The image of Yoel Diaz on the cover of Orígen is an apt and enduring one. Seated at a keyboard turning, as if by magic, a myriad colours and hues, in the middle of a Cuban street, his arms are outstretched as he attacks the keys with growling left hand and fluttering right hand, he resembles the percussionist he once was in Holguín and Camaguey, Cuba. For it was there that he gave shape and character to the musicality of his voice and on this fine album he revisits the place of his birth, to reconnect with that which made him who he is today.
This is a wondrous journey and like that proverbial hypnotist in another era in Hamelin, Yoel Diaz seduces, both the cognoscenti as well as the unsuspecting with a spectacular reading of classic music from Cuba.
The role of a solo pianist is a lonely one, but Diaz makes the most of it. He conjures up a gilt-edged ballroom full of glamorously clad dancers who accompany him on his journey. For his part, Diaz leads these fabled couples on a memorable journey. His masterful approach to the piano is both singular and mesmerising. It is almost as if the pianist strokes the keys as if they were alive. In response to this deft touch, the ebony and ivory respond with resonant tinkling and extravagant arpeggios as Diaz applies a magician’s touch to these keys. The piano echoes with soaring emotion as he continues from song to song and dance to dance. Diaz extracts an endless stream of moods as he negotiates his way from “Zapateo” and “Contradanza” to “Danza Lenta” and “Danzón-chá”. At each turn there is spectacular brightness when the score calls for it, as in “A Evelina,” or a forlorn and elemental ache as in “Melodia De Otoño”. The spritely and magical intimacy of “Danza Pa’ Mamita” is so beckoning that the pirouetting dancers all but come alive at the enchanted touch of the pianist.
Yoel Diaz was once a percussionist and although this informs the unique character of his playing Diaz is a master of dynamic and expression. His sliding attack marks the manner in which his fingers come in contact with the keys. Still he seems to have a million ways in which he might bring his notes to life. This is done with the subtle pressure he applies to the keys as they come into contact with the tips of his fingers. Many times the melody might demand the same note several times during the course of a song’s verse, but caressing it once; then tapping it a second time or slapping it a third time around produces an array or colour and for this all of Diaz’s ingenuity comes into play. The “Zapateo,” “Lili” is a fine example of myriad shades that come into play as the character in the song comes to life.
Yoel Diaz is a pianist of whom much will be expected as he grows in character and as his musical persona develops. Listening again and again to his mastery as he plays the classics—“Siboney” and “Andalucía” he affirms his absolute mastery of the magical instrument that is the piano, it is imperative that he will grow into a role of ingenuity and even more stellar uniqueness is only a matter of time.
Track list: Guajira #2 (intro); Danza Pa’ Mamita (Zapateo); Mandinga (La Negra Tomassa) (Guaracha); Española (Danza); Melodia De Otoño (Danza Lenta); Contradanza #1 “Tu Camina’o” (Contradanza); Siboney (Danza); Fantasía Guajira (Fantasía); Contradanza #3 “A Evelina” (Contradanza); Dos Gardenias (Habanera); Sonatina No 1 “Lili” (Zapateo); Andalucía (Danza); Oleg’s Danzón (Danzón-chá); Contradanza #2 “A Lo Colonial” (Contradanza); Son Para Piano #3 (Son Moderno).
Personnel: Yoel Diaz: piano.
Released – 2012
Label – Disques Artic Records (Montréal)