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Hilario Duran Cuban All Stars: Killer Tumbao

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