The pianist Miguel de Armas is blessed with a magnificent tumbao and he uses it to great effect on What’s to Come. But if you thought that he is sticking within his comfort zone on this recording, then you would be dead wrong because clearly not afraid to step out, to invent – very organically, it must be said – outside the Afro-Caribbean idiom and yet stay true to his roots in a refreshing, forward-thinking manner. His use of electronic instruments – especially the synthesizer – is rather effective and while he may not be the first to add splashes of vivid colour and stretch the sonic palette of his music, he certainly makes every sound from the instrument work very well for him and his music, especially when the drama of musical narratives unfold as piano and keyboards collide to produce a refreshing wave of harmonics.
Miguel de Armas is a sincere and persuasive musician. His pianism is suffused with a panoply of colours and his touch is at the soft end of the spectrum, although it has a subtle and percussive touch and always conveys his music so luminously. The music doesn’t often raise its voice much and even when it does, the narratives are skillfully crafted to maintain a certain expressive decorum. An attractive feature of Miguel de Armas’ music is that he alters harmonies and structural elements with impressive control, heading in directions that surprise and captivate the ear. The danzón “La Dama y el Perro”, “Rumba on Kent St.” and “Tango Asunción” are fine examples of such restraint. The use of bátà on “Freddie’s Drink” adds much to the rollicking rhythm of the piece.
In those and all the other works on this album, Miguel de Armas performs with consummate artistry, blending superior control and tonal lucidity with a cohesive sense of line and motion. The pianist’s music could hardly be better served than by his brilliantly schooled quartet as well as by a constellation of stars who have joined in to celebrate this music: and these include Jane Bunnett on soprano saxophone, the fiercely brilliant bassist, Roberto Riverón, guitarists Elmer Ferrer and Galen Weston, superb accordionist Alexandre Laborde and the fiery trumpeter Alexis Baró. All of the musicians engage in a skillful and rigorous manipulation of the material in the most listenable light possible, while also making it more vibrant than ever.
Track list – 1: Yasmina; 2: A Song for My Little Son; 3: La Dama y el Perro; 4: His Bass and Him; 5: Pam Pim Pam Pum; 6: Illusion; 7: What’s to Come; 8: Rumba on Kent St. 9: Tango Asunción; 10: Freddie’s Drink
Personnel – Miguel de Armas: piano and keyboards; Michel Medrano: drums and percussion; Marc Decho: bass (solo – 2 – 4), (5, 7, 9); Arien Villegas: congas (5); Guests: Alexis Baró: trumpet and flugelhorn (1); Roberto Riverón: contrabass (1); Carlitos Medrano: congas and percussion (1, 3, 5, 8 10); Elmer Ferrer: electric guitar (2); Mathieu Sénéchal: bass (4, 8, 10); Galen Weston: electric guitar (4); Jane Bunnett: soprano saxophone (7)
Released – 2017
Label – Independent
Runtime – 47:22