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Harold López-Nussa: Un Día Cualquiera

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Harold López-Nussa - Un Día Cualquiera

Harold López-Nussa is a dynasty not only in Cuba, and ever since Ninety Miles (Concord, 2011), a recording that was facilitated by vibraphonist Stefon Harris, trumpeter Christian Scott and tenor saxophonist David Sánchez, it is also a household name wherever aficionados come together to listen to great music. Many who listened to that music and watched its viral video on YouTube were struck by the pianist and his drummer brother that gave the music its signature sound just as a certain, celebrated Habana (Verve, 1998) album by Roy Hargrove’s Crisol suddenly reawakened the Jazz world up to Cuban musicians such as Chucho Valdés and Miguel “Angá” Díaz among others and, of course the recordings of Jane Bunnett had done likewise for many more Cuban musicians, such as Gonzalo Rubalcaba.

Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Harold López-Nussa: Un Día Cualquiera

But there was – and continues to be – something magnetic about that Ninety Miles album; an urgency to dig deeper, into the music and musicians who played on it and if you did then you would not be alone if you were not mesmerised by the musicianship of the young pianist Harold López-Nussa and his brother Rui Adrián López-Nussa. His father Ruy Francisco López-Nussa, and his uncle Ernán Lopez-Nussa are musicians. His late mother, Mayra Torres, was a renowned piano teacher in her lifetime. But it is the younger siblings Harold López-Nussa and Rui Adrián López-Nussa who have made the family a household name outside Cuba, starting in France, where they have lived and recorded for a time.

It is impossible not to be riveted by the music of Harold López-Nussa and drum-playing brother Rui Adrián López-Nussa. The pianist, by his own admission, has suggested that the drummer is something of the other half of his heartbeat and, indeed, their music – this music of Un Día Cualquiera – confirms, as does the music of the several other recordings before it. Few other pianist-drummer duos have displayed such an ability to match melody to rhythm and music to poetry as if one was created expressly to glorify the other. As the music here has been distilled into a trio performance the hypnotic relationship between the two musicians appears even more heightened and reaches even more astonishing depths with Harold López-Nussa often leaning on the sustained pedal of the concert grand he plays often for longer moments in time during his melodic explorations. Then there is the characteristic manner in which his thundering left-hand chords draws in Rui Adrián López-Nussa; and the drummer responds with bright splashes on the cymbals and rumbling ton-ton tom and timpani.

The album is, almost tauntingly, entitled Un Día Cualquiera but the music is hardly the work of a trio playing on “any given day”. Here are three musicians –a trio that also includes another young virtuoso contrabassist, Gaston Joya – who complete each other’s statements and musical sentences. From the explosive effervescence of “Cimarrón” to the graceful danzón pirouetting movements of “Una Tarde Cualquiera En París”, and the equally balletic swirling of “Ma petite dans la Boulangerie” and “Y la Negra Bailaba” each of the pieces is a ripe creation stuffed with long melodies of effortless lyricism; perfectly balanced compositions from end to end. And every player is accorded an equal bit of these exquisite confections. Each unfolds like an immensely attractive journey of musical discovery, with rippling pianism, and riotously coloured harmony and rhythmic palettes – executed with delicate and dazzling flourish depending on the melodic requirement. Un Día Cualquiera unfolds in a winning account full of wit and sparkle as Harold López-Nussa, Gaston Joya and Rui Adrián López-Nussa once again sparkle with an amazing rapport between each other which yields predictably brilliant results.

Track list – 1: Cimarrón; 2: Danza de los Ñáñigos; 3: Una Tarde Cualquiera En París (to Bebo Valdés); 4: Preludio (to José Juan); 5: Eleguá; 6: Hialeah; 7: Ma petite dans la Boulangerie; 8: Y la Negra Bailaba; 9: Conga Total/El Cumbanchero; 10: Contigo en la Distancia; 11: Mi Son Cerra’o

Personnel – Harold López-Nussa: piano; Gaston Joya: bass; Rui Adrián López-Nussa: drums and percussion

Released – 2018
Label – Mack Avenue Records
Runtime – 48:23

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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Featured Albums

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

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Roberto Jr. Vizcaino, Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaino Guillot - Photo Nayeli Mejia
Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot - Photo: Nayeli Mejia.

Listening to the music of Siempre Más Allá, it certainly seems that the young French pianist, Adrien Brandeis has strengthened the belief that he is a proverbial citizen of the Afro-Caribbean universe. To be clear Mr Brandeis still loves all music and swings as hard as any pianist who loves Black American Music – that is, music that you can sing and dance to. But also continues to be beguiled by the rolling thunder of Afro-Caribbean music. The wild call of the rhythms and the joie de vivre of the questing melodies and harmonies not only appeal to his ear, but also speak to him in the hidden parts of his heart.

