Pavel Urkiza and his Road of the Souls band at Miami Dade County Auditorium, Miami. Photo by @tatychio

Pavel Urkiza and his Road of the Souls band presented music from the project La Ruta de las Almas (The Road of the Souls) as part of Global Cuba Fest 2016 at Miami Dade County Auditorium, Miami, Saturday, March 12th. The event was presented by FUNDArte and Miami Light Project.

Urkiza´s set was an at times messy but also often wondrous affair built on ancient traditions re-imagined. 

The ten piece ensemble, featuring musicians from places as disparate as Iran, Cuba and Moldavia via Israel, kept reconfiguring on stage almost from piece to piece. In a given song, the batá drums or an Urdu drum would unexpectedly engage in conversation with the oud, the electric guitar or the bansouri. At one point, the waters parted and there was solo feature of voice and pandero cuadrado (square, hand-held drum) by the astonishing Eliseo Parra. An accordion had its say, but so did a cuatro and a violin and sometimes a cello. The terrific Spanish singer/songwriter Javier Ruibal was another luxury treat, contributing his voice on one song. The violinist, as we learned, doubled as dancer. An electric bass offered a foundation to the swirling sounds.  

To list the musical influences on each song — an Afro-Cuban groove with a Middle Eastern melody and a hint of flamenco et. al. — would be to miss the point. This was not the place or occasion for purists. Sometimes in mid-song you found yourself doing a second take. Who played that? Can you do that with that rhythm?… and then, just as quickly, it was gone — but the sound, and the questions, stayed with you like a new, strange scent. Urkiza, an expressive singer and genial host/conductor, offered a calm center to the storm he conjured. A line kept coming to mind: “Make a joyful noise …. This is a Road worth traveling.  Search for it.

The evening also featured two smartly short sets. Pianist Iván “Melón” Lewis opened with a solo performance that coalesced at the end, as he deconstructed “Son de la Loma;” singer/songwriter Yadam has a warm voice, a soulful phrasing and a writing style that, Saturday, evoked both Jorge Drexler and Brazilian standout Ed Motta. His duet with Beatriz Luengo completed what turned out to be an effective sampler of his talents.

Original for Jazz With an Accent