March 1998

Hilario Duran Cuban All Stars
Killer Tumbao
Justin Time Records

Havana is one big jam of all the music (pop, jazz, salsa, classical, folk) with no industrial divisiveness and labeling. Hilario Durßn is a superb pianist of many beautifully dovetailed parts: he may reign upon the stool with top-flight horns and the seasoned rhythm section of Chucho Valdes' Irakere (as he does here), lead the searing, post-pop bop-fusion band Perspectiva (a spin-off from his musical directorship for Arturo Sandoval, as he did tellingly at the 1996 Havana Jazz Festival), and delve into Afro-Cuban folk traditions to assimilate them into pop and jazz with ease and understanding.

Durßn plays with fascinating facility yet wondrous relaxation over Havana's kid-gloves rhythm bosses: conguero Tata Guines, timbalero Changuito (Jose Luis Quintana), bassist Jorge Reyes, and drummer Dafnis Prieto. Canadian sopranista Jane Bunnett, a familiar Cuban commuter, joins them on two tracks with sizzling soprano solos. Durßn's chameleonic at the keys: clever and cool doing Cuban "ragtime" with brass punctuation on "Los Tres Golpes," silky smooth with just Reyes on the traditional romantic "Longina," and totally smoking in a descarga for three with Tata and Changuito. The meat of the set, however, is the three ten-minute chant-jams with three vocalists-a tribute to Chano Pozo and a rolling song (gone funky) to the goddess of the sea with a bold turn on tenor sax by Carlos Averhoff. The sophisticated and polished Durßn has earfuls to offer visitors to Cuba!

Originally published in March 1998
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