Hilario Duran Trio & The Penderecki String Quartet
Cuban jazz masters can get classical too, especially when you have a strong classical background, such is the case with Hilario Duran and David Virelles. Duran a pianist who came to prominence in Cuba along side Arturo Sandoval is a living legend and a hero to many of the youth of Cuba, as was so aptly put by his younger countryman David Virelles who made mention during his introduction that he looked up to Duran as a hero while coming of age in Cuba.
The evening's performance a live to air broadcast across Canada on the program Canada Live, on CBC Radio 2 as part of a ten-day tribute to the late Canadian pianist Glenn Gould on the 75th anniversary of his birth and the 25th anniversary of his death.
David Virelles opened the concert with a new song written for this evening's concert entitled "Relativity." The Penderecki String Quartet, Jeremy Bell, Jerzy Kaplanek, violin, Christine Vlajk, viola and Paul Pulford playing cello would join each pianists group to add string accompaniment and insure a classical presence was maintained. The song a complex and intricately woven rhapsody, started simply enough, a piano introduction, alto saxophonist Luis Deniz, bassist Devon Henderson, drummer Ethan Ardelli and percussionist Jalidan Ruiz joined in-sync. The quartet of strings join in next and add a lush background enhancing the audible experience - the song sways and swirls with the motion of sounds, richly layered textures building in intensity to open up to a piano solo with fluid succulent phrasing of pleasing tones and harp sounding chords of multiplicity. The alto saxophone of Luis Deniz takes his cue and comes on strong, adding heat to the flames that are glowing brightly.
The next song selection Virelles would choose is from the bands new album Motion (Justin Time) a composition entitled "Patakin" meaning fable or story in Spanish. Devon Henderson introduces the song on double bass, he produces a near flamenco feel to his playing. The percussionist Ruiz joins in to create effects of wind and water, the rolling waves, the sound of shells in motion. Virelles reaches into the depths of the piano and plays pizzicato, plucking and strumming the strings adding to the story, creating the effect of wind through the palms. The quintet reaching full stride has saxophonist Deniz taking the lead in laying down a wildly intense solo. Virelles adds to the intensity with rapid runs, up and down the keyboard, the song stretches out for a good ten minutes of tall story telling and prompts the audience to applaud the freshness of youth playing the modern, classical music of the day.
The quintet would play one other original tune from the new album, the song "Mercedes" dedicated to David Virelles' mother, the song performed with the string quartet featured incredible piano playing by Virelles. The altoist Deniz took a different direction with his break and played with a mix of joy and tenderness, the song builds in intensity and the strings come in to add a sweeping full sound heavy with emotional dynamics to end with a tearful sigh.
The Glenn Gould radio documentary "The Idea of North" inspired Virelles and from the memories of his exposure to Gould at a young age in his native Cuba he created a new composition for this performance, "Solitude" a pleasing string arrangement introduces the melody, the piano enters next, followed by the band - less the percussionist. The saxophonist Deniz takes flight and provides a solo of of massive proportions, honesty, sincerity and passion flow from the bell of the sax. Bassist Devon Henderson takes over the melody and lays back in the groove creating a pleasing statement that rings of purity and tonal beauty. Virelles comes on strong to take the song home and I would hope to make Gould proud.
The Hilario Duran Trio wasted no time in making a strong statement upon the start of the second half of the concert, the opening number "Moonface" from the Habana Nocturna album (1999 Justin Time) came on fast and furious. A tightly played funky salsa number with heavy dynamics and coming very close to sounding like a Latin jazz big band. This is quite the feat for a trio, the drumming of Mark Kelso and bass playing of Roberto Occhipinti lends itself well to creating a full and sustaining sound. The string section was utilized to create percussive effects - hammering out the rhythm with their bows, col-legno. Duran seemed to be playing a piano duet solo; heavy pounding on the keys to produce full sounding loud chords while at the same time creating runs of intricacy that filled the theatre with glorious, classical, piano fortissimo sounds.
In fitting tribute mode, Duran proceeded to put on a fine display of piano virtuosity as he played with extreme classicism that I am sure Gould would have appreciated. The second selection, dedicated to a Cuban pianist, Emiliano Salvador "For Emiliano" Francisco's Song (1996 Justin Time). The song also featured a drum solo that was very exciting in the style of a Latin jazz big band drummer, the drumming by Kelso sounded as if it included the two or three other drummers of the big band. A wicked drum solo by a drummer with serious chops of powerhouse drumming authority.
The trio would perform less strings for the third number "Perla Marina - Sea Pearl" a Duran composition, a ballad with heavy bass lines by Occhipinti, nice riffs, at times melodic and ending over the bridge sul ponticello. The fine brush work of Mark Kelso was befitting the waltz like melody and created a melancholy mood of serenity.
The final song of the evening's performance featured both pianists for Duran's rendition of J.S Bach's "Prelude in C Minor" The Glenn Gould Edition - The Well Tempered Clavier(Sony) a memorable performance that highlighted the depth of piano skill that these masterful Cuban Canadian pianists bring to classical - jazz improvisation.