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Hilario Durán and David Virelles to Release New Album: ‘Front Street Duets’

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Duran Virelles - Front Street Duets

Front Street Duets, set for release on ALMA Records on November 4 (October 14 in Canada), is a compelling collaboration of two internationally acclaimed Cuban jazz pianists and composers, Hilario Durán and David Virelles. This collection of piano duets features the virtuosic playing of two musicians in peak form. Durán and Virelles have a musical and personal relationship dating back over two decades, but this is their most extensive project to date.

The Toronto-based Durán is a towering figure in Cuban music. Over a career now spanning over 45 years, he has won three Juno Awards and earned a Grammy nomination (for 2006’s From the Heart, by Hilario Durán and his Latin Big Band). His extensive discography includes work as a solo artist, and in duo, small group and big band settings, and he has also achieved distinction in the classical and chamber music worlds.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles: Front Street Duets
Hilario Durán and David Virelles: Front Street Duets

Now based in New York City after a stint in Toronto, Virelles records as a solo artist for such labels as ECM and Pi Recordings. He has collaborated extensively with such noted musicians as Andrew Cyrille, Bill Frisell, Henry Threadgill, Steve Coleman, and Ravi Coltrane, and last year he won the prestigious Herb Alpert Awards in the Arts.

When ALMA head and album producer Peter Cardinali presented the concept to Durán and Virelles a couple of years ago, both instantly agreed. “This album is very special because I had the privilege to work with David,” Durán explains. “He is the most important Cuban piano player of this new generation, and now he has so much success in the New York City scene, playing with great jazz stars and doing his own projects.”

Thirty years Hilario’s junior, Virelles had long admired Durán’s music. “Growing up in Santiago de Cuba, I knew of him, and then I was introduced to a lot of his records that weren’t available in Cuba through my Toronto friends Jane Bunnett and Roberto Occhipinti.

“As a bandleader, arranger, composer, and pianist, Hilario’s sophistication as a musician is unparalleled and that is something I’ve tried to emulate,” Virelles says. “He has always been a reference point for me and for so many young Cuban musicians. When he asked me to do this I was like, ‘this is perfect!’”

The album is a carefully curated collection of material that features new arrangements by both of traditional Cuban material, original compositions written by Hilario specifically for the project, and a fresh take on a much-loved standard, “Body and Soul.”

Durán says “most piano duets by jazz players come from improvisation, where they make it up in the moment. We have that here, but also a lot of complex arrangements we both contributed.” Both pianists are masterful improvisers, and Durán notes that “having the same background with and knowledge of Cuban music is a great foundation. It is like we have the same musical blood in our veins! It was almost mental telepathy, as we were very aware of each other in the cues and where we were going.” Virelles concurs, noting that “the music we grew up with from the country we share is part of our collective consciousness.”

The resulting album is both musically sophisticated and melodically attractive, and the compositions have a pleasing variety of tempos and tones. Arranged by Virelles, the breezy and bright “La Malanga” has a tropical vibe that can transports the listener to a Cuban beach, while “Santos Suarez’s Memories” is a reflective piece written by Hilario as an homage to the Havana ‘hood he lived in. Another Durán composition inspired by Havana is “Milonga For Cuba,” dedicated to those protesting in the city last summer.

The meditative “Danza Lucumi” features a Virelles arrangement of a tune from his Santiago de Cuba region, while “Guajira For Two Pianos” is a spirited piece featuring shifting rhythms.

“David’s Tumbao” is a thrillingly dynamic tune written by Durán for Virelles in the tumbao form with which Hilario is closely associated (his nickname, ‘Con Tumbao’ inspired the title of his acclaimed 2017 album). “I wrote it when we started the project, as the pandemic started,” Durán says. “David and I decided to put this together and record it online. We then put it online and people went crazy for it, and I think the finished version came out wonderfully.”

Front Street Duets came together over just two days at the renowned Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto last November, with the recording helmed by the experienced tandem of producer Peter Cardinali and Juno/Grammy winning engineer John ‘Beetle’ Bailey.

It is fitting that a studio/theatre space named for the iconic Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould was employed for the making of an album by two other piano virtuosi. Both Durán and Virelles have a fond earlier memory of the space, as in Oct. 2008, as part of a special celebration of Glenn Gould, each performed original compositions (some inspired by Gould), accompanied by the acclaimed Penderecki String Quartet.

One noted musician with a unique perspective on this exciting collaboration is Juno-winning, Grammy-nominated jazz composer/ instrumentalist/bandleader Jane Bunnett. She explains that “I have had the gift of being able to collaborate deeply with both of these masters for many years and many projects. To see these two visionaries and virtuosos go head-to-head on this marvelous recording gives me inspiration and a profound sense of joy.”

