Sometimes in music you enter through a door and discover that the room you are now in has no walls, no ceiling and no floor. Indeed, that door through which the music coming from within beckoned opened out onto a vast realm of sound with exquisitely blurred boundaries that encompassed echoes of Spain with its ocean of sound rippling in from Africa across the Mediterranean and stretching far off into the distance, its waves lapping up upon the shores of the Caribbean. There may be many times when this has happened, but none so poignant as when Bebo Valdés illuminated a haunting session Lágrimas Negras (Calle 54, 2003) produced by Spanish composer, producer and guitarist Javier Limón and book editor, screenwriter, film director and producer Fernando Trueba.
Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Javier Colina & Pepe Rivero: El Pañuelo de Pepa
Fortuitously the utter magic of that haunting session has been captured once again by the political scientist, activist, writer and now, record producer, José E. Cruz in this exquisite recording puckishly entitled El Pañuelo de Pepa featuring the great Spanish contrabassist Javier Colina and pianist Pepe Rivero. It is a set comprising, easily, the most alluring and sensuous music since that seminal recording by the legendary Bebo Valdés. The disc mines the rich tradition of Afro-Cuban music and features classic repertoire (son, danzón and boleros) from some of the greatest writers of the golden age of an era and performed with lapidary perfection by two of the finest virtuosos on their respective instruments.
Javier Colina knows Afro-Cuban repertoire like few other musicians anywhere in the world today and he has graced so many fine recordings – including that great Calle 54 session which featured Bebo Valdés – that the great Spaniard must now be considered an honorary Cuban. Indeed when he begins to play his exquisite bass violin he takes you unexpectedly to another world. It is full of glinting lights, mysterious depths, expectations, frustrations, hopes, doubts and simple joys. In sheer colour and tone, in the depth of its characterisation and the exceptional range and refinement of his playing he imparts an eloquence and power to this music which no amount of ‘bigness’ (the usual route taken by some bassists) can hope to achieve.
Pepe Rivero is a revelation here as well. Filling in the big shoes of some of the greatest pianists to grace the instrument in this kind of repertoire – including Bebo and his son Chucho Valdés – he brings an unmatched stylishness to this music. His is a pianism characterised by Chopinesque urbanity and lyricism. His own compositions do the tradition of this music quite proud, are as richly seductive as they are persuasive and his performances of them are an object lesson in style. “Me Matas”, for instance, is played here with buoyant and aristocratic grace.
Together these two musicians bring debonair and almost insolent virtuosity to such classics as “Invitación / Los Tres Golpes”, “Tres Palabras” and “Night and Day”. Nor do the treats end with those pieces alone, but throughout, the disc is filled with absolute gems, polished and played with ravishing beauty as only two masters of their craft can be expected to deliver with such utter perfection.
Track list – 1: Las Alturas de Simpson; 2: Invitación / Los Tres Golpes; 3: Me Matas; 4: Los Muñecos; 5: Tres Palabras; 6: El Pañuelo de Pepa; 7: Ayes del Alma; 8: La Quejosita; 9: Night and Day; 10: Tu Sonrisa; 11: Pa’ Bebo; 12: Me Matas (Piano Solo)
Personnel – Javier Colina: contrabass; Pepe Rivero: piano
Released – 2019
Label – Cezanne Producciones (056)
Runtime – 1:04:27