Iván “Melón” Lewis leapt to attention in a single bound backing up the wonderful singer, Buika, and ever since then he has been unfolding as if to remind us that there is a new generation of Afro-Cuban pianists inhabiting the planet expressly to spread an eclectic musical gospel that seems to draw equally from Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig von Beethoven as it does from Claude Debussy, Bola de Nieve and Peruchin as it does Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. This new collection of music played on Ayer y Hoy shows that his sense of cultural and pop-cultural iconography is in no way diminished.
The repertoire consists of nine relatively short pieces – only two are over six minutes – inspired by his musical love letter from the past, so in a sense there is one long movement of incongruously spectacular, reflective beauty followed by another and then another. His music is unpredictably angular, with an emotional edge that is full of ardent nuances and surprising, heated phrases that turn the music into white hot creative pieces. Throughout you are made aware of Iván “Melón” Lewis’ bristling ingenuity that is expressed in virtuoso form through beautiful glissandos and towering arpeggios punctuated by percussive stabs at a keyboard that is drawn into unexpected realms of enchantment.
At no point in this viscerally exciting performance does Iván “Melón” Lewis resort to ‘oversharing’ with the audience to make a point. Although he is revered for his musical intensity, it isn’t as obvious here as it may be in his recordings with Buika and others, and quite rightly. One of the qualities best served by his respectful withdrawal from the soul-baring front line of the music is that its dance identity is so joyfully evident – the phrases relay into each other like a figure skater moving from pose to pose, the end of each never experiences a heavy footfall. The pianist is so fleet of foot even in the slowest movements that it is not long before it becomes clear that this performance is a masterclass of restraint and musical altruism.
There is a no less superb sense of alternating heartache and heart-ease in Iván “Melón” Lewis’ incense-laden arrangements of these fabulous pieces. All this and more is enough to make you fall in love all over again with the piano and music that is recognisable indeed for its indelible idiom and metaphor.
Track List: Montuniana; Ocho para todos; Ayer y hoy; (Feat. Paquito D’Rivera); Camino (To Angel Charles); Latido del Alma (Feat. Concha Buika); Mizizi; Gala & Nena; Vereda Tropical; Aún me falta.
Personnel: Iván “Melón” Lewis: piano, percussion and vocals; Ariel Bringuez: tenor and soprano saxophones; Reinier ‘El Negrón’ Elizarde: bass (2, 4, 6 & 7); Alain Perez: bass (1, 3, 5 & 8); Dafnis Prieto: drums (4, 5, 6 & 7); Michael Olivera: drums (1, 2 & 8); Yuri Nogueira: congas, timbal and güiro (1, 3 & 8); Pedro Pablo Rodriguez: batá and chekere (2); Yuvisney Aguilar: batá and percussion (5); Carlos Sarduy: trumpet (8); Roy Toledano: vocals (3); Kumar Subevao-Beat: vocals (5), Buika: vocals (5); Paquito D’Rivera: reeds (3).
About Iván “Melón” Lewis
It all began at the age of 8 when I had to choose an instrument to commence my musical education. It was either the violin or the piano. I chose the piano. Mastering an instrument takes a very long time, so the ensuing years were hard but crucial and little by little, I improved. I was captivated by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Debussy as much as, Bill Evans, Bola de Nieve, Keith Jarrett and Ernesto Lecuona. Eventually, I got my first break to play the piano in a local Havana band. I was 15 and scared to death, but I seized the opportunity and got a lot out of it. My first impacting lesson was that there are things in life, which cannot be taught in a classroom. Read more…