David Virelles Quintet
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David Virelles Quintet


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"Intimate Exchange with Cuba"

Halfway through Thursday's set, Virelles took advantage of a lengthy solo to display the versatility (Jane) Bunnett describes. Shifting easily from precisely articulated bop harmonies to rolling tumbao rhythms, he constructs a chorus delineating the extraordinary scope and breadth of his talent. He's clearly an important young artist in the making. - Los Angeles Times

"Jazz Exigeant"

Virelles and his musicians are the winners of the Grand Prix du Jazz and something tells us the judges did not delibered for a long time. We have seen a lot of participants in the last days and the talent of this group is clear. Their jazz, free but with a classic charge, is full and demanding... the energy and the intelligence are together. The director has a vivace pianist style, inherited from the cuban jazz tradition: the games are complex, the solos depart to the adventure without loosing the audience, who likes the subtle cuban rythms that hold the compositions. - La Presse, Montreal

"Virelles Virtuosity"

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA | Saturday July 22, 2006

Virelles virtuosity
Cuban pianist brings blazing blend of bop, Latin sounds to jazz fest
By STEPHEN COOKE Entertainment Reporter

CUBAN PIANIST David Virelles has been in Canada for five years, and in a relatively short period has made the most of his time here. But that should be expected from a prodigy who plays with time so well when hes at the keyboard.
Besides being part of the Grammy-nominated team behind Jane Bunnetts Spirits of Havana project, Virelles was the first recipient of the prestigious Oscar Peterson Prize while studying in Toronto, and 10 days ago, his quintet was awarded the Grand Prix de General Motors Award at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, as the best out of 10 ensembles in the pan-Canadian competition.
And now Halifax gets a taste of what is rapidly becoming one of the hottest new jazz talents in the country at the Atlantic Jazz Festival, as Virelles and fellow Cuban saxophonist Luis Denis fire up the Halifax Club tonight at 8 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.).
And the 22-year-old virtuoso gets a taste of what audience reaction is like for his blazing blend of bop and Latin sounds from both sides of his adopted home.
"Its very interesting because weve been playing all these different places," says Virelles, fresh from his Roots Orchestra performance in the Festival Tent with tabla player Ravi Naimpally, saxophonist Dani Oore and cellist Norman Adams. "Vancouver, Calgary, Medicine Hat, and weve gotten a pretty positive response everywhere. Im glad, because we play for the people, and its rewarding that they like what we try to do, and that they dont think that its weird or too crazy or something."
Virelles first came to Canada five years ago with help of Toronto saxophonist Bunnett, who was impressed by his focused playing and admirable technique, honed by years of studying classical in a Cuban music school, while also listening to his fathers and grandfathers jazz records. At the time, hed never been away from his home country, and didnt speak English.
"I met Jane around 1998 when she came down to the school I went to," he recalls. "She has this program where she brings instruments and supplies to schools in Cuba. I knew of her, I had one of her CDs, and I just asked her if I could play a tune with her.
"We jammed and stuff, and later on she invited me to play on one of her CDs. Thats how everything got started. Then she invited me up to Toronto, because she got a Toronto Arts Council grant, and she chose me to come up and do some stuff with her in Canada and study with some players in Toronto."
Virelles studied in Toronto at Humber College and the Univeristy of Toronto, with people like Don Thompson and Brian Dickenson, plus Barry Harris, a bebop pioneer who was friends with Thelonious Monk and performed with the likes of Cannonball Adderley, Illinois Jacquet, Coleman Hawkins and Dexter Gordon.
"Hes a great pianist, one of my heroes," says Virelles. "Hes definitely a person to whom I owe a lot of the little that I know, just because hes such a great teacher.
"He was there when bebop was really happening, and hes an amazing, insightful teacher."
Virelles mix of schooling has paid off handsomely, judging by the dynamic performance delivered by his group during a late night session at Stayners Wharf on Sunday night. Playing mostly original compositions, Virelles percussive style was well-suited by the free range blowing of Cuban saxophonist Luis Denis, with Cape Bretoner Ethan Ardelli on drums (a U of T acquaintance) and Truro bassist Devon Henderson, whom Virelles met at Humber College. The full quintet also includes percussionist Luisito Orbegoso.
The ensembles flow from melody to improv sections is fluid and sometimes surprising.
"Its definitely something we strive for, cause sometimes you just get into these predictable forms where you play the melody, then a solo, then the melody again," he says. "Were just trying to mess around a little with that. All the pieces are thoroughly composed, but then we kind of go off on certain themes or a little vamp, play around with that and then we come back to the melody.
"Its kind of loose, but at the same time at least we try to make it focused. Thats what we try to do. Things wont happen if youre trying to hard to make them happen, but if you let things just flow, then they start happening and everything comes together."
As for his own forceful playing and timbre control, Virelles says his technique will always be a growing entity; a combination of things hes learned, and has had to unlearn.
"I try to . . . school is funny sometimes, because when you go to school to study jazz, you start editing yourself. Because they teach you that you have to play this, you have to play that, so you kind of learn certain things and get in the habit of playing those things.
"I dont think thats good, because you start editing yourself and start putting a limit to your creativi - Halifax Chronicle Herald

