HAROLD LOPEZ-NUSSA – Timba a la Americana (ENG review)

Blue Note – Street Date August 25th 2023

As you know, Harold Lopez-Nussa is well-known on Bayou Blue Radio. We have always considered him to be one of the major current artists in the jazz galaxy. This time, his new album is being released by Blue Note, and from the very first track, it’s a musical explosion and a beautiful evolution as well, with a more airy music than usual, without sacrificing the style that we all love.
Cuban rhythms are present, delving deeper into jazz and its progression, to the point where one might wonder if he isn’t the spiritual heir of Joe Zawinul at the keyboard. On the track “Cake a la Moda,” frankly, you’d believe it, yes! Harold always surprises us, arriving where we least expect it, and with an intelligent incorporation of his culture to create his works.
Harold traces the origins of “Timba a la Americana” to a day during their first winter in France after leaving Cuba to settle in Toulouse. It was cold, he was nostalgic. Harold found himself going through the voice memos on his phone, listening to improvisations and fragments of musical ideas he had recorded years before. These moments had occurred during concerts, in the musical space of his home, or on the street, when an idea struck him. These song seeds brought him back to the rhythmic communication that was part of his daily life in Cuba.
From France, there’s the harmonica of Grégoire Maret that sounds like an accordion in the background, marking the fusion of styles. Harold declares, “For me, it was emotional to be in France and listen again to these ideas from the past because the transition for me wasn’t easy,” Harold recalls. “In Cuba, musicians would come to my house several times a week, to play, to party. My daughters grew up going to concerts every week. We were very active with music.”

A musical introspection, putting an end to the 1950s Latin jazz, being and living in the present – Harold continues: “It’s almost as if I needed to think about Cuba from afar,” explains Harold. “I had all these feelings of challenge, of a new life, new things happening for us. It was a lot of novelty, and of course, that would be reflected in the music, but I still felt this conflict: I want this music to sound like Cuba, but how could it if I’m not there?”
And the memories resurface, those profound memories that haunt him, his mind goes back to the feelings and sensations tied to his Cuban culture. “That’s me looking back to Cuba,” says Harold. “I’m thinking about our life there, my friends, and the music we made. When I started, it was just a small idea, almost like a baroque theme. While playing, I remember thinking that we needed to shift into a very slow rumba, a specific rhythm I’ve heard my whole life. It’s a pulse from the neighborhood where I was born in Havana – it’s in religion, in celebrations, ceremonies, and parties. A slow groove, for the elderly so they can dance. For me, that rhythm awakens something deep and melancholic – it’s rumba, but it’s a part of something ancient.”
Perhaps that’s why we love Harold Lopez-Nussa’s music, which brings forth his profound intellectual honesty. Here, there are 10 dynamic original compositions performed by a solid group including the harmonica virtuoso Grégoire Maret, Luques Curtis on bass, Bárbaro “Machito” Crespo on congas, and Harold’s brother, Ruy Adrián López-Nussa, on drums.
While waiting for the end of August to enjoy this album, take a little trip to Bayou Blue Radio, and you’ll probably hear a track that will be released as a single very soon.
It is with pleasure that the editorial teams of Bayou Blue Radio and Paris-Move place this album on the “Essential” list.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, August 10th 2023


To buy this album