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Reviews Design: Jennifer Ancizar

Timba a la Americana / Harold Lopez-Nussa

The Cuban's relationship with the world is inevitably mediated by the fusion of local and external elements. It is inevitable to impregnate with a local sense everything that is perceived since our reality, "the damned circumstance of water everywhere", is confined, although not limited, to our rock of land in the sea. Cubanness is therefore, linked to the mixture of cultures, to the concept of the melting potWe are open to fusion with everything that comes our way, as long as it makes us throb. Hence, it is not surprising the early assimilation of jazz in our land. 

An example of this is that, when a musical genre settles and becomes creolized in our country, its local culturists usually inoculate it with a very Cuban bug that, when it enters your ears, inevitably induces you to move.

I was thinking about all this in connection with the disc Timba a la Americana (Blue Note Records, 2023) by Harold Lopez-Nussa, composer and pianist who for years has been part of the international avant-garde of his instrument. From The 3 Musketeers (Bis Music, 2022), together with WiIliam Roblejo and Ruy Adrián López-Nussa, or technically from I Told You So (Mack Avenue, 2020), we had no new album from him. That wait ended last August 25.

 

Timba a la Americana (Blue Note Records, 2023) is a Cuban jazz album, which basically means that everything happens in there, but it is undeniable that there is a bit (at least) of Cuba in each of the themes. In my opinion, it is a thesis of Cubanness in all senses, since it takes several international musical expressions and, in an organic way, incorporates a subtle but effective stamp on them. His work, without departing from the canons of jazz and instrumental music, manages to inoculate a (sometimes not so) calm desire to dance, like someone who feels compelled to take his steps from the shyness of someone who understands that perhaps the context is not the most appropriate (maybe these are conjectures of a Cuban who has felt the desire to dance outside this land and the sorrow has overcome him). 

In any case, this album is full of catchy melodies and rhythms that after a while of listening start to play automatically in your head. The timbral work finds a tasty point of coherence without sounding like the same song, something that is helped by the rhythm changes between tracks. I was also pleasantly surprised by how he manages to emulate the timbral voice from the piano and harmonica, which seems -if you listen from afar- to be an undefined voice, without a doubt a sonorous illusion that shook me, in a good way.

In addition to the timbre, another element that stands out is the super cast of musicians that make it up, starting with Harold himself on piano and Rhodes keyboard, Ruy Adrián López-Nussa on drums (in all combinations), Grégoire Maret on harmonica, Luques Curtis on bass, and Bárbaro macho Crespo on percussions, and the stellar Michael League as co-author on some of the tracks and in the role of producer and performer of synthesizers and other miscellaneous that complement this A dream team.

It is an album that is very much marked by the current experience of the pianist, who is currently living in France. The artist himself declared it in his social networks when talking about topics such as Mal Du Pays, where he makes his feelings explicit through an expression inherent to French that has no literal translation, and that can be equated to the sensation of sparrow or the longing that one feels from a distance for one's own country. But the album is not only that, in fact, it is many things, many things. moodsMany experiments with the mixture of rhythms and cadences. 

Next, I will go through some of the songs that in my opinion best define the essence of the album:

Funky: 

A staircase song (it works in an ascending way), which from the opening handclaps announces a steady rhythm, but you don't see how far it will go, neither the tumbaos, nor the cadence changes, nor the series of sound effects alluding to a kind of ritual of elevation. At around 00:50 the track gives a first warning that things are just getting started. In the middle of the song appears a block that sins a little of runnerThe song's directionless, but then resumes its course between the tumbao of the piano that leads to the final ascent of the theme, where it enters a intense harmonica solo, marked by the cadence of the piano and complemented by the tasty a sum of percussions that fill the theme from beginning to end.

Mal du Pays

While there is a palpable sense of sadness in this track, it becomes clear what it alludes to when the clave cubana is added in the middle of the song. A track that is beautiful and hypnotic from beginning to end and creates the perfect space to wander for a few minutes in a relaxed atmosphere, even when the clave enters, which could be confusing since this rhythm is usually associated with dancing. The accompanying videoclip reflects precisely this; between images of Harold and his band performing the song, it shows photos of the artist's childhood and various moments of him on the island that he now only remembers from a distance. 

Rat-a-Tat

On a somewhat heavier note and with a slight use of distortion through the synthesizers in the low notes, the song still has a Cuban rhythmic essence, but on a somewhat more hostile note in terms of the sensation it generates. It sounds like a dialogue with a reiterated idea that makes you uncomfortable. The main voice is carried by the harmonica and the percussion contributes to the chaotic madness until almost halfway through the song where the bass takes the central role until the hypnotic and charged motif of the beginning returns. 


Conga a la Americana

Here it's time to make a point and put aside, because this theme is simply apotheosis in all its magnitude. Energetic from the first measure, and it only gets better with each instrument that is presented. Once again, the melodic voice in most of the song is carried by the harmonica and the piano, which exchange the central space in the song. The percussions keep the energy sky high and only take a pause at section changes (and are replaced with table thumps). Before the first listen I had to repeat it at least four times, because it was too much and it was not enough for me. Nothing is left over there.

 

Coda/ Closing

What makes one unique in an environment is precisely what differentiates him from the rest. This idea would explain why many artists in Cuba tend to look for sounds from abroad to incorporate into their music, but when they emigrate, they tend to do the opposite, return to the sound roots that once surrounded them, like those who seek to feel at home. This is not the case of Lopez-Nussa, whose work has always had a strong component of local and foreign fusion, but he argues why this album can be, at the same time, the soundtrack to a western in Cuba and of the appearance of a Cuban in a western.

 

Credits:

Composed by: Harold López-Nussa

Harold López-Nussa: Piano and Fender Rhodes

Ruy Adrián López-Nussa: Drums

Grégoire Maret: Harmonica

Luques Curtis: Acoustic bass

Barbarian macho Crespo: Congas and Bombo Legüero

Michael League: Production, Moog Matriarch, Prophet 6, hand claps and backing vocals.

Avatar photo Daniel Rosette Aguilera He's probably listening to music or talking about it. Someday he'll make a living from making music and playlists. More posts

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