The lineage of Cuban pianists is long and illustrious. It has been brimful with lofty musical intellect, dazzling virtuosity and celebrated repertoire.
The league of extraordinary gentlemen includes Peruchín, Bebo Valdés—who heralded the golden age of Cuban music—Frank Emilio Flynn, and several others down to Guillermo Rubalcaba, Chucho Valdés, Gonzalo Rubalcaba; Hilario Durán, David Virelles, Harold López-Nussa, Alfredo Rodríguez, Dayramir González… And now Osmany Paredes joins the truly bright star on the great marquee of Cuban pianists. Mr. Paredes was already fully formed as a pianist when he recorded his 2003 album, Osmany Paredes and Menduvia; but he further cemented his reputation with his Solo record; and now Trio Time as well. There is no mystery as to why there is such an embarrassment of riches as far as music is concerned in Cuba. Although this cannot be too oversimplified, it all has much to do with the irrepressible polyrhythmic nature of the African Diaspora and the collision of African and the sensual Spanish cultures. There is also the matter of spirituality—in the case of all South American cultures—a soulful worship that came out of a certain acceptance of African icons into Christianity, into which the vibrant rituals of Africa were woven into Western forms of worship. Add to that the advent of formal education in the heyday of capitalist Cuba that continued into the revolutionary era and the indelible influence of African American music from the glory days of swing to bebop and beyond and it becomes somewhat clearer why so much of Cuba’s artistic talent flourished on the islands.
But Osmany Paredes is also unique in that the idiom of jazz features powerfully in his music. In a sense he seems to have found creative solace more in the music of Peruchín and Frank Emilio that Bebo Valdés. He certainly seems to have “heard” Frank Emilio Flynn in some depth, but that influence may have passed completely now, as Osmany Paredes is a singular voice. There is a distinctive sparkle and considerable illumination in his lines. Usually these are short and played with crisp facility. His fingers are long and gracefully powerful. Yet he seems to caress notes that sing under the manipulation of those fingers. This enables him to elongate some notes, throwing them into beautiful spirals and parabolas. When the lines connect they form exquisite songs that stick like burrs in the mind’s ear. The music also goes much deeper, piercing the heart with its emotion and sentiment. To follow the course of the songs requires the alignment of the heart, as much of the music goes directly there as much as it does enrapture the mind; and the very soul.
Trio Time begins with the brisk and uplifting composition, “Tumbaíto pa’ tí” and it is immediately clear that Mr. Paredes possesses that mystical rhythmic quality, which is the hallmark of all of those great Cuban pianists, and is referred to as playing “con tumbao”. Mr. Paredes’ own left hand comes down with exquisitely thunderous force and creates a glorious space for bassist Jorge “Luri” Molina and drummer Giovanni Figueroa to follow the décor of the melody up with mighty rhythms, while Mr. Paredes sets up the harmonic progressions as well. The same modus operandi is followed in Mr. Paredes’ other beautiful composition, “Crossing La Alameda”. And then there is the spectacular change of pace with the heart-felt emotion of his dedicatory piece—one that takes a formal route in “Simple Waltz for My Son”. Ironically the pianist’s approach to melodic invention and harmonic progression is anything but simple, but then this angular complexity is something that flavours a slew of Cuban pianists who seem to have absorbed this lesson from the great artists of the American bebop era. Some more of this aspect in Osmany Paredes’ music may also be experienced in “Improv 2013” -a solo adventure that appears to be composed on the spur of the moment. The languorous moment somewhat into the improvisation, coupled with the soaring echo of the harmonies is truly exquisite. Mr. Paredes also displays great virtuosity not only with his right hand but also with his sinewy left hand as well. The danzón, “La Tedezco” features a superb collision of piano and percussion. The rhapsodic air of charts such as “A Song,” “Boston Nights” and “Winds of LA” show a side to the pianist and composer that is bountifully florid and altogether moving in the manner in which the music evolves from the individual melodic lines of each of the pieces. Mr. Paredes also shows off his dazzling imagination in his approach to the classics: “La Tedezco” and the short medley, “Perla/Longina”.
It must be mentioned that the bass playing of Mr. Molina and the percussion colours of Mr. Figueroa are exquisite throughout; both shine particularly distinctively on “A Song” which is from Osmany Paredes’ solo album, adapted here for the trio. But it is obviously Osmany Paredes’ time to send a wonderful message to the world of music—that he has arrived and that the extraordinary lineage of Cuban pianists continues seemingly ad infinitum.
Track Listing: Tumbaíto pa’ ti; Crossing La Alameda; Simple Waltz for my Son; Improv 2013; La Tedezco; A Song; Boston Nights; Winds of LA; Perla Marina/Longina.
Personnel: Osmany Paredes: piano, Jorge “Luri” Molina: bass; Giovanni Figueroa: drums.
Osmany Paredes on the web: osmanyparedes.com
Label: Menduvia Music | Release date: September 2013
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama