Hilario Durán and David Virelles: Front Street Duets

The album Front Street Duets played by the great Hilario Durán and his one-time acolyte, David Virelles is a sublime recording. It is one that only Mr Durán could have conceived of. Why? It is not impossible to perceive that, more and more [certainly after the earth-shatteringly divisive pandemic] Mr Durán has turned himself inward, into a secret – and sacred – space, into which artists often withdraw. Equally, it is not so shocking to find that when he opened the proverbial door into that space, he would admit a musician of the fulsome abilities – literally 360° all-round kind of musicianship – that characterises a former acolyte, Mr Virelles – formerly speaking only because Mr Virelles has grown his own pair of sinewy eagle wings to become a high-flier in his own right – holding court with the likes of Steve Coleman, Henry Threadgill, Andrew Cyrille, Ravi Coltrane

Hilario Durán and David Virelles: Front Street Duets
Hilario Durán and David Virelles: Front Street Duets

A piano duet recording of this high calibre is not without precedence. One has only to think of the two legendary [!] recordings – both duets performed by Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. What characterised those recordings were the long, sculpted inventions of both pianists that had audiences held in suspended animation somewhere between gasping for breath and experiencing what cardiologists would surely diagnose as cardiac arrhythmia [one at Montreux comes easily to mind]. I should know as I am held exactly so every time I listen to those recordings.

But the virtuosity of these two pianists is of a very different kind. There is no bending of phrases; elongating the choicest one that formed the melodic heart of each piece – and it was always announced as if by a flesh-biting arrow that pierced the senses and propelled the music of Mr Corea and Mr Hancock. Mr Durán’s virtuosity comes from an imaginary interior landscape [of his mind], somewhere between Baroque and Bebop. Thus he usually cannot be restrained from decorative imagery that adorns his narratives [“Santos Suarez’s Memories” is a fine example of this]. But no matter how he adorns he never loses the “heart” of the melody, its emotional epicentre and harmonics and rhythms that propels the music after that climax is reached.

Hilario Durán and David Virelles – Front Street Duets Recording Session at Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto

Mr Virelles is one of the greatest young apostles of Afro-Cuban musical tradition, but he has always known that the inner dynamic of tradition is always to innovate, rather than be imprisoned by its structures. And so by actively pursuing this thesis he has managed to throw overboard melodic, structural, harmonic, and [because this is Afro-Cuban music we are talking about] rhythmic hooks that expressively blunted the music through overuse. And so Mr Virelles’ special kind of virtuosity will manifest itself as he builds from what might – or might not – be left of melody, harmony and rhythm inside Afro-Cuban music.

The unique virtuosity informs his arrangements [pursued by both pianists] but especially in Mr Virelles’ playing on Alejandro García Caturla’s composition “Danza Lucumí” and Calixto Varona’s “La Malanga”. Both songs unveil not only the differences in the voices of both Mr Virelles, but also in the magic manner in which Mr Durán presents his interpretation of the works. And this speaks to the kind of magic that separates this piano duet recording from every other one you may have heard – including those legendary ones by Mr Corea and Mr Hancock.

As an important sidenote: It should not go unnoticed that everytime Mr Durán has decided to put his music down on tape, Peter Cardinali [the Alma Records supremo] and John “Beetle” Bailey have always been there to capture it in all its sublime glory. The fact that this time it includes Mr Virelles too, suggests that nothing like this is likely to happen in a long time to come.

Tracks – 1: Guajira for Two Pianos; 2: Challenge; 3: Punto Cubano #1; 4: Danza Lucumí; 5: La Malanga; 6: Milonga for Cuba [Dedicated to 7/11]; 7: Santos Suarez’s Memories; 8: David’s Tumbao; 9: Body and Soul

Musicians – Hilario Durán and David Virelles: pianos

Released – 2022
Label – Alma Records [ACD10132]
Runtime – 41:27

Deo gratis!

Raul Da Gama
Raul Da Gama
Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

More from author


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related posts


Featured Posts

Omar Sosa’s 88 Well-Tuned Drums: A Film by Soren Sorensen

Anyone approaching this film about the iconic Cuban composer and pianist Omar Sosa, by the award-winning filmmaker Soren Sorensen will be almost immediately struck...

Danilo Pérez featuring The Global Messengers: Crisálida

Danilo Pérez began forming his worldview - and aligning his music to it - ever since he came under the sphere of influence of...

The Feeling Messengers, Past and Present (Part II)

Miguelo Valdés & The New Messengers Of Feeling Miguel Valdés, or “Miguelo”, as he has since become known, was born in the province of La...

The Feeling Messengers, Past and Present (Part I)

Preamble Within the current renaissance of popular Cuban music, coupled with the seemingly eternal presence of its first cousin American Jazz, we are once again...

In Conversation with Carlos Cippelletti

Pianist, composer and arranger Carlos Cippelletti, is a promising young Spanish, Franco-Cuban artist from the last generation of Afro-Cuban jazz musicians born outside the...

Celebrating Jane Bunnett: Spirits of Havana’s 30th Anniversary

After dark they gather, the spirits of Havana. Is that a ghostly, but fatback-toned rapping down in the barrio where the great composer and...

Piazzolla Cien Años: Lord of the Tango@100

There is a now famous photograph of the great Ástor Piazzolla that is iconic for so many reasons. Chief among them is the manner...

Omara Portuondo, Multifaceted Gem of Cuban Music

My moon app announces that in 14 hours the Supermoon of May will be here. During a full moon I often get inspired to...

Ray Barretto · Barretto Power

Barretto Power: A Celebratory Reissue on its 50th Anniversary It was 1970 when Fania Records released Barretto Power, one of a series of seminal albums...

El Gran Fellové: Part 3- When my Parents…

When my parents bought their home in 1968, Sunset Beach was just another sleepy little beach town It spanned about one mile in length, sandwiched...

Join our mailing list

Participate in contests, giveaways and more