Harold Lopez-Nussa: New Day

Best known for his role in the Latin-jazz supergroup Ninety Miles, Harold López-Nussa has a touch heavily indebted to Brad Mehldau’s, but with a rhythmic dance of his own. It’s the latter that’s in focus on the Havana pianist’s lovely New Day. Despite beautiful melodies and exquisitely tender piano, rhythm comes out on top.

Ostensibly a quartet recording (though trumpeter Mayquel González appears only on two tracks), its primary relationship is that between López-Nussa and his brother, drummer Ruy Adrián López-Nussa. Indeed, the sprightly second tune, “Cimarrón,” is an interactive duet, Ruy Adrián battering out Afro-Cuban intricacies on the cajon and taking a solo on the instrument, as Harold vamps in the piano’s upper register and plays melodies in the lower. This interaction becomes a trend; bassist Gastón Joya is usually present, but spends much of his time comping for the piano (“A Degüello”) or harmonizing with its low end (“Fantasmas en Caravana”). It’s best exemplified not on the Latin pieces but on the gospel-inspired strut “New Day”: They pound a four-on-the-floor beat, Harold stretching the harmony like putty as Ruy Adrián stamps and Joya vamps.

Still, Joya does make some prominent appearances. His melodic statement on the tender “Otro Viaje” makes the tune, and his solo on the same is chock full of melodic ideas, on which Harold builds his own solo. Great melodic ideas are in abundant supply from the pianist, too, highlighted by “Eso Fue Hace 20,” a melancholy legato duet with González, and the mysterious but impassioned “Paseo.” On the latter, though, as on much of New Day, it’s the arrival of percussive fire from the López-Nussa brothers and Joya (with another wondrous solo) that elevates it to splendor.