Cuban jazz trio comes to the island

Noted Cuban jazz musician Harold López-Nussa (seen above) will be bringing his trio to the St. Andrew Parish Center on Wednesday, Aug, 16 at 7 p.m. We spoke to Will Young, who organized the effort to bring López-Nussa to the island:

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Mr. López-Nussa?

A: Harold López-Nussa and his brother, Ruy Adrian López-Nussa, were born in Cuba and classically trained in Cuba. They come from a very musical family. Their father is a drummer and appears briefly on their latest album. Harold, piano, started playing classical music at a very young age and has performed with several orchestras including the Cuban National Symphony. At age 18, he switched over to jazz and has played solo and with his brother ever since. He has also played with several veterans of the Buena Vista Social Club. Ruy has also recently performed with Dave Matthews and Carlos Varlera in Cancún, Mexico. The bass player, Gaston Joya Perellada, who will be traveling with Harold and Ruy for the Block Island show, recently recorded an album with Chucho Valdes, which features Branford Marsalis on several tracks. He often plays acoustic double bass but will be playing an electric bass.

Q: Can you describe the kind of music López-Nussa writes and plays?

A: Harold plays and writes Cuban-inspired jazz with a lot of other influences. His most recent album, “El Viaja” — the journey — features Alune Wade, a bass player from Senegal that he met in Germany. They mix Cuban rhythm and moods with West Africa. Wade sings in his native language. They also recorded another album together, titled “Havana Paris Dakar,” which features more of this mix. His other influences include Chucho Valdes, Chick Corea and many other jazz piano legends such as Bill Evans and Ahmad Jamal.

Q: How did you come to know Mr. Lopez-Nussa? 

I spent a week with Ruy’s mother-in-law, Odette, in 2014. During the week, I saw Ruy play with another jazz combo at a jazz club in Havana and with Harold at the house. Odette often has tour groups to the house, she cooks dinner and hires Cuban musicians to play.

Q: What was the impetus to bring his band to Block Island?

A: Spending the week with Ruy and Harold in Havana, three years ago, I had a wonderful time, although my Spanish is very weak and Ruy’s English was just okay. His wife Gabby helped out and we discovered we had very similar tastes in music. The following year, I was able to get a thumb drive of music down to Ruy — there is no U.S. mail to Cuba — he was excited to get hold of what I had. I told him then that I would do my best to see if I could get both of them to play on the Island. When I saw them again at Odette’s this past December, Harold said he would introduce me to their new agent, Ted Kurland, who is based in Boston and is an agent for many jazz greats, including Chick Corea, Gary Burton and Pat Metheny. He was very responsive, also being a friend of Harold was a big help in making it happen. They are constantly touring so getting them out here was a coup. They have spent most of the summer in Europe and after they leave the Island they head home to Cuba for a well-needed vacation, then they are off to China, and Japan and then back to the U.S. for a tour across the country. They will be playing at Berklee College of Music in October as part of the U.S. tour.

Q: What is your background? Is it just a love of music that made you arrange the concert, or something else? 

A: I have been a fan of jazz for a long time and I have become a great fan of the Cuban people and I really love the music Harold writes and performs. I have some experience with getting musicians out to the Island, as we have had the South Church Choir here three times. So I decided that I could pull it off.

Q: Is the concert associated with a charity or some other kind of fundraising? 

A: The concert is part of the Summer Concert Series hosted by Father Joe and put on by Cameron Greenlee at the St. Andrews Parish Center. There will be a donation basket. These funds go back to the Catholic Church on the Island.

Q: When is the concert and do you need tickets in advance?

A: Wednesday, Aug. 16, at 7:30 p.m. at the St. Andrew Parish Center. The concert is free. I am expecting a crowd, so get there early!

Lars Trodson, The Block Island Times

August 12, 2017

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