"David Virelles Quintet at the Beaches Jazz Festival"

The song starts with a funky percussive electric piano melody, the conga player joins in and drives the
rhythm with a pulsating beat. The drummer joins in after about 16 bars accentuating the upbeat. Virelles
pulls off some inventive runs with his right hand while maintaining the funk rhythm with his left.
A call and response trio between piano, conga and drums, with a couple of notes as a lead to a
blistering 32nd note run in the mid register and then smoothly floating back to the high end, augmented
by huge chords in response to the
drummers accents.
Virelles is playing the rhythm so strongly and soloing so fluidly
that he sounds as if he has a sampler or some effect that
doubles his capability.
Such is not the case, this is just a wizard of a pianist who creates
a piano duet in solo mode.
Sax player Deniz glides in on the tail end of Virelles’ run and blows by with an arpeggio copying the
piano player’s intricate runs. A game begins to unfold between these two. A game or a battle of virtuosos, it doesn’t matter, it’s all about the music. The energy, spirit and joy that pours off of the stage
is overwhelming. A delight to behold, the song builds to a glorious climax. The percussionists are playing
off the energy and are building to a tremendous crescendo, the bass player is trying to hold it all
together. Sax player Deniz performs one final amazing solo, the song has ended and he is still fingering
the valves open and shut, the sax is held out in front of him, the transient energy builds and one final
melodic howl drifts over the stage.
These are true musicians, it’s Noon, they have just finished their performance with a fifteen-minute song and it’s over before it began. The crowd yells for more. The Beaches International Jazz Festival runs on
schedule, sorry no encore, the next act has to get ready. - The Live Music Report

"Motion - David Virelles"

David Virelles is not only a pianist with dauntingly developed chops, he’s a composer of compelling but thoughtful music. The tracks on Motion display a range of expressiveness that do far more established musicians proud. "Lo Más Sublime", for instance, has an impelling forward motion without the usual oh-so-serious ostinatos that his contemporaries seem to feel obliged to use to get the same effect. Couple his challenging chord structure with guest tenor saxist Mark Turner’s lyrical, muscular solo and you’ve got but one example of why this CD rewards repeated listenings. Then there’s the rest of the band: Luis Orbegoso supplying insistent percussion; Ethan Ardelli driving the tunes with sophisticated drumming; Luis Deniz wailing with Steve Coleman inspired alto lines; and ever-solid Devon Henderson underpinning the whole enterprise with supple, enlivening bass lines. What a band! Dreamlike tunes like "Mercedes" bring a change of pace, allowing soloists to sing like wordless vocalists. In short, Motion is recording worth seeking out and drinking in like fine wine.

By Glen Hall for Exclaim Magazine
- Exclaim Magazine


Featured Artist: David Virelles

CD Title: Motion

Year: 2007

Record Label: Justin Time Records

Style: Contemporary Jazz

Musicians: David Virelles (piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizer, chanting), Luis Deniz (alto saxophone), Devon Henderson ( acoustic bass) Ethan Ardelli (drums), Luis Orbegoso ( congas, batajones, cajon, minor percussion, chanting), Mark Turner (tenor saxophone), Celso Machado (voice and gimbri), Jose Aquiles (voice), Pablosky Rosales (tres guitar)

