Harold López-Nussa Trio: El País de las Maravillas

On his second U.S. recording, 26-year-old Cuban pianist Harold López-Nussa leads his trio-bassist Felipe Cabrera and drummer (and younger brother) Ruy Adrian López-Nussa-through a set composed mostly of the leader’s fresh originals, merging jazz with his European classical training and the rhythms of his homeland. Born into a musical family and educated at the prestigious ISA in Havana, López-Nussa recently gained prominence through the American/Cuban project Ninety Miles featuring Stefon Harris, Christian Scott and David Sánchez. Saxophonist Sánchez appears here on four tunes.

The opening “Guajira,” composed by Ruy Adrian López-Nussa, is a vehicle for a piano-drum dialogue weaving through a lively melody and intermittent claps and whistles that evoke flamenco. “Caminos” has drums and bass laying down a tight groove, López-Nussa and Sánchez playfully and dexterously drifting in and out of unison. The two shine together and apart, on the driving “La Fiesta Va,” the clave-centered “Bailando Suiza” and the vibrant “Volver.”

The title song, meaning “wonderland,” opens with an extended piano solo that blossoms into a winsome soundscape, its memorable theme vocalized as the tune builds then subsides. “E’Cha” is propelled by powerhouse drummer Ruy Adrian, while the breezy ballad “A Camilin,” composed by Cabrera, showcases the skillful and soulful bassist on an extended solo. The trio closes the album with the delicate “Amanecer” (Dawn), featuring Ruy Adrian on vibraphone and cajón.

Sharonne Cohen

Sharonne Cohen is a Montreal-based writer and editor. A music journalist since 2001, she has contributed to publications including JazzTimes, DownBeat, OkayPlayer, VICE/Noisey, Afropop Worldwide, The Revivalist, and La Scena Musicale; her articles are often accompanied by her photographs.