New music titled NUNA features a book of compositions by Cuban American pianist-composer David Virelles

Nuna is a book of compositions for solo piano by Cuban-American pianist and composer David Virelles. A 2021 recipient of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, Virelles has worked with musicians as distinct as Henry Threadgill, Andrew Cyrille, Ravi Coltrane, Mark Turner, Chris Potter, Tomasz Stanko, Steve Coleman, Wadada Leo Smith, Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, Tom Harrell, and Milford Graves. His release Continuum (Pi 2012) was named the best jazz release of that year by The New York Times. After three esteemed releases on the ECM label, Virelles returned to Pi with Igbo Alakorin: The Singers Grove (2017), which was voted top Latin Jazz album in that year’s NPR Jazz Critics Poll.

Nuna is the consequence – as with so many others – of Virelles’s time in isolation during the Covid pandemic. His first project in that time was Transformación del Arcoiris, a captivating set of music for synthesizer, piano, and sampler that was released in August 2020 as part of Pi Recordings’ Bandcamp-only “This is Now: Love in the Time of Covid” series, which sought to help make up for some of the wages lost by musicians due to the pandemic. The New York Times called the release “Spellbinding…. Throughout, there is a feeling of lines evaporating — between musical performance and everyday life, between conceptualism and folklore, between togetherness and solitude.”

The seclusion naturally led to the completion of the present work for solo piano – some of which was premiered during a residency at the Spoleto Festival – which finds Virelles exploring the totality of his influences on the instrument, from improvisational contexts, Cuban traditional music, African keyboard traditions, and European piano practices, all filtered through a modernist harmonic lens. Virelles cites as inspirations a wide range of pianists in the liner notes, from Frederic Chopin and Alexander Scriabin to the tributaries of African-diasporic music – both Black American and Cuban musicians, but also the Algerian pianist Mustapha Skandrani and Ethiopian Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou.

Virelles describes Nuna as “a metaphor for the piano as an ancient instrument.” While the sonorities of the Steinway Model D concert grand piano are often on full display in his playing, he pays equal emphasis to tempering the instrument’s natural resonance, connecting it more to the sound of folkloric instruments such as thumb pianos, harps and drums. He achieves this purely through touch and pedaling, without any other mechanical manipulation or “prepping.” Indeed, the entire album is a demonstration of Virelles’s masterful control of shading, dynamics, and timbre.

The set begins with “Spacetime,” a mysterious invocation played on the marímbula, a large, resonant wooden box with metal keys, that is used traditionally in changüí music. It is followed by a program of original compositions – with the exception of “Cuando Canta El Cornetín,” and “Germania” by Santiago de Cuba composers Mariano Mercerón and Sindo Garay, respectively. Virelles mostly plays solo, except on three tracks where he is joined by percussionist Julio Barreto, a long-standing member of Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s group in the 1990s. Virelles describes each piece as “its own little cosmos focused on one musical approach or idea.” The range of inspirations includes Cuban atmospheres, New York experimentalism, post-romantic harmonics, improvisational swing, and sonic textures. The playing is elegant, favoring clean lines that make clear the music’s rhythmic invention and contrapuntal weave. Each piece is a sparkling précis of their manifold influences, and they never resort to easy cultural or performative clichés. It’s all unmistakably the work of a singular probing intellect. As with each of Virelles’s projects, Nuna bridges the folkloric with the contemporary, while shrouded in an aura of mystery. ~Bandcamp

Expected Release Date: May 27, 2022

Johnathan Blake Releases New Single “LLL” from his Blue Note Debut “Homebound”

Homeward Bound—the remarkable Blue Note debut by drummer, composer, and bandleader Johnathan Blake due out Octo. 29—is a celebration of life and legacy featuring Blake’s quintet Pentad with alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, vibraphonist Joel Ross, keyboardist David Virelles, and bassist Dezron Douglas. The album’s 2nd single “LLL” is a dedication to the late drummer LawrenceLo” Leathers. Blake introduces the track in a swinging gesture of grace and conviction. Limelighting the highest level of interactivity among band members and solos from Virelles and Ross, the tune is a channel for the vibraphonist’s signature arcs and turns and high-velocity lyricism.

