The David Virelles Quintet Live at The Beaches International Jazz Festival
Fresh off a very successful Canadian tour the band performed an early morning show, 11:30 A.M thus kicking off the 18th annual Beaches International Jazz Festival. I was invited to see the band, report on the show and follow up with a post show interview.
Classically trained Virelles studied piano in his native Cuba at the age of seven. Through his families collection of jazz albums he was exposed to the sounds of the greats, Powell, Monk, Parker and Davis. Virelles’ prime focus of music found him winning his first award at the age of fifteen, first prize at the Concurso Jojazz in Havana, Cuba. Soon after, he was invited to play on Cuban trombonist Juan Pablo Torres’ CD Together Again.
In 1999, he appeared on Canadian Jazz flutist, saxophonist Jane Bunnett’s CD which was nominated for both a Juno and a Grammy award. Virelles has attended the music programs of both the University of Toronto and Humber College where he was chosen as the first recipient of the Oscar Peterson Prize. Virelles has been a member of Jane Bunnett’s band, Spirits of Havana for the last four years. He has performed on the award winning Red Dragonfly and Cuban Odyssey CD’s. He is also featured on the award winning CD Radio Guantanamo:Guantanamo Blues Project Vol. 1
The hi-point of the Canadian tour for The David Virelles Quintet was winning the prestigious Grand Prix de Jazz General Motors at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. The combo was deemed best of ten other jazz artists and ensembles who took part in the pan-Canadian competition.
The song starts with a funky percussive electric piano melody, the conga player joins in and drives the rhythm with a pulsating beat. The drummer joins in after about 16 bars accentuating the upbeat. Virelles pulls off some inventive runs with his right hand while maintaining the funk rhythm with his left.
A call and response trio between piano, conga and drums, with a couple of notes as a lead to a blistering 32nd note run in the mid register and then smoothly floating back to the high end, augmented by huge chords in response to the drummers accents. Virelles is playing the rhythm so strongly and soloing so fluidly that he sounds as if he has a sampler or some effect that doubles his capability. Such is not the case, this is just a wizard of a pianist who creates a piano duet in solo mode.
Sax player Deniz glides in on the tail end of Virelles’ run and blows by with an arpeggio copying the piano player’s intricate runs. A game begins to unfold between these two. A game or a battle of virtuosos, it doesn’t matter, it’s all about the music. The energy, spirit and joy that pours off of the stage is overwhelming. A delight to behold, the song builds to a glorious climax. The percussionists are playing of the energy and are building to a tremendous crescendo, the bass player is trying to hold it all together. Sax player Deniz performs one final amazing solo, the song has ended and he is still fingering the valves open and shut, the sax is held out in front of him, the transient energy builds and one final melodic howl drifts over the stage.
These are true musicians, it’s Noon, they have just played a fifteen-minute song and it’s over before it began. The crowd yells for more. The Beaches Jazz Festival runs on schedule, sorry no encore, the next act has to get ready.
David Virelles (Piano), Luis Deniz (Alto Saxophone) Devon Henderson (Bass), Ethan Ardelli (Drums), Luisito Orbegoso (Percussion)
By Paul J. Youngman KJA Jazz Advocate