a local dance troupe in Granada. Here she learned and absorbed the fluid rules of the flamenco structure with its compas, or tendency to vary the timing according to the passage of the song/dance. Yet the record is bursting with jazz, danza, and tango runs as well as her Afro-Cuban influences which weave throughout. The songs performed on the record were all composed and produced by Hopkins, who knew exactly what she wanted to convey and set out to accomplish her intentions.

Hopkins is accompanied by such rhythmically sensitive musicians as bassists Samuel Morales and Aldemar Valentin, with drummers Hector Matos, Efrain Martinez, and percussionist Enrique "El Peru" Chavez. She offers the music with the right amount of authenticity and innovation to define the city of Granada which she wants us to experience.

From the opening song of "Miranda," and on through such tablao-influenced numbers as "Plaza Nueva," "El Regreso/The Return," "Vimaambi" and "Flamenco Borincano" (a tribute to Puerto Rico) the music is showcased in its full Spanish regalia, down to her imitating the rasgueado or strumming of the guitar. She has a distinctive percussive approach in her repertoire which allows her to execute these pieces with authority. Her years of performing experience on the Latin American music scene honed her skills in dealing with intricate rhythms and complex arrangements, and she employs them all with great tact and precision.

The music is not one-dimensional, though the idea is obviously a nod to her Spanish episode. There are jazz-flavored numbers which are tastefully performed with plenty of time for the players to stretch and allow the music to determine its own course. "Mi Sacromonte," with muted trumpet by Carlos Sanchez, is a fine example. The band also kicks into a higher gear with the frenetic carnival tempo of "Confeti."

Hopkins, being a brilliant pianist, displays her technical virtuosity in a variety of settings and tempos as with the songs "Alas de Ilusion,/Wings of Illusion" "Chawarma," "Huerto de Juan Rama," and "El Darro." She expresses her emotions of departing Spain in "Ausencia/Absence," a nostalgic lamentation which closes the chapter on her Recuerdos of Granada/Memoirs of Granada.

This record maintained its center of focus throughout and certainly portrays Hopkins' musical sojourn in Granada. The songs are all interconnected by the concept she established, and the music dances on its own.

Track Listing: Miranda; El Regreso/The Return; Plaza Nueva; Mi Sacromonte; Flamenco Borincano; Vimaambi; Alas de Ilusion/Wings of Illusion; Chawarma; Huerto de Juan Rama; El Darro; Confeti; Ausencia/Absence.

Personnel: Brenda Hopkins Miranda: piano; Samuel Morales: bass(3, 4, 11); Aldemar Valentin: bass (1, 2, 5, 8, 10); Hector Matos: drums(3, 4, 11); Efrain Martinez: drums(1, 2, 5, 8, 10); Enrique "El Peru" Chavez: percussion (1-3,5, 6, 8-11); Carlos Sanchez: trumpet(3, 4, 11); Jeanne d'Arc S. Casas Panouze: dancing steps(6).

Title: Recuerdos de Granada / Memoirs of Granada | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Zona Boricua Records

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