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Concert Reviews

Arturo Stable Presents Cuban Crosshatching

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Arturo Stable

Part 2 of a 2 Part Performance Review
Arturo Stable Presents Cuban Crosshatching
Live at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia (Symphony Space)

When Arturo Stable set out to compose the material for Cuban Crosshatching he asked himself the following question: What were the influences that motivated me to become a musician and what do they have in common?

Growing up in Cuba Arturo was exposed to the sounds of Bach, Mozart, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, Yoruba chants and rituals, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and César Portillo de la Luz among others, influences that share easy-to-sing melodies, compelling grooves, colorful harmonies and a continuous sense of flow. Add to this a contemporary edge, leave ample room for creative expression and recruit musicians whose artistry breathes life into the material – guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Edward Perez, saxophonist Seamus Blake and invited guest, vocalist Magos Herrera – and voila! Cuban Crosshatching.

Picking up where I left off in Part 1, the second-half of the show took flight with Havana Nights, a breezy, upbeat meditation on the sights and sounds of Havana (featuring Seamus Blake), followed by La Jungla (The Jungle) a tune inspired by the artistry of Cuban painter Wilfredo Lam. Arturo composed the romantic bolero (ballad) Thinking of You for his wife, Luz and Magos Herrera’s sultry and soulful voice conveyed the sentiment perfectly. Let it Be Spring reflects Edward Perez’s admiration for the rhythms of Afro-Peru (where he lived for some time) Here, Arturo played the Peruvian cajón (a boxed shaped drum) and performed a popular Peruvian rhythm called Landó. The set closed with the tune Reverence.

The performance was interesting for a number of reasons. Prior to the presentation I was not aware of guitarist Gilad Hekselman who did a superb job of filling in for Lionel Loueke. His mastery on the guitar and complex, magical solos took the audience on a journey. Magos Herrera’s sultry voice and affinity for jazz was perfectly suited to the material. Finally, it was intriguing to watch Arturo assume the role of a jazz drummer. According to Arturo, he had to think like a jazz drummer and concentrate on “comping” (accompanying) with minimal soloing in order to accommodate the band’s interpretation of his music. Arturo’s drum set, a unique percussion setup that gives Arturo the ability to explore “a diverse palette of timbers without recording any overdubs” is also worthy of mention.

At the after-party the members of the quintet as well as pianists Matt Yaple and Elio Villafranca took a moment to relax and enjoy each other’s company and debrief. I asked Arturo about his overall impression of the performance, here’s what he had to say: “I think overall it was a great success because we accomplished what we set out to do, although I did struggle a bit. Dos Y Más and Cuban Crosshatching require very different approaches, so I had to switch gears radically from playing with Elio (Villafranca) and playing with the quintet.”

As for Cuban Crosshatching, I am happy to report that the recording is receiving national and international airplay and is climbing the charts and receiving excellent reviews. Future plans include gigs in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and a follow up to Dos Y Más is in the works. Arturo currently appears as a sideman on Terri Lyne Carrington’s recording: Money Jungle, Provocative in Blue (Concord Jazz, 2013).

Part 1: Arturo Stable Presents Dos y Más

A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject.

Concert Reviews

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

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On Thursday, October 13, 2022, representing two generations of Cuban Piano Masters, Hilario Durán and David Virelles got together at Koerner Hall, one of the most magnificent concert venues in Toronto. They were celebrating the release (in Canada) of their new recording Front Street Duets (Alma Records), a project they started working on at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto
Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

Both artists were extremely happy of releasing their duet album after these past two years of the unimaginable worldwide health crisis. They were also excited to be in Toronto, and for being able to accommodate their busy schedules to perform their music in front of a very enthusiastic audience. Durán and Virelles expressed their utmost respect and admiration for each other. David from an early age considered Hilario as one of his musical heroes, a musical giant and influential figure in Cuba, in Canada and abroad. Hilario considers David as one of the most important Cuban pianist of his generation, a big star shining globally, from the highly competitive musical scene in New York.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

The concert got started started with Epistrophy, the first tune copyrighted by Thelonious Monk, followed by Sophisticated Lady / In A Sentimental Mood, two compositions by Duke Ellington. Next, Durán and Virelles performed four tunes from their new album: 1. Danza Lucumí, (beautifully arranged by Virelles), a song written by Alejandro García Caturla, a Cuban composer who together with Amadeo Roldán, are considered the leaders of Afro-cubanismo, a nationalist musical trend that incorporates Afro-Cuban songs, rhythms, and dances. 2. Challenge, a new composition by Durán. 3. La Malanga (also arranged by Virelles), a composition by Calixto Varona, one of the most important composers from Santiago de Cuba from the XIX century. 4. Guajira For Two Pianos, the first track on the album Front Street Duet, a fiery composition written by Durán.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

The first set came to an end with Airegin (an anadrome of Nigeria), a jazz standard composed by American saxophonist Sonny Rollins in 1954.

The second part of the concert started with a solo performance by David Virelles, Canción Estudio, composed by José Antonio “Ñico” Rojas, a prominent Cuban composer and guitarist, considered as one of the founders of the style of Cuban song called filin. Then it was Durán’s turn for an inspired solo performance of Autumn Nocturne (a notable composition written by Russian-born Josef Myrow with Kim Gannon). Durán had previously recorded this tune on his 1999 Justin Time Records release Habana Nocturna, a superb album that feature acclaimed saxophonist, flautist and bandleader Jane Bunnett, and drummer extraordinaire Horacio “El Negro” Hernández.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

Next, both pianists performed a set of four pieces written by Hilario Durán for the recording Front Street Duets. 1. David’s Tumbao, a composition dedicated to David Virelles. Durán is well known for his fiery tumbao style when he’s playing. 2. Punto Cubano #1, inspired on the genre of Cuban music known as punto guajiro or punto cubano, a poetic art with music that became popular in the western and central regions of Cuba in the 17th century and consolidated as a genre in the 18th century. 3. Santos Suárez’s Memories pays tribute to the Havana neighbourhood where Durán grew up, where he fell in love with the piano and became a musician. It brings back cherished memories involving his upbringing, his family and close friends. 4. Milonga For Cuba, a very special tribute dedicated to the people who protested in Havana last summer 2021.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles at Koerner Hall in Toronto

For the encore, Durán and Virelles interpreted a wonderful rendition of Body And Soul, a popular song and jazz standard written in 1930 with music by Johnny Green and lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton. Body and Soul is the track that closes the album Front Street Duets, and also brought to an end a tremendous musical night at Koerner Hall in Toronto.

Photographs by Danilo Navas

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