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Cuban pianist Aldo López Gavilán will play concerts in Kirkland, Tacoma and Puyallup

Cuban pianist Aldo López Gavilán
Jose V. Gavilondo
aldomusica, courtesy of the artist
Cuban pianist Aldo López Gavilán

Robin Lloyd spoke with Cuban pianist Aldo López Gavilán earlier this week. Read on to find out more about Aldo, his very talented family, and where you can see his upcoming performances.

Listen for "Pan con Timba" from Aldo and Ilmar López Gavilán's album "Los Hermanos" on Jazz Caliente this week.

Aldo López Gavilán is a major artist in classical piano, as well as in world music and jazz.

In Cuba, musical training starts early, and the inclination toward music often runs in the family. I asked López what drew him to the piano.

"Definitely one of the major things that made me go to the piano was my mother," said López. "She was a wonderful pianist and a very well renowned piano teacher, and we had a piano at home, so I was already born with a piano. My older brother already played the violin. So my mother's dream was to reunite the classic trio: cello, violin and piano, right? And I started receiving some cello lessons. But obviously, the piano was screaming louder to me. I always felt this attraction to the instrument better."

And the attraction to jazz?

"I was already into composing and creating my own music," López explains. "So the closest thing that people have in Cuba for approaching creativity and improvising in a way that is not classical, is jazz. I always had this inclination to this style of music."

Me voy pa cuba2016

"We had big jazz festivals at the time, the Havana Jazz Plaza, directed by Chucho Valdes, who is one of the icons of Latin jazz in the world," López continued. "I was fascinated by him when I started composing and improvising, and he actually helped me to compose one piece. It was a mixture of Afro-Cuban songs with jazz with, you know, jazz scales and all the virtuosic style of Chucho. So that's actually how it started. But I never called it jazz, honestly. I was a kid, I was not aware of the many, many different styles that I could blend. Chucho was the person who really introduced me into the jazz world more seriously."

López's brother, Ilmar, is an equally talented violinist. Ilmar left Cuba to study in the Soviet Union, and eventually settled in New York, joining the Grammy-winning Harlem Quartet.

The film "Los Hermanos" tells about the brothers' recent reunion and the recording of their album together, also called "Los Hermanos."

LHTB Trailer 2021

"Ilmar left Cuba when he was very, very young," said López. "I stayed longer. I stayed all my career. Actually, I studied in Cuba most of the time, except for my college degree and a Master's later in London. I went when I was 19 on a full scholarship to study for four years at Trinity College of Music. It was an eye-opening experience, not only musically but culturally and socially."

"I went back home to Havana," López continued. "I got married. It was really hard for me to stay away. I also had this call to come back. I mean, when I say 'this call', it's my own call, to come back and learn more about my culture. Learn more about my music, because I realize there are so many cultures, and the best way to be international is by being the best national person you can be in a cultural way. So the better you know your music, your culture, your language, the more you can explore and interchange that with the rest of the world. So I decided to come back. I think it was a very good choice. I know many people think, 'Oh you silly boy, you should have stayed and made your life abroad.' But you know, that was my call, so I don't have any regrets."

What's next?

"Of course, I want to enhance my composing career," López said. "I want to compose more for bigger formats like symphony orchestras. I want to play. I want to compose for piano concertos. I've been composing a clarinet concerto for a long time, I haven't finished yet. But yes, I want to enhance my composition side. And maybe, you know, try to get commissions from bigger orchestras for collaborations with big names. I love collaborations with different people from from different parts of the world. I would like to collaborate with Indian musicians because I really enjoy Indian music, and African composers and players. And of course, here in the U.S., there are so many musicians I would love to collaborate with."

"I'm very happy to come back to the area— Seattle, Tacoma and Puyallup, to play my music," López said. "This is one of my favorite things to do, especially with more musicians, with orchestras and ensembles. Usually I perform as a soloist with classical music, so I have to perform all the composers, which I love to do. But of course, I prefer to play my music. I'm very happy about it, and I'm looking very much forward!"

Aldo López Gavilán performs with pianist Marina Albero on April 23 (tonight) at Stage 7 Pianos in Kirkland. On Friday April 29 he's with the NW Sinfonietta Quartetat Schneebeck Hall at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma; Saturday April 30 with the UPS Orchestra at Schneebeck Hall, and Sunday May 1 with the NW Sinfonietta Quartet at Pioneer Park Pavilion in Puyallup.

Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5 p.m. The show is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio.

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Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.