Review: The eagerly anticipated David Virelles CD Motion, a well deserved award for winning the grand prize at the 2006 Montreal Jazz Festival - where the David Virelles Quintet competed against ten other combos and ensembles, is every thing it should be. A masterful production of wondrous music that pays tribute to Virelles Cuban heritage, culture, family, friends and jazz mentors, while maintaining the highest standards in creating a fine work of artistic beauty in contemporary music, highly recommended.
Mr. Virelles is an extraordinary, award-winning pianist based in Toronto, Canada. He is often referred to as The Marvel, he is the protégé of flutist/saxophonist Jane Bunnett, who discovered him at a young age in Cuba and made arrangements to have him study music in Canada, allowing him to interact with some of the best musicians in the world. Virelles collaborated with Jane Bunnett and Spirits of Havana as the bands pianist, composer and arranger on award winning CD’s, Red Dragonfly and Radio Guantanemo.

David Virelles steps out into the spotlight in fine fashion on his debut recording as a leader. The liner notes, they are extensive, primarily give thanks to all who have contributed or influenced his progress thus far in his young life, as well as indicating he composed all of the songs with the exception of one, “Laberintos,” composed by Jose Aquiles, David Virelles’ father. The song is a beautiful and touching performance of piano and vocal, a ballad, opening with an introduction of delicate piano voicing in a classical fashion. Singing in Spanish, vocalist Mr. Aquiles attacks the song with passion and continues to flow through the swaying, wavelike melody with full-sustained notes that billow out - to float gently down over the piano rhapsody providing a sense of warmth and comfort. The liner notes indicate the vocal track by Mr. Aquiles was recorded in Cuba, the singer has given his son a marvellous gift, in more ways than one.

The opening track “Caminos” is a good introduction to the CD, a very short song that sets up the feeling of Motion literally, it has a complex pulse where the beginning merges into the ending and allows Virelles to play fluidly underneath the repeating pattern, a shifting meter, he lays down some intricate, tasteful runs. The song practically merges into the next song “Los Mas Sublime” a similar pulse, a very solid rhythm section drives the song forward. Drummer Ethan Ardelli plays with a fresh and free flowing form that is very complimentary to the feel of the song, with lots of cymbal work and polyrhythmic accents creating a multilayered tapestry of sounds. The altoist Luis Deniz weaves in and out of this complex pattern, creating and contributing to the intensity of the pleasing sound that is melodic and rhythmical, passionate and urgent. Bassist Devon Henderson is the solid foundation that holds it all together and allows all this freedom of expression to occur unimpeded by the confines of time and space. The percussionist Luis Orbegoso adds another dimension to the song, the world musical influence is presented through the various percussion activities that are tastefully applied and compliment the rhythm perfectly.

The highlights of the recording Motion are many, from the incredible piano playing of David Virelles, to the phenomenal saxophone playing by Luis Deniz and Mark Turner (a guest artist playing on three of the tracks). The playing and singing of guest artist Celso Machado, adding that world influence to the song “Patakin.” An upbeat tune that starts out with an introduction by Machado singing in a rough chanting voice and playing the stringed instrument - gimbri, the song develops over the course of twelve minutes into a paradise of pleasing sounds, flowing melodies and catchy rhythms with intriguing, thoughtful solos interspersed throughout.

Overall, a top rated CD, by a group of excellent young musicians, playing inspired music and coming together to create a superb first effort.

Tracks: Caminos, Lo Mas Sublime, Mercedes, Double Rainbow, Son (Para AL Alma A Divertir), Laberintos, Sueno, Patakin (Story)

Reviewed by: Paul J. Youngman
- jazzreview.com


David Virelles has crafted an impressive debut with “Motion,” (June 2007), which features his excellent quintet, as well as such guests as Mark Turner, Celso Machado and Virelles father, José Aquiles. The recording is the result of having won the Grand Prize at the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal in 2006.



A unique and original blend of jazz and improvisation where the members' interaction is of extreme importance. The band's goal is to play original and creative music. Compositions incorporate influences from various musical traditions such as Africa, Cuba, Brazil and the United States as well as elements from European Classical music.

