Harold Lopez-Nussa, piano | Ruy Lopez-Nussa, drums and percussion | Gaston Joya, bass
For more than a half-century, the embrace between Cuba and the United States has been subject to an odd dance of politics, including a still-standing embargo. Nevertheless, the bond between the two nations is deep and strong as ever, expressed most forcefully through the dance of culture—especially music.
It’s hard to imagine the U.S. jazz scene without the influence of the many Cuban musicians living here. Yet the musicians who remain in Cuba—whose relationship with jazz and other musical forms stays grounded in their native island’s cultural traditions and daily life—maintain a unique perspective. They tell a specific story. Un Día Cualquiera, pianist HAROLD LÓPEZ-NUSSA‘s second release for Mack Avenue Records, represents this musical vantage point with force and innovation. He tells this story—his story—with drama, heartfelt emotion and consummate skills.
López-Nussa was born 1983 in Havana, where he still lives. “I need the kind of relaxed life that Havana gives me,” he said. For López-Nussa, whose award-winning music has led to international tours and who holds dual citizenship in Cuba and France. “Every time I return to Cuba, I feel something special—not just a connection with my family and friends, but with the place itself. This is where my music comes from, what it talks about.” For “Un Día Cualquiera,” Lopéz-Nussa sticks to his core trio, with his younger brother Ruy Adrián López-Nussa on drums and percussion, and bassist Gaston Joya—a group the pianist first convened a decade ago in Cuba.
The island of Cuba is dotted with families known for musical achievement. López-Nussa grew up in one such home. On May 18, 2018, Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center will pay tribute to this legacy within its sprawling “Artes de Cuba Festival” through a concert showcasing the Lopéz-Nussa family. Harold Lopéz-Nussa and his brother will perform alongside their father, Ruy López-Nussa, an esteemed drummer and educator, and their uncle, Ernán López-Nussa, an acclaimed pianist. (Their late mother, Mayra Torres, was a highly regarded piano teacher.)
Harold López-Nussa’s music reflects the full range and richness of Cuban music, with its distinctive combination of classical, folkloric and popular elements, as well as its embrace of jazz improvisation and interaction. He was featured on the album Ninety Miles, playing alongside jazz stars David Sánchez, Christian Scott and Stefon Harris, and Esencial (of compositions by revered Cuban classical guitarist, composer and conductor Leo Brouwer). He spent three years in the touring band of the beloved Cuban singer Omara Portuondo.
He found inspiration from Herbie Hancock, as well as Cuba’s great jazz pianists—the ongoing work of the reigning master Chucho Valdés, as well as recordings of Chucho’s father, the late Bebo Valdés. Un Día Cualquiera is a forceful statement from a Cuban musician leading his tight-knit Cuban band, recorded in the U.S. (at WGBH Studios in Boston, Mass.), and influenced by music from both countries in ways that transcend narrow notions of “Latin jazz.” The album nods to classic Cuban composers and musicians but it focuses mostly on López-Nussa’s original compositions and his distinctive trio concept. These compositions are mostly new, save for one or two, such as the opener, “Cimarrón,” which are older pieces reinvented for the present moment. López-Nussa chose the new album’s title, which means “Just Another Day,” because, he said, “the idea is to put the music and the trio together in a studio and just play, the way we three do every day, any day—like a concert in the living room of your house.”
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