Saturday, November 28, 2015


In one of the most magical and most forward thinking places in Toronto for live music, I decided to take in a concert of some of the most unique music put together by a good old friend of mine.   He would go by the name of David Virelles, fellow Cuban and prodigee of Jane Bunnett.

I first met David at the IAJE conference in January of 2003.   I even took a Barry Harris workshop with him and when we saw the 50th anniversary of the “Quintet:  Live At Massey Hall”, we hung out the night away with greats such as Dave Holland, Max Roach, Roy Haynes, Roy Hargrove, Kenny Garrett, and one of our main piano heroes, Herbie Hancock.

All of a sudden now, David moved to New York, and at a ripe young age he is now backing up and recording with Chris Potter, Tomasz Stanko, Andrew Cyrille and Ben Street to name a few.   He got his training through the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) through legends such as Muhal Richard Abrams and Henry Threadgill.   Through these experiences, he is fusing the elements of the avant-garde, post-bop, contemporary classical, free jazz, and Afro-Cuban music into a uniquely potent style that is really energetic, rapturous, and gets you in the zone wanting more.

The performance was split into two sections.   David Virelles played mostly solo piano some short pieces and compositions with a few highlights from vocalist Roman Diaz and a percussion instrument.   From what I gathered, one moment David would play with the sensitivity and the romanticism of a Beethoven or a Chopin, but once he locks in a groove, he brings a percussive element that is just as intense and fiery as a Cecil Taylor.  

The actual world premiere performance, Gnosis, is a work that is a fusion of classical elements mixed with avant-garde, Afro-Cuban jazz.    It is a marriage made in heaven.   One of the highlights of the movement was a section in which David and the percussionist played a near 10 minute groove that was so intense, rapturous, and spiritual that I had to literally get up off my seat and start doing interpretive freestyle dance to the music, communicating with the percussionist who was egging me on with his rhythms.   That alone was what David really achieved that night.   Gnosis, which is Greek for “Spirit” (hence where you get the word Gnosticism) was just like that.   For me, it felt like a Pentecostal church service that didn’t want to end.  

In my honest opinion, David Virelles’ “Gnosis” could very well be the best concert that I have ever been to in 2015, since it was art at its most energetic, spiritual and classiest at its best.


(David Virelles)

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