David Virelles - Piano

David was born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba on November 10, 1983 in a family of musicians (his father is a singer-songwriter and his mother a flutist in the Santiago de Cuba Symphony Orchestra). Studying classical piano since he was 7 his hometown offered a very rich variety of music that marked David’s musical personality. He was also an avid listener to his grandfather’s jazz record collection and especially the music of the great American Jazz artists like Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.
At 15, Virelles won 1st Prize at the Concurso Jojazz in Havana Cuba. The competition was adjudicated by several of the most prestigious jazz musicians in Cuba and afforded David an introduction to piano legends Frank Emilio Flynn and Chucho Valdes. Soon thereafter he was invited to appear on the late Cuban trombonist Juan Pablo Torres’ CD "Together Again", which also included veterans Giovanni Hidalgo, Robin
Eubanks, Horacio “el Negro” Hernandez and Chucho Valdes.
In 1999, David met Canadian Jazz flutist/ saxophonist Jane Bunnett in one of her visits to his hometown’s conservatory. Bunnett, who is known for her contributions to the world of Latin Jazz, invited David to appear on her C.D "Alma de Santiago". This album also featured some of the most remarkable artists of David’s hometown of Santiago de Cuba, such as Tiburon Morales, Cuarteto de Saxofones de Santiago de Cuba and the "trova" group Los Jubilados. The album was a critical success and it was nominated for both a Grammy and a Juno Award.
In May of 2001, Virelles was invited to Canada by Jane Bunnett to perform at the Toronto Arts Awards and study with some of the most outstanding Jazz musicians in the Toronto scene such as Don Thompson and Brian Dickinson.
David graduated from the Jazz Music program at Humber College, where he performed with Jazz greats Paquito d’ Rivera, Michael Brecker and Bill Holman. In October of 2003, Virelles was chosen as the recipient for the first Oscar Peterson Prize. The Canadian Jazz Master himself presented this award to Virelles at the ceremony.
Since his arrival in Canada, David has also studied with Jazz legends Barry Harris and Steve Coleman. In the last four years he has appeared with Bunnett’s band “Spirits of Havana “. Virelles’s contribution to Bunnett’s band can be heard on her album "Cuban Oddyssey”, which won the Jazz Journalists Awards in 2003 and was also nominated for a Juno Award and a Grammy Award. David was also featured as an arranger as well as a performer on the Jane Bunnett Juno nominated C.D. “Red Dragonfly” with the Panderecki String Quartet as guests. He also contributed to Bunnett’s latest album “Radio Guantanamo”, which won a Juno Award in 2006. Also in 2006 he was nominated for the Canadian National Jazz Awards in the category of Best Latin Jazz Artist and won the C.B.C. Galaxy Award for Rising Star. David was also part of the first Art of Jazz Festival in Toronto where he performed with the likes of Sheila Jordan, Jane Bunnett and the Spirits of Havana, Ray Vega, The Art of Jazz Orchestra, Francisco Mela and Ricky Franco and the P-Crew Orchestra. He has performed with some of the most outstanding jazz musicians in Canada, including Neil Swainson, Terry Clarke, Reg Schwager, Don Thompson, Kirk McDonald, Kieran Overs, Remy Bolduc, Denzel Sinclair, Richard Underhill, Rich Brown, Roberto Occhipinti, Alex Dean, Barry Romberg, Archie Alleyne, Norman Marshall Villenueve, P.J Perry, Dave Young, and Phil Dwyer just to name a few. David has also performed/recorded with Stanley Cowell, Dewey Redman, Steve Coleman, Mark Turner, George Garzone, John Benitez, Howard Johnson, Jason Palmer, Warren Wolf, Francisco Mela, Charles Flores, Horacio “el Negro” Hernandez, John Lockwood, Luis Mario Ochoa, etc. David was also (along with his group the David Virelles Quintet) the recipient of the Grand Prix de Jazz General Motors for 2006 at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
The band will be touring Canada in the summer 2008 and Latin America in the spring of 2009.

Luis Gonzalez Denis, Alto Sax

Luis Gonzalez Denis was born in Camaguey, Cuba in
1983. In 1993, Luis started his musical studies at the Escuela Vocacional de Arte Luis Casas Romero in his hometown of Camaguey, where he subsequently continued at the Escuela Profesional de Musica Jose White. Luis later moved to the Cuban capital, where he graduated at the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Musica (ENA), the alma mater of several of Cuba's most prominent musicians. Upon his arrival in Toronto in 2004, Gonzalez has performed and recorded with some of Toronto's most outstanding