By his own admission Siempre Más Allá took root during three tours to Mexico undertaken under the aegis of the Fédération des Alliances Françaises du Mexique. The virtually all-Afro-Cuban repertoire of the album radiates charm at every turn. These disarmingly natural and eloquent performances bring out the music’s inherent drama and penchant for tumbao with a deft touch while indulging Brandeis’ lyrical instincts to the full. Meticulously balanced, the four quartet pieces, the trio and duo pieces feel as if they are chamber works. Brandeis’ astonishingly insightful playing is musically captivating and technically blemishless. Each phrase rings so completely true that one can’t imagine the music played any other way.

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

The album features Mr Brandeis and a group of very accomplished musicians. These include the celebrated Cuban percussionist Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot [on two tracks] and his son Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., Mexican drummer José Loria Triay make up the wall of percussion. The Brasilian bassist Giliard Lopes brings his distinctive veritas to the whole rhythm section. The big surprise here is, perhaps, the presence of the great Cuban Horacio “El Negro” Hernández sitting in the drum chair on La buena vibra.

Siempre Más Allá is an affirmation of Brandeis’ enduring love and natural affinity for Latin music. Not surprisingly the music seems to echo the famous Latin American phrase: “¡Que rico bailo yo!” [which, in English, exclaims: “How well I dance!”]. This is no hyperbole as the music – in its pulses and rhythms show as Brandeis traverses the rhythmic topography of the Caribbean and Latin America. Along the way Brandeis plunged into the world of changüí, the chacarera, Brasilian gaucho music and the ancient melodic thunder of bàtá drums.

From the get-go listeners will find themselves immersed in quite another world of rippling percussive grooves. The track Ek Bakam, for instance, conjures the intricate architecture; the line and flow of an epic Mayan civilisation located in the Yucatan. Narratives from the Latin world abound – often paying homage to famous traditional musicians. Pancho’s Power is one such chart inspired by the vivid world of the legendary trio Los Panchos. Brandeis gives his percussion section a lot of space when he puts the spotlight on them on Tierra de Oportunidades – a wistful memory of the pianist’s three tours to Mexico, which is also incidentally the popular provincial slogan of the Mexican state of Guanajuato. On Huachi-Huachi Brandeis digs deep into the epicurean delights of the only Latin country in North America with this song in praise of a kind of gourmet Mexican fish: the huachinango.

Brandeis then celebrates his association with percussion colourist Roberto Vizcaíno Jr. with the extraordinary music of Vizcaíno Blues, a piece unique with its exploratory chromaticisms and elegant sonorities that beautifully capture the eloquence of the percussionist in whose praise the music is written. Mindful of the fact that Vizcaíno is Cuban but makes his home in Mexico, Brandeis shapes the rhythmic and harmonic palette of the piece accordingly. On La Buena Vibra Brandeis delivers astonishing pianistic fireworks in the piece’s melodic and harmonic lines, played at a frenetic pace, to mirror the style of its dedicatee, Michel Camilo. The pianist demonstrates an authentic home-grown grasp of Cuban music as he reimages Voy a Apagar la Luz, by the legendary and late-singer Armando Manzanero, here adapted as a wistful solo piano work. Meanwhile on the dizzying ride of Humpty Dumpty the pianist pays homage to another idol: Chick Corea, by revisiting the sparkling composition of the recently-deceased piano maestro.

It is hard not to be mesmerised by this spirited and finely nuanced music artfully crafted in an album by Adrien Brandeis, a pianist who is about to take the world by storm with a recording that is going to be one of the finest by any musician located outside the Latin American sub-continent.

Deo gratis…

Tracks – 1: Huachi Huachi; 2: Alegría; 3: Pancho’s Power; 4: Ek balam; 5: Un peu d’espoir; 6: Vizcaíno’s Blues; 7: Tierra de oportunidades; 8: Humpty Dumpty; 9: La buena vibra; 10: Voy a apagar la luz

Musicians – Adrien Brandeis: piano; Giliard Lopes: contrabass; José Loria Triay: drums; Roberto Vizcaíno Jr: congas and bàtá drums. Featuring Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot: percussion [1, 6]; Horacio “El Negro” Hernández: drums [9]

Released – 2022
Label – Mantodea Music Productions
Runtime – 58:25

YouTube Video – Adrien Brandeis – Siempre más allá (EPK)

YouTube Audio – Adrien Brandeis – Vizcaíno’s Blues

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