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Patricia Brennan: Maquishti (Valley of Search)

Review of debut solo album by the Mexican-born, Brooklyn-based vibraphonist

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Cover of Patricia Brennan album Maquishti
Cover of Patricia Brennan album Maquishti

Patricia Brennan wields serious mallet power. Over the last few years, the vibraphonist, marimbist, composer, and improviser has brought a sui generis voice to some outstanding jazz records. As sidewoman, she was part of Anna Webber and Angela Morris’ Big Band on 2020’s Both Are True; she’s also appeared on Matt Mitchell’s Phalanx Ambassadors, Tomas Fujiwara’s 7 Poets Trio, and All Can Work by John Hollenbeck’s Large Ensemble. That’s an impressive CV for this young Mexico-born, Brooklyn-based musician.

With an ever-so-delicate touch, Brennan is now carving out her own niche with her ethereal solo debut. Maquishti is testament to her unconventional sensibilities on the vibraphone, and the album title, meaning “to liberate” in the Nahuatl language, affirms her commitment to going against the grain.

Brennan does just that here. Connecting the dots to the legendary Lionel Hampton and present-day vibraphone luminaries like Matt Moran and Chris Dingman isn’t applicable; Brennan operates on a whole other sound-deconstructing level. Slight hints of jazz rise to the surface on the set’s 12 composed and improvised pieces, but her hypnotic, woozy landscapes—crafted using mallet percussion and electronics—delves into ambient-music terrain, with a cosmic range of tone and texture that soothes body and mind.

The architecture that frames pieces like “Blame It,” “Solar,” and “Magic Square” showcases Brennan’s laser focus on emphasizing each mind-bending ding and effects-pedal swoosh. The effect is addictive, especially when Brennan jacks up the volume on the drony “Away from Us.” With the deliberately paced, spacious Maquishti, Patricia Brennan is reinventing the art of vibraphone composition and technique.