May 19, 2024

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David Virelles revisits Cuba, and Dan Tepfer unveils Natural Machines: Videos, Photos

David Virelles, “Un Granito de Arena”

Pianist and composer David Virelles was born in Santiago de Cuba, and has often credited that historic city, the second largest in Cuba, as integral to his musical identity. Since moving to New York not quite a decade ago, he has incorporated Afro-Cuban folkloric elements into his work, notably on the albums Continuum (2012) and Mbókò (2013).

But Virelles — whom you may know better for his work with modern tenor titans Ravi Coltrane, Chris Potter and Mark Turner — has never addressed the music of Santiago as directly as he does on his new album, Igbó Alákọrin (The Singer’s Grove) Vol. I and II, due out this Friday as a joint release from El Tivoli Music and Pi Recordings. A labor of love as well as a work of musical archeology, it divides into two distinct but related parts, the first of which bears the subtitle “Volume I – David Virelles Introduces Orquesta Luz de Oriente.” Along with regular partners like alto saxophonist Román Filiú, it features some prominent old-timers from Santiago, like the trovadore Alejandro Almenares, now 81.

The second part, “Vol. II – Danzones de Romeu at Café La Diana,” is a collection of painterly danzónescomposed by Antonio María Romeu; Virelles plays them on piano with no accompaniment other than guïro, played by Rafael Ábalos. But the track we’re featuring here is from Vol. I — “Un Granito de Arena,” by Enrique Bonne, a pioneer of the pilón and simalérhythms. This is by far the most traditional music Virelles has ever released under his own name, and the clarity of his intention rings true.

Francisco Mela, “Vino”

Drummer and composer Francisco Mela also hails from Cuba, and like Virelles he has been a stalwart accompanist on the New York scene. (If you haven’t heard him with saxophonists Joe Lovano or Melissa Aldana, maybe you have with pianist McCoy Tyner.) Ancestros is Mela’s fifth album, a quartet effort featuring Hery Paz on tenor saxophone, Kris Davis on piano and Gerald Cannon on bass.

The album is a part of the third season of vinyl-only releases from Newvelle Records, and will ship to subscribers this week. The video above captures studio footage of the band recording “Vino,” a furiously kinetic piece with a staccato melody that Paz and Davis play in octaves.

Dan Tepfer, “All the Things You Are”

Perhaps you recall an engaging video short by Jazz Night in America about the latest preoccupation of Dan Tepfer. A pianist with a passion for R&D, Tepfer had been developing improvisational algorithms for his Yamaha Disklavier — effectively turning the instrument into an engine for both input and output. He was excited about this breakthrough, but even more intrigued by its untapped potential. Which brings us to the video album he’s releasing on Wednesday, Natural Machines.

Most of the album originated as a blank slate, as Tepfer and his invention devised structural connections on the fly. The video above is a premiere of the one and only standard in the bunch, an ageless Jerome Kern tune that Tepfer has often tackled in his long-running duo with alto saxophone legend Lee Konitz. As in the rest of Natural Machines, Tepfer underlines the music with visual effects that help illuminate the action. In an email, he writes: “This project has been a labor of love for me — I’ve written every line of code, for both the musical responses and the visualizations, myself. I filmed everything myself at the Yamaha artist space over the summer, and have done most of the editing myself too.”

Jakob Bro, “Dug”

A little over a year ago, the Danish guitarist Jakob Bro and his trio — with Thomas Morgan on bass and Joey Baron on drums — recorded a gig at Jazz Standard in New York. The results have now been released as a live album on ECM, Bay of Rainbows. And the trio will return to the scene on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Dug” is one of the album’s standout tracks, a mixed portrait of turbulence and elegance. Morgan and Baron maintain a restless chop throughout the piece, over which Bro fashions long arcs of melodic plaint and textural provocation. One precedent that comes to mind is the classic recording of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman,” and another is the old Bill Frisell trio, which also featured Baron. But Bro is his own man, and should be heard on his own terms — especially in person. This week’s two-nighter comes in the midst of a North American tour.

Fleurine, “Sparkling Gemstone”

Brazilian Dream (Sunnyside) feels like the realization of a longtime ambition for the Dutch singer and songwriter Fleurine. It isn’t her first sustained foray into Brazilian music; that would be San Francisco, released a decade ago. But whereas that earlier effort featured songs by the likes of Chico Buarque, this one puts the focus on new original songs in a samba and bossa nova vein.

“Sparkling Gemstone” is an effervescent, flirtatious tune set against a mellow samba thrum. As on the rest of the album, Fleurine is backed by The Boys From Brazil, her band with Chico Pinheiro and Ian Faquini on guitars, Rogerio Boccato on percussion, Vitor Gonçalves on piano and accordion, and Eduardo Belo on bass. The Fender Rhodes solo is by Brad Mehldau, who happens to be Fleurine’s husband; the saxophone parts are played by Chris Potter.

Pianist David Virelles, whose new album is 'Igbo Alakorin (The Singer's Grove) Vol. I and II.'

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