Nuna is a book of compositions for solo piano by Cuban-American pianist and composer David Virelles. A 2021 recipient of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, Virelles has worked with musicians as distinct as Henry Threadgill, Andrew Cyrille, Ravi Coltrane, Mark Turner, Chris Potter, Tomasz Stanko, Steve Coleman, Wadada Leo Smith, Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, Tom Harrell and Milford Graves. His release Continuum (Pi 2012) was named the best jazz release of that year by The New York Times. After three esteemed releases on the ECM label, Virelles returned to Pi with Igbo Alakorin: The Singers Grove (2017), which was voted top Latin Jazz album in that year’s NPR Jazz Critics Poll.
Virelles describes Nuna as “a metaphor for the piano as an ancient instrument.” While the sonorities of the Steinway Model D concert grand piano are often on full display in his playing, he pays equal emphasis to tempering the instrument’s natural resonance, connecting it more to the sound of folkloric instruments such as thumb pianos, harps and drums. He achieves this purely through touch and pedaling, without any other mechanical manipulation or “prepping.” Indeed, the entire album is a demonstration of Virelles’s masterful control of shading, dynamics and timbre.
It’s unmistakably the work of a singular probing intellect. As with each of Virelles’s projects, Nuna bridges the folkloric with the contemporary, while shrouded in an aura of mystery.
Our first release of 2022 has arrived, Miles Okazaki’s Thisness. The third studio recording of Miles’ quartet, featuring Matt Mitchell on piano and keyboards, Anthony Tidd on electric bass and Sean Rickman on drums, is comprised of a four piece suite, whose title originated with a Sun Ra recording.
Thisness captures the next chapter in the evolution of the Trickster sound. For Thisness, rather than a fixed book of compositions, the music is comprised of various themes that the group weaves in and out of, connected by hubs that Okazaki describes as “traffic circles, or bus stations.” Through hidden musical cues, the leader signals when the music is approaching the transition point and which path to take to exit. As Okazaki described it: “I had detailed blueprints, but at some point, surrendered to the dream logic of the collective. The intention was to make something like an exquisite corpse, the collective improvisations developed by the Surrealists. For this album my job as composer was to bring in some ideas, set them in motion and then listen, trying to recognize the value of serendipitous events at transitional points in the music and lead the band down whatever path may be opening.” The wonder lies in the journey, with beautiful new vistas opening with each turn in the road.