It’s been 17 years since Cuban-Canadian pianist Hilario Durán released his big-band album From the Heart. Some may recall that in 1976 he succeeded Chucho Valdés in the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna and later spent nine years with Arturo Sandoval’s ensemble touring worldwide as pianist, arranger and musical director. For the last two decades Durán has been based in Toronto.
This new album merges big-band jazz, improvisation and Afro-Cuban rhythms. Five of the nine pieces were written by Durán with the other four composed by Chucho Valdés, Arthur Hamilton, Dizzy Gillespie and Frédéric Chopin. Along with Durán’s 19-piece band the new album features special guests Paquito D’Rivera on clarinet and alto sax and Horacio Hernández on drums.
The opener, Pacá Por Juanito, is a lively Latin dance number penned in tribute to 1950s Cuban guitarist Juanito Márquez. The salsa-based Mambo Y Tumbao combines the traditional mambo form with the newer batanga rhythm. Claudia is a ballad with D’Rivera stirring on alto sax followed by another tribute, I Remember Mingus, featuring the band’s double bassist Roberto Occhipinti before the rest of the band takes over in raucous fashion.
The title track, Cry Me A River, was first recorded by Julie London in 1955. Here it’s sung by Elizabeth Rodríguez who also solos the theme on violin in the Cuban tradition. After his sparkling arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie’s A Night in Tunisia we hear Durán’s Wild Blues – he says he wanted to write something difficult for the sax section after listening to Supersax, the 1970s band who harmonised arrangements of Charlie Parker’s improvisations.
The catchy Esperando La Carroza is Durán’s updated big-band version of the piano/violin duet first heard in his 1996 album Francisco’s Song, and the album closes with a scintillating jazz arrangement of Chopin’s Fantasia Impromptu featuring D’Rivera on clarinet.
Pacá Por Juanito; Mambo Y Tumbao; Claudia; I Remember Mingus; Cry Me A River; Night In Tunisia; Wild Blues; Esperando La Carroza; Fantasia Impromptu (52.31)
Durán (p); Paquito D’Rivera (cl, as); Luis Mario Ochoa (g); Elizabeth Rodriguez (v, vn); Roberto Occhipinti (b); Horacio Hernandez (d) with others. Toronto, 2023.
Alma Records ACD90832