Fernando González on Dayramir González and Aldo
It's an impossible calculation, but the ratio between the size
and population of Cuba versus the musical talent it has
produced—and continues to produce—has to be astounding.
Dayramir González, 29, and Aldo López-Gavilán, who will be 33 in
December, are two leading figures in yet another generation of
exceptional Cuban pianists. But technical brilliance is only part
of the story. Both born in musical families, both educated in the
European classical canon, González and López-Gavilán have shown the
curiosity and talent for working in different idioms, incorporating
in their writing and playing elements of the popular Cuban music
tradition and jazz along with broader, global sources.
"I started studying piano when I was seven. It was all classical,"
recalls González, the son of a professional trumpet player. "But I
was lucky to be part of a generation of pianists who today are top
level players, like Alfredo Rodriguez and Axel [Tosca] Laugart. We
are all about the same age and we all studied in the same
classroom. We would be playing classical music and to break from
the routines and impress the girls, we would have … I wouldn't call
it a competition, but let's say that we all wanted to be the best
at playing popular music—the most popular
tumbaos (the rhythmic patterns in dance
And López-Gavilán, whose his father is an orchestra conductor and
his late mother was an important pianist and educator, can point to
Stravinsky's Rite of Spring as a pivotal piece that he remembers
from his childhood, but also talk about family gatherings where
they sang Cuban songs and his own interest in "tribal or indigenous
musics, be it African, Indian, Arabic, Celtic … and of course those
with Latin roots such as Brazil, Argentina, Colombia ..."
Both González and López-Gavilán gravitated towards jazz as a
vehicle for self-expression, but neither wants to be boxed into one
González—whose father introduced him to jazz with a cassette of
Wynton Marsalis that featured the late Kenny Kirkland—cites Chick
Corea, el señor Keith Jarrett, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and
Chucho Valdés as influences that have helped draw him closer to the
jazz tradition. ("I'm so lucky to now to be living jazz,"
he says of his experience at the Berklee College of Music in
Boston). But he also speaks of his love for Latin pop. "Jazz is a
path, but if people think that's the only thing you can do, that
will close doors."
Meanwhile, López-Gavilán uses the tools of jazz to develop a style
"that is closer to world music," he says. Still, he points out that
the rich Cuban music tradition is embedded "in every Cuban." At
this concert, he plans to play his own music, which features
influences of Latin jazz, fusion, and world music, but he notes
that "it'd be very easy to find passages that breathe the air of
Vieja Trova Santiaguera, or composers such as Sindo Garay, María
Teresa Vera, or the son of Miguel Matamoros, and
Félix Chapotín. The roots of any Cuban musician, regardless of his
style, is our traditional Cuban music."
—Fernando González is an independent music writer and critic whose
work appears regularly in The Miami Herald,
JazzTimes, and The International Review of