First Jazz Encounter: Two Cultures

By Oriol Bolaño

On Saturday, June 3, at 3pm, the First Jazz Meeting will take place at Coyote Flaco. It will have the participation of Francisco Lelo de Larrea Trío, Víctor Monterrubio on drums, and Adrián Flores on double bass; they will be representing Mexico. Gabriel Hernández and his Jazz Septet with Alfredo Thompson (piano and direction), Alejandro Delgado (trumpet), Reinier Limonta (congas), Rey Nariño (drums), Rafael Ramírez (bass), and Yaima Gutiérrez (piano and voice) will be representing Cuba.

De Larrea was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. He has a degree from the INBAL Superior School of Music in Jazz with a specialty in guitar. He has a Master’s degree in Jazz Performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College, New York.

He has served as a songwriter and project leader and has performed on important stages and festivals in Mexico, Central America, South America, Europe, the United States, Malaysia, Singapore, and India. As a teacher, he has given classes, courses, clinics, and didactic concerts in the most important seminaries and music schools in Mexico. He was part of the teaching academy of the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music in Chennai, India, during 2017. He also did a residency teaching a jazz seminar at the University of the Arts (ISA) in Havana, Cuba (2018). He has a record production entitled Francisco Lelo de Larrea 5uinteto (2007) that has been presented at the most important festivals in the country throughout his career of more than 15 years. Now in 2022 he made his most recent record production with Antonio Sanchez on drums, David Binner on sax, Elliot Mason on trombone, and Scott Colley on double bass.

Hernández is a renowned jazz pianist born in Cuba on July 16, 1964. From an early age, he showed talent in piano. He studied piano and music theory at the Luis Casa Romero Conservatory in Camagüey. His passion for jazz became apparent as he progressed through the levels and entered classical music competitions.

At the age of 15, he began directing the group led by the talented singer Beatriz Marques with whom he recorded several songs and received recognition for the best musical orchestration from the EGREM record company. Hernández has shared the stage with renowned jazz figures like Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Ray Charles. In addition, he has had the privilege of playing the piano for artists Gene Pearl, Tito Puente, Bob Sheppar, Roy Hargrove, Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D’Rivera, and Greg Fishman, these among some of the outstanding musicians. He founded the Fever Opus group with which he has participated in prestigious jazz festivals around the world. He was in Montreal, Montreux, Jamboree in Poland, Jazz Fest in Yugoslavia, and Fest del Danube. He has also collaborated with renowned artists León Tomas, Dizzy Guillespie, Miguel Escalona, and Maravillas de Florida.

Hernández has been recognized by UNEAC as an outstanding member of Cuban art and is part of the evaluation commission for artists in Cuba. Currently, in addition to his career as a jazz soloist and his Mi Quinteto ensemble, he is a member of the famous Afrocuban All Stars group led by Maestro Juan de Marcos González with whom he performs at international festivals. Likewise, he collaborates as a pianist in the Cubanismo orchestra, directed by Maestro Jesús Alemañi, with whom he has done concerts in the United States, Canada, and Europe.