Review written by: Danilo Navas
Pianists abound in the Island of Cuba. Excellent pianists indeed, but only a selected group meet the high standards of virtuosity. Hilario Luis Durán Torres, better known as Hilario Durán belongs to that group. His nickname “Con Tumbao” fits him perfectly well. His percussive attack is killer. Born in Havana, Cuba in 1953, Durán never dreamed he would become a Canadian citizen one day, even less that he would make Toronto his permanent residence. An almost fortuitous event was the first step that eventually would take him to Canada. That was back in 1991, when legendary drummer Guillermo Barreto introduced him to flautist and saxophonist Jane Bunnett, who was looking for a pianist who could participate in her project “Spirits of Havana.” She was recording at the Egrem Studios and she needed a pianist well-versed on both, Afro-Cuban rhythms and Jazz harmonies. The rest is history.
More than 10 years after relocating to Toronto with his family, el Maestro (as he’s respectfully called by his peers, students and friends) Hilario Durán, a Grammy nominated artist; multi Juno Awards and National Jazz Awards winner; recipient of the 2007 Chico O’Farrill Lifetime Achievement Award and one of the 10 most influential Hispanic Canadians in 2009, is at the top of his game as a performer, composer, arranger and educator. Durán has become an integral and important part of the Canadian music scene. He’s also a invaluable member of the jazz faculty at Humber College, where he acts as adjunct piano professor and ensemble director.
Durán leads several projects in various formats. One of his dreams was to form a big band that would allow him to put in practice his past experience composing and arranging for a large ensemble. That dream already became a reality in 2007, with the support of Roberto Occhipinti. Featuring Grammy Award winning jazz great Paquito D’Rivera, drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernández and a who’s who of Cuban and Canadian jazz artists, Durán recorded “From the Heart,” a Juno Awards winner CD in the Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year category. It is with this cherished project, his Latin Jazz Big Band, that Hilario celebrated his 35 years of musical career at the Royal Theatre in Toronto, on Saturday, September 25, 2010.
It was an electrifying night at the Royal, a beautiful theatre located on College Street, in the heart of Little Italy. A sold-out event sponsored by JazzFM, the venue’s atmosphere was filled with a cascade of notes, mesmerizing grooves, tantalizing rhythms and magnificent perfomances. Special Guest Jane Bunnett joined Durán as a duet partner and as a member of his big band. She recalled the terrific experience of all these past years working with one of the true Cuban Piano Masters. In return, Durán credited Bunnett -a Torontonian musical icon- for being instrumental in the achievement of his goals in Canada.
The 13-members-band performed a selection of tunes from Hilario Durán Trio’s latest CD “Motion,” and from his Big Band CD “From the Heart.” Jane Bunnett also contributed a couple of her own compositions. The program was completed with songs from the Cuban and Latin-American songbooks. One of the highlights of the night was the participation of another great Cuban-Canadian, the charismatic Luis Mario Ochoa, who sang very passionate, beautiful arrangements of Ernesto Lecuona’s “Siboney” and Chabuca Grande’s “La Flor de la Canela.”
Hilario Duran and his Latin jazz Band with Special Guest Jane Bunnett Program
Host Presentation: Introduction and presentation of the first set by Laura Fernandez of JazzFM.
Opening: Composed by Hilario Durán.
Mambo Influenciado: Chucho Valdés’ composition arranged by Hilario Durán.
Ochosi: Public domain. Prayer to Ochosi, one of the deities of the Yoruba pantheon.
Siboney: Famous Cuban song composed by the great pianist Ernesto Lecuona, arranged by Hilario Durán featuring vocalist Luis Mario Ochoa.
Habanera: Yailen Durán’s composition, dedicated to the close relationship between Spain and Havana, Cuba.
Almendra: Composed by Abelardo Valdés. Almendra is a famous Cuban Danzón arranged by Hilario Durán.
Tango Moruno: From the new JUNO nominated CD “Motion.” Composed by Hilario Durán and performed by his Trio.
Danza Negra: Composed by the great Cuban pianist Ernesto Lecuona, arranged by Hilario Durán; from the new CD “Motion” and performed by Hilario Durán Trio.
Tarde en la Habana: José María Vitier’s composition. Performed by Hilario Durán and special guest Jane Bunnett (duet).
I Hear Voices: Composed by Jane Bunnett and arranged by Hilario Durán.
Francisco’s Dreams: Special guest Jane Bunnett’s composition arranged by Hilario Durán. This song is dedicated to the late Pancho Quinto, famous Cuban percussionist which performed with Jane and Hilario for a very long time.
Drume Negrita: Beautiful Cuban lullaby featuring vocalist Yailen Durán.
La Flor de la Canela: “The Cinnamon Flower”, amazing Latin American song composed by Chabuca Granda, arranged by Hilario Durán and performed by vocalist Luis Mario Ochoa.
Manteca: Performed by the orchestra, arranged by Hilario Durán, featuring Mark Kelso on drums, Joaquin Hidalgo on congas and Hilario Durán on piano.
Yo Toco de Tó: Featuring Yailen Durán and Luis Mario Ochoa.
Hilario Duran and his Latin jazz Band with Special Guest Jane Bunnett Members
Hilario Durán: Pianist, Arrangements and Musical Director
Jane Bunnett – Special Guest: Soprano Sax and Flute
Roberto Occhipinti: Bass
Yailen Durán: Vocalist
Luis Mario Ochoa: Vocalist
Pol Coussee: Tenor & Baritone Sax
Jorge Maza: Alto Sax
Vern Dorge: Tenor Sax
Alexander Brown: Trumpet
Dave Dunlop: Trumpet
Christopher Butcher: Trombone
Joaquin Hidalgo: Percussion
Mark Kelso: Drums
Photographs of this special concert can be viewed as a Slideshow.