Blake assembled Pentad with the intention of composing for a fuller, more chordal sound than his past projects have featured. The result is a wildly intuitive, tight sound that embraces spontaneity and relies on trust. “The name represents us as five individuals coming together for a common cause: trying to make the most honest music as possible,” he says. “I wanted to create a record where people would get inside my head. I want them to see the story I was trying to tell. That’s my hope.”~BlueNote.com

At your leisure, check out “LLL” from the album “HOMEBOUND” by Johnathan Blake

 

Andrew Cyrille Quartet Delivers an Impressionistic Sonic Exploration in The News

Quartet Artists Include Bill Frisell,
David Virelles and Ben Street
Available August 27, 2021, via ECM
Andrew Cyrille’s album The News carries forward the story from The Declaration of Musical Independence, the 2014 ECM recording described by Down Beat as “an unabashed exploration into time, pulse space and atmosphere…ambitious yet simple, rich yet stripped-down, challenging yet infinitely satisfying.” The New York Times cited the album as evidence of a “late-career renaissance” for the drummer.

A force in improvisation for more than sixty years, Cyrille has played across the landscape of jazz from Coleman Hawkins’s The Hawk Relaxes to Cecil Taylor’s Unit Structures, led his own bands, and worked extensively with Milford Graves, Walt Dickerson, David Murray, Muhal Richard Abrams, Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman and many, many more. His first ECM appearance was on 1970’s Afternoon of a Georgia Faun, Marion Brown’s album with Chick Corea, Anthony Braxton, Bennie Maupin, and Jeanne Lee. Half a century later Cyrille appeared with his Lebroba trio with Wadada Leo Smith and Bill Frisell at Lincoln Center’s 50th birthday tribute to the label.

For The News, recorded at Sound on Sound Studio in New Jersey in August 2019David Virelles was drafted as a last-minute replacement for old associate Richard Teitelbaum, whose involvement had been ruled out by ill-health. Virelles had previously played with Cyrille and Ben Street in contexts including the group Continuum. Gently guiding from the drums, Cyrille gives his revised line-up plenty of freedom while also shaping, subtly, the group’s sonic identity with his flowing sense of pulse.

The title track “The News” revisits a conceptual piece that Andrew first recorded on a solo percussion album, The Loop, made for the Italian Ictus label in the late 1970s. Here a newspaper is placed over the snare drum and toms and played with brushes. In the quartet version, Frisell, Virelles and Street all impressionistically extend its rustling, whispering textures on their own instruments.

Leaving East of Jordan” is a tune by AACM-associated pianist Adegoke Steve Colson. Cyrille has previously played it both with its composer and with the group Trio 3 with Oliver Lake and Reggie Workman. Cyrille’s “With You In Mind” is also a piece that has gone through diverse interpretations: there are earlier recorded interpretations in trio with Henry Grimes and Bill McHenry and in duo with Greg Osby. Here the music takes off from Andrew’s unaccompanied spoken word introduction with the band amplifying its sentiments, with a particularly tender guitar solo from Bill Frisell.

The guitarist has three tunes here “Mountain”, “Baby” and “Go Happy Lucky”, the last of which, as an abstracted blues, has a distant kinship with Duke Ellington’sHappy Go Lucky Local.” Frisell has recorded extensively for ECM, from early leader dates such as In-Line and Rambler to the recent duet projects Small Town and Epistrophy with Thomas Morgan. Along the way there has also been a long association with Paul Motian and Joe Lovano documented on recordings from Psalm (1981) to Time and Time Again (2006). Frisell has also contributed to other recordings of enduring significance including Paul Bley’s Fragments, Kenny Wheeler’s Angel Song, Marc Johnson’s Bass Desires, Jan Garbarek’s Paths, Prints and Gavin Bryars’s After the Requiem.

David Virelles. who contributes the tune “Incienso” to the program and shares composer credits with Cyrille on the exploratory “Dance of the Nuances”, first appeared on ECM with Chris Potter in 2011. Albums with Tomasz Stanko followed (Wisława, December Avenue) as well as Virelles’s own recordings Mbókò, Antenna, and Gnosis.

Ben Street and Andrew Cyrille have collaborated in contexts including the trio of Danish pianist Søren Kjærgaard. The bassist’s ECM credits include albums with the Billy Hart Quartet (All Our Reasons, One Is The Other) the Ethan Iverson/Tom Harrell Quartet (Common Practice), and the Aaron Parks Trio (Find The Way).

Upcoming Releases on ECM
August 27: Marc Johnson (solo) | Overpass
September 10: Marcin Wasilewski Trio | En Attendant
September 24: Mathias Eick | When We Leave
October 15: Ayumi Tanaka Trio | Subaqueous Silence