Harold López-Nussa ‘Sobre el Atelier’ CD (Cristal) 3/5

Havana born pianist Harold López-Nussa comes from a musical family with father Ruy a drummer and after conservatory training in the capital won first prize in a classical piano competition. However, it was traditional Cuban music and jazz that really excited the young musician and he began playing gigs in Havana in trio and quartet formats. It was while playing at various jazz festivals in Europe that López-Nussa was entered into a solo jazz piano competition which he won and this afforded him the opportunity to record an album which is contained herein. The album places Harold López-Nussa in a long line of Cuban pianists with a jazz heritage and this includes the great Chucho Valdes and more recently Roberto Fonseca. While the majority of compositions are self-penned, it is actually his interpretations of standards which are most impressive. For example, Jaco Pastorius’ ‘Three views of a secret’ change tempo completely from the original and is transformed into a beautiful ballad. There are signs of great maturity in López-Nussa’s playing here. Another interesting choice is Wayne Shorter’s ‘Footprints’ where after stating the theme, López-Nussa departs from the original and embarks upon a delightful solo. Of course, López-Nussa is very much at ease in his native idiom and demonstrates this on the early Chucho Valdes composition ‘Mambo Influenciado’ where his ability to use the whole range of the keyboard is exemplified. A more classical side of Cuban music is showcased on Ernesto Lecuona’s ‘Danza de los Nanigos’. Of the originals on offer, which are relatively concise in length, ‘Mi Son Cerra’o’ is a pulsating Cuban song while ‘Timbeando’ features a piano vamp that Eddie Palmieri would be proud of. This is a most promising debut by a talented pianist who is developing into a gifted composer. One hopes that he will be able to record with a trio/quartet in the near future.

Tim Stenhouse