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Un Dia en Madrid - Ernesto Vega

Check out our latest album "Tradition and Beyond"

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Ernesto Vega is a virtuoso clarinetist of the highest order.  This sets him apart but there are virtuosi in every instrument and genre.  He is a specialist in jazz and Afro Cuban music. This sets him somewhat more apart and is a distinction that has resonance for both worlds.  He is also a composer of great wit and presence. Okay, so now he is pulling away from the average and distinguishing himself as a musician of true importance.  All of this isn’t of as much importance as what makes him one of my favorite musicians. He is performer imbued with true soul. If you listen carefully you can hear him set aside virtuosity, genre and compositional vehicle for what great artists truly do.  They allow us to peek into the generosity of their hearts and souls. In this manner they help us to soften our hearts and experience a respite from our daily struggles. Thank you, Ernesto, for this gift that few can truly pull off. We are the better for it.


In Tradition and Beyond Ernesto pays homage to individuals and settings that have provided him with purposed art making.  To pay respect to our traditions and heroes without replicating and mimicking is difficult. At no point in the recording does Ernesto or his marvelous musicians lose their modernity and identity, but you can hear the love and respect for the journey that has brought them thus far.  These musicians are all acknowledged masters in Cuba and throughout the world. Each one a leader in their own right. Like Ernesto they share virtuosity, style, and most importantly soul and generosity. This is a recording made by a fraternity of master music makers, led by a gentle and giving leader who doesn’t grab the spotlight but shares his platform lovingly and graciously.


Camino al Prado is a tribute to a beautiful broad lined street in Havana called El Prado.  It is centered by a pedestrian plaza where Cubans stroll and take in the majesty of their beautiful island.  The melody and structure of this piece reflect the ornate and genteel nature of this street and it's beautiful populace.  It’s also dedicated to the great Cuban pianist “Bola de Nieve”.


Guajiro Joropo is a hybrid of pure Cuban soul and Venezuelan mischief.  The Joropo is a favored Venezuelan song from and genre. I love the light phrasing of the unison melody and the piano solo is an extension of the same lightness with a hip Jazz sensitivity.  Ernesto enters the fray in a joyous stream of notes, and you can hear the rhythm section swing in a hybrid of different worlds and aesthetics. The end is a Guajira which is traditionally a form associated with Cuban music but here very much extended for Venezuela and the United States.


My Good Friend is a dedication to Ignacio Hernandez.  It is a beautiful conversation and the bass solo is particularly filled with sensitivity and rhythmic drive.  Gaston Joya is the bass soloist and also is known throughout the world as bassist with Chucho Valdes


One for Emiliano is for the great Cuban pianist Emiliano Salvador who is a pivotal figure in unlocking the modernity of Afro Cuban Jazz.  The folkloric and the progressive have always been a hallmark of his playing and Harold Lopez Nussa follows in that great tradition.


Regálame un Danzón features my friend and wonderful pianist Alejandro Falcon.  The Danzón is a beloved and traditional style in Cuba and much of the roots for the intermingling and beginnings of what we call Afro Cuban Jazz are hidden in the DNA of this genre in Cuban music.  It is elegant music but contains fire and passion.


My Cuban Soul is dedicated to Paquito D’Rivera who is somewhat the patron saint for Cuban clarinetists.  Besides being a personal inspiration and friend to Ernesto, Paquito is a Cuban living in exile from his beloved homeland but make no mistake about it he has a deep Cuban soul and a remarkable ability to reveal it in the humor and sophistication of his playing.  Here the trades between Edgar Martinez on congas and Ruy Adrian Lopez Nussa are also a feature of that Cuban Soul.


Un Bolero Con Sentimiento is a ballad in the traditional style of boleros throughout Latin America.  It is hear that you hear the delicate shadings and rhythmic subtleties of Ernesto.  His solo is a true dance of mind, heart, and feeling.


Querido New Orleans New Orleans is a secretly a Cuban neighborhood, an African Village and a uniquely American reality.  The tradition of clarinetists and brass players performing outdoors in marches, second lines and jam sessions has been the breeding ground for many a unique voice in the improvisatory art known as jazz.  This Danzón-like composition has Evan Christopher as a subject and the love letter is written with the mighty clarinet as the vehicle for both of these masters.


Sonsito Pa Goza is dedicated to Ernesto’s mother Iliana Perez.  She is every bit as lovely and vital as this great composition paints her out to be.  I love duos and Ernesto and Harold Lopez Nussa flow as one voice revealing the great love and respect that permeate this recording.


This is a simple record really.  Not simplistic but the message and methodology are very clear.  Ernesto has put together a group of like-minded friends and master musicians, not to show off or demonstrate knowledge and skill (though they very clearly do).  Instead they’ve joined together for that eminently far more important reason, to serve the music and its ultimate goal of making all of our hearts sing with simple happiness and joy.  Today with all the bad news that seems to be relentlessly flowing at us from all sides, this message recorded in Cuba by master Cuban musicians reminds us all that there is nothing nobler than lamenting with what we don’t have, but by celebrating what we do.  That is the magic of Cuba, that is the magic of artistry and that is the magic of Ernesto Vega.


Arturo O’Farrill

Somewhere over the continental United States, May 28th, 2019

Liner notes by  Arturo O’Farrill

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