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Photo: World Music
Harold López-Nussa, pianist and leader of the Harold López-Nussa Cuban jazz trio, which astonished the crowd at the Berklee Performance Center last night.

We have now seen the amazing Cuban jazz trio headed by Harold López-Nussa twice, and we still can hardly believe the pyrotechnics and joyfulness that explode from this young crew.

A documentary maker who is a part-time resident of New Shoreham had been to Cuba and, having gotten to know Harold, was determined to bring the trio to Rhode Island. It took a few years. We got to hear them last summer in the St Andrews parish hall.

Last night they played for an astonished crowd at Boston’s Berklee Performance Center as part of the World Music/Crash Arts series.

Here’s what the World Music website says: “Havana-based composer and pianist Harold López-Nussa travels smoothly through his classical, Cuban, and jazz inspirations to create an exceptional style of global jazz. His trio includes his younger brother, Ruy Adrián López-Nussa, a renowned musician in his own right, on percussion and Gaston Joya on bass.”

What is not conveyed by that description is the extraordinary virtuosity of each of the performers. Harold, yes, but also his younger brother the drummer, and his “brother of another mother,” the bass player.

The trio is like a fireworks display that you grin all the way through. In any one piece, they seem to be ending and you start cheering, when all of a sudden there is an explosive burst more astonishing even than the one you just heard — and you’re off to the races again.

Harold is the only one who speaks enough English to introduce the numbers, which he or his bass player or various Cuban greats composed. He likes to tell you about composing one long piece in his rattle-trap Polish car (in video below), which he says is so slow he has loads of time to think. A gentle, nostalgic piece was written for his late mother.

From Harold’s website: “López-Nussa was born into a musical family in Havana on July 13, 1983. Not only are his father and uncle – Ernán, a pianist – working musicians, but his late mother, Mayra Torres, was a highly regarded piano teacher.

“At the age of eight, López-Nussa began studying at the Manuel Saumell Elementary School of Music, then the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory and finally graduating with a degree in classical piano from the Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA). ‘I studied classical music and that’s all I did until I was 18,’ he says. Then came jazz.

“ ‘Jazz was scary. Improvisation was scary. That idea of not knowing what you are going to play…’ he says, his voice trailing off. “At school I learned the works of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven and then it was all very clear. That permanent risk in which jazz musicians find themselves in all the time was terrifying-of course, now I find myself in that risk all the time.’ ”

Last night, as Harold thanked all the people who helped the trio get to Boston, he said, “You wouldn’t believe what it takes to get out of Cuba to come here.” Here’s hoping it gets easier so they can reach all the audiences who will love them.

Check out the trio’s website here and this, the blurb for the World Music concert at Berklee.

Although the video doesn’t show the fireworks of the current trio, it nicely documents how Harold worked with an earlier group of collaborators. And it features the Polish car.

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Sometimes it just takes one person to be a catalyst. Internationally known jazz musician Danilo Pérez is a catalyst for a growing jazz scene in his native Panama. He has a special focus on getting young people excited about jazz and giving them a chance to become musicians.

At the NY Times, Melena Ryzik writes, “Even in jazz, which has a long tradition of mentorship, Mr. Pérez, 49, has emerged as a singular figure. Nearly 30 years after he left his native Panama to study jazz composition at Berklee [College of Music in Boston], he has made promoting musicianship in Panama — using music as a springboard, cultural unifier and teaching tool — his life’s work.

“In 2005, a year after he started [a] jazz festival with his family, he created the Danilo Pérez Foundation, a nonprofit center for music education and outreach; the festival, which draws as many as 30,000 people over its six-day run each January, provides money for the foundation. The club, which opened last February at the new American Trade Hotel, a luxe outpost of the Ace Hotel chain, is, in his view, the last piece of the puzzle.”

Read more.

Photo: Jennifer Shanley
Danilo Pérez (right) directs the Berklee Global Jazz Institute inaugural class.

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I’m back in America. America is what people on the island call the mainland. “I have to go to America today. Dentist appointment.” “I missed the boat and got stuck in America.”

Here are a few pictures from America. Burdock in bloom. Warnings from a stone wall that has “achieved balance.” An alley in Fort Point. A tour guide on the Common. Berklee students performing jazz at Atlantic Wharf. A decorative plaque on a building that wasn’t always a hotel.

I have two questions. Who knew that burdock had pink flowers? What are “spitting spiders”?

burdock-has-a-pink-flower

 

flower-pot-at-Artinian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

spider-warning-on-wall

rocks-in-balance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fort-point-channel-buildings

 

 

 

a-guide-on-Boston-Common

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Berklee-students-at-Atlatic-Wharf

coins-on-old-central-bank

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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