Cuban pianist Harold López-Nussa brings El Viaje to Chickie Wah Wah, 10/28

DownBeat magazine called Harold López-Nussa, “the latest in a line of extraordinary keyboardists to emerge from Cuba,” and compared his playing to the work of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. He plays the Mid City fine listening establishment Friday night with his trio.

As the relationship between Cuba and the United States gradually opens up, we should be seeing more performers from the musically sophisticated island. López-Nussa will be appearing with his trio featuring his younger brother Ruy Adrián López-Nussa on drums and percussion and Senegalese bassist and vocalist Alune Wade.

Significantly, the conservatory-trained pianist is the first Cuba-based musician (he has dual citizenship in both Cuba and France) to release an album internationally since the lifting of many of the restrictions associated with the longstanding trade embargo.

El Viaje is his debut recording on Mack Avenue Records. The title means, “The Journey,” which is apt since the music was inspired by his experiences traveling throughout the world, yet always finding his way back to his hometown of Havana, Cuba.

López-Nussa was born into a musical family in Havana in 1983. Not only are his brother, father, and uncle working musicians, his late mother, Mayra Torres, was a highly regarded piano teacher. At the age of eight, López-Nussa began studying at the Manuel Saumell Elementary School of Music, then the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory, and finally graduating with a degree in classical piano from the Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA).

Like many musicians trained in classical music, it was a bit of a leap into playing jazz. But he has embraced the style with authority. His album received four stars from DownBeat and he is regarded as an emerging artist with great potential.

The show at Chickie Wah Wah will be a chance to see some great jazz in an intimate setting. I suspect it will also be the last time López-Nussa plays such a small room in New Orleans.

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