Essential Albums Revisited
Pedro “Peruchín” Jústiz is one of the most iconic and seminal figures in Afro-Cuban music, a pianist who was an important influence on Charlie Palmieri, George Shearing, Eddie Palmieri, Papo Lucca and Alfredo “Sabor” Linares. One of Cuba’s greatest musicians, Bebo Valdés was considered a disciple of Peruchín’s together with Lilí Martínez, Noro Morales and Jesús López. However, more than anything else, Peruchín practically singlehandedly invented the modern Cuban piano idiom, re-creating a new style for Latin-Jazz for the piano at a time when musicians had no name for the music they were playing. He recorded very little yet performed in Cuba, Panamá and elsewhere.
Peruchín’s style was characterized by the frequent use of block chords, as heard in “Peruchineando“. His frantic way of concatenating guajeos gave rise to a neologism: peruchinear. This unique style is explicit in one of his “lost” albums, Piano Con Moña. As the name (Piano with Bow) suggests, Peruchín once more evokes, in his magisterial performances here, an age of outsize virtuosity of a tradition that took its inspiration from the classicists of Cuba. The music unfolds in ravishing legato lines that came to typify the luscious, gliding style of the pianist. Peruchín is fleet of touch and plays with dramatically effective dynamic shifts, not to mention assiduous transitions and witty accentuation. And who can resist but fall prey to a recording that is equally commanding from a tonal standpoint?
The pianist’s control of sonority and articulation in American standards evokes a kind of dry-ice perfection associated with some of the greatest pianists in any era. His playing of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, “Laura” and “Tenderly” is joyfully animated and full of characterful life. There’s also more timbral and textural variety in the Cuban repertoire recorded here. A small, yet veritable galaxy of stars accompanies Peruchín on this disc. He is, of course, the brightest one in the firmament.
This record, like all of Peruchín’s work is almost impossible to acquire now. However, with Cuba now opening up to the west, who knows what treasures may be uncovered. Piano Con Moña was re-released under a different title: Peruchín and Orlando Cachaíto López – First release of original Cuban performances with a completely different cover in 2007. The imprint is Argentinean and has been distributed by Warner Argentina. But regrettably, that too, seems to have gone out of print again.
Track List – La Mulata Rumbera; Rhapsody In Blue; Minuet; All The Things You Are; Dime Lo Que Te Pasa; Laura; Tres Lindas Cubanas; Todo Y Nada; Tenderly; Guajira Melodica; Out Of Nowhere; Pa’ Gozar.
Personnel – Pedro “Peruchín” Jústiz: piano; Orlando Cachaíto López: bass; Guillermo Barreto: drums; Gustavo Tamayo: güiro; Yeyito Iglesias: bongo; Tata Güines: tumbadora.
Released – 1958
Label – Gema Records
Run time – 34:58