Musical joy does indeed await you with – Front Street Duets.

Content Source: DL Media Music

Founder, Editor, Webmaster: Latin Jazz Network, World Music Report, That Canadian Magazine. A passionate and committed communicator with a sensibility for the arts based in Toronto, Canada.

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New Releases

Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band to release new recording: “Vox Humana”

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Drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, Bobby Sanabria
Drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, Bobby Sanabria

Celebrating 25 years! The multi-Grammy nominated Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band is set to release their new recording: “Vox Humana” featuring vocalists Janis Siegel, Antoinette Montague, Jennifer Jade Ledesna.

Recorded Live at Dizzy’s Club Cola in NYC
Release Date: Spring 2023
Record Label: Jazzheads

New York – January 18th – On the heels of their Grammy nominated and 2019 Jazz Journalists Association Album of the Year Award winning critically acclaimed masterwork, West Side Story Reimagined, and in celebration of their 25th anniversary – drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, Bobby Sanabria and his Multiverse Big Band return with their most ambitious work to date, VOX HUMANA.

Bobby states, “Over the course of our many Grammy nominated albums we’ve occasionally featured tracks with vocals. But I’ve always envisioned doing an entire vocal album framed by the Multiverse Big Band. Now with three of today’s greatest contemporary singing talents – multi-Grammy award winner Janis Siegel from the Manhattan Transfer, blues and jazz Queen Antoinette Montague, and the multilingual powerhouse, Jennifer Jade Ledesna, today that vision has finally become a reality.

The individually distinct voices that Janis, Antoinette, and Jennifer possess make them each unique. But the X factor they all have is they are all masterful improvisors in the best sense of the jazz tradition. Added to the mix is our great conguero, Oreste Abrantes, who also sings lead on two tracks. Having that multi- dimensional vocal talent framed by the power, nuance, and tonal variety that only a big band can provide, combined with the repertoire I’ve chosen to showcase them and the band and the incredible variety of Afro- Latin, straight ahead swing, funk, R&B, and rock rhythmic vocabulary that we are masters of and readily have at our disposal in the Multiverse, I believe VOX HUMANA will prove to be our greatest achievement. 

Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band: "Vox Humana"
Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band: “Vox Humana”

That repertoire has a personal meaning to me as I see VOX HUMANA as a biographical work. I’m a product of my environment. I’m a Nuyorican, a person of Puerto Rican descent growing up in New York City. In my case the South Bronx during a time period when pop, jazz, R&B, rock, funk, and Latin music of all kinds all co-existed as equals. It was the last era when the big bands of masters like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Machito, Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, Don Ellis, and more were in the public eye, and they became my heroes. Vocalists who could deliver a message with subtlety, nuance, and when needed, power, were called upon to deliver poetry crafted by genius song writers. You’ll hear all that and more through the soaring vocals and improv talents of Janis, Antoinette, and Jennifer, along with Oreste, as well as the incredible jazz-oriented arrangements and exciting Pan Afro-Latin rhythms played by a big band that literally takes no prisoners when it hits the stage.”

The repertoire Bobby speaks of includes 1 original and 12 unique re-workings of pop hits like Spooky, Christine Aguilera’s Genie In a Bottle, and Steely Dan’s Do It Again; NEA Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri’s, Mi Congo and Puerto Rico along with the island’s greatest composer, Rafael Hernandez’s, Capullito De Aleli; the classic Joe Cuba R&B bolero, To Be With You; Brazilian standards Partido Alto and Amazonas; and from the world of Broadway theater, I Love You Porgy, and the iconic jump blues, Let The Good Times Roll. The CD also includes an original message bearing piece, Who Taught You That, as well as what may possibly be the most exciting interpretation of the Ellington associated classic, Caravan, and that has ever been recorded. 

Adding to the excitement of the performance, VOX HUMANA was recorded in front of a live audience. Bobby states, “As with our previous work, we recorded VOX HUMANA live at NYC’s Dizzy’s Club Coca – Cola. My musicians represent NYC’s finest. That means they’re the greatest in the world. The added level of excitement created by the audience inspired us in the MULTIVERSE Big Band to a heightened new level of performance virtuosity that listeners will hear explode out of the speakers just as the audience at Dizzy’s experienced in person.”

The history of the Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band is indeed one based on his rich multi-cultural heritage as a Nuyorican growing up in New York City’s South Bronx. His concept of having a big band that has no genre boundaries with limitless possibilities was forged 25 years ago back in 1998. It has yielded a series of groundbreaking, critically acclaimed albums that have all been Grammy-nominated with the band thrilling audiences worldwide at venues like the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, The Ravinia Festival, Verona Jazz Festival in Europe, and more.

Content Source: Two for the Show Media

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