A violinist who tends towards relative introversion and a pianist who tends the other way. Put them together and something magical happens within the tensions they engender. Of course there are other musicians as well, and they drive the rhythmic brilliance of this album, but it is ultimately a young violinist Dayren Santamaria and a wizened pianist Oscar Hernández who share the experience. Ultimately Belleza is Dayren Santamaria’s record, however and it is who it must be said, plays with audacity and spirituality. Her softly singing, sweet and tender playing invokes the beauty of her instrument often in hushed and also in exuberant tones. Her dynamics make for exquisite essences and aura.
What follows is untrammelled delight from song to song on this rather short, but very effective album nevertheless. Tempo changes are graphic, every sforzando or accent stabbing texture unfurls with a vehemence implicit in her loping lines. The word “beauty” is somewhat of a misnomer here. The muted serenity followed by ebullience declares the qualities of an ingenious, chameleonic musician who thrives on performance albeit in a quiet corner, unlike Sayaka, that Itinerant Afro-Cubana-Japanese sensation. An obsessive perfectionist, Dayren Santamaria makes music in which songs are polished into gleaming gems. She plays idiomatically and is never flashy, unlike her more flamboyant contemporaries.
Ms. Santamaria’s playing is informed by character where power and thrust are unassailable, reinforced oftentimes by lacerated bowing. However, mostly the young musician plays with soaring glissando, vaunted arpeggios and a brilliance marked by double-stops that pop out when you least expect them; a hallmark of a player who loves the sound of surprise. Many phrases, especially in the boleros are languid and elementally melancholic making for arch and expansive playing and a trenchant edge, probably arising from the timbres of her magnificent instrument. She also leads her wonderful ensemble expansively with melodies that leave you breathless as they often turn from tenderness to turbulence – again a sign of great virtuosity.
Her music is profoundly felt and candidly declared, through dynamics spanned across the grades end to end, tempi stretched and snapped back into a pulse that never sags or loses grip. Pick a movement in a song if you fancy trying before buying. But be warned you will surely be attracted, not repelled, by anything you chance upon. Dayren Santamaria and her violin will always have the last word. Thus it is that kaleidoscopic distinctions are never underestimated. Neither is attention to detail. Repeats are observed, some decorated. Reactions to emotional currents governing the expansion and contraction of phrases are unflinchingly dramatic.
Lest we forget, Oscar Hernández is responsible for a great deal in the music of this disc. His input is surely more than just what he plays on the piano. His involvement also includes whispered exchanges with the other musicians in the band. His skills are generously proffered – and felt – as he feverously urges the music onwards. It is here where that shared experience of audacity and near spiritual unity with Dayren Santamaria is most obviously felt.
Track List: Made in Cuba; Belleza; Matanzas; Como te Amo; Dayren’s Nostalgia; Cubana y Tampeña; West Coast Vibe; Lamento Latino.
Personnel – Dayren Santamaria: violin; Oscar Hernández: piano and musical director; Jimmy Branly: drums and timbales; Joey de León: congas and percussion; Carlitos del Puerto: bass; Alfred Ortiz: lead vocals; Marco Bermúdez: background vocals; Lia Branly: background vocals.
Released – 2015
Label – Independent
Runtime – 38:00