Harold López-Nussa: from classical music to jazz, with unpretentious virtuosity

Cuba seems to produce pianists the way Brazil produces soccer players.
The quality and quantity of jazz pianists from Cuba, all seemingly raised in the most exacting classical school yet all seemingly just as fluent in the popular and jazz traditions, is just astonishing.
Consider Cuban jazz pianist and composer Harold López-Nussa, 34. He was born, and grew up, surrounded by music. His father, Ruy Francisco López-Nussa is a well-known drummer, his uncle Ernán, is an influential pianist, composer and arranger, founder of the groups Afrocuba and Cuarto Espacio and his late mother, Mayra Torres, was a piano teacher and a critical influence on his playing and outlook. “90% of what I am today I owe to my mother,” he once said. “When I was a child she was always on my side. She taught me the piano and also […] to know that it’s not the end of the world to make a mistake. That’s something you have to learn as well.”

López-Nussa and his trio, featuring his younger brother Adrián Ruy López-Nussa on drums and Julio César González on bass, play at the Rose & Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center on the Nova Southeastern University campus, presented by South Florida Jazz, Saturday at 8 p.m.

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Out And About. Omar Sosa, Paolo Fresu and Trilok Gurtu tell stories

Omar Sosa, Paolo Fresu and Trilok Gurtu at the : Wertheim Performing Arts Center, FIU’s School of Music, Saturday.

Beautiful performance by the Omar Sosa, Paolo Fresu and Trilok Gurtu trio closing the 4th annual Miami International Jazz Fest, at FIU, Saturday. It seems redundant to speak of a very musical performance, but given that it was such a relief from the standard instrumental Olympics and that there was a lot of intense listening, use of dynamics and respect for space, sound and silence on stage, I´d say the point needs to be made. It was a truly musical performance.

At times, it was like overhearing a conversation between smart, well informed people: the subject almost didn’t matter; the thinking, what they had to say about whatever they decided to address and how they made their arguments, was enough. Saturday, Sosa & Co. could’ve played “Happy Birthday” for all that mattered. They probably would’ve made it interesting too.

There were no fixed roles. Instead, they took turns proposing themes, moods and tempos. On one piece, Fresu, on flugelhorn, just held a note throughout as Sosa bobbed and weaved around it, poking and retreating under Gurtu’s watchful eye. On another piece, Sosa and Gurtu engaged on a dialogue of vocal percussion, Gurtu drawing from the elaborate rhythmic patterns of Indian music; Sosa prodding and responding with bursts of Afro-Cuban rumba. Every piece told a story.By each song’s end you had a sense that you had been somewhere.

The trio doesn´t have a recording, but Sosa and Fresu have two as a duo, Alma (2012) and Eros (2016), both featuring Brazilian cellist and arranger Jaques Morelenbaum as a guest. Worth looking for them.

The evening started with a delightful set, running from Ellington and Basie to hip-hop, by the Dillard Center for the Arts Jazz Ensemble, from Ft. Lauderdale.

This big band from Dillard High School, directed by Christopher Dorsey, was celebrating having been picked among the top 15 high school jazz bands in North America — and for a good reason. I wonder what the old masters would’ve made of high schoolers playing their books with such proficiency, grace and aplomb.

Being selected for the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival in New York City has become a bit of a habit for the Dillard High School Jazz Band. This is the seventh time it’s a finalist.(This is the 22nd edition of the annual event)If you heard them Saturday, you’d know why.

The event takes place at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s home, Frederick P. Rose Hall, on May 11. Congrats and good luck.

Miami’s Spam goes Trans-Oceanic

DJ Le Spam anchoring The Spam Allstars

A version of this piece was posted by Artburst Miami  in April, 2017

Ask about the Miami Sound to 10 people in South Florida and you’ll get 11 different answers. And yet, for more than 20 years, the Spam Allstars, a group founded and anchored by DJ Le Spam (aka Andrew Yeomanson), has been an unquestionable reference in the Miami music scene. For a city with a notoriously short memory and an insatiable appetite for the latest shiny thing, it is a remarkable achievement.

The Allstars’ music is an untidy mix of turntable scratches, loops, samples and spirited live playing. It’s built on driving grooves that draw freely from funk, R&B and Afro-Latin music, topped by shout-out-loud, jazz-inflected improvisations. And it’s also music that makes its statements subtly, making you move while threading the needle through Miami’s music and social history, with echoes of local labels such as Deep City, Saadia Records and TK Records, and the layers and layers of sound from the Caribbean and Latin American migrations.

DJ Le Spam and The Spam Allstars are presenting Trans-Oceanic, their new album, 10 years in the making, in a party at the North Beach Bandshell, Saturday, April 29 at 7:00 p.m.

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