Monk and Cuba

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Pepe Rivero is an excellent pianist, no question and I have seen him before with his own bands and lately with Pablo Martin – he is a Cuban musician who lives in Madrid, but has a long history of great associations from Celia Cruz and Paquito D’Rivera to Omara Portuondo. His new project and album is a Homage to Monk, delivered with the quintet as advertised above for the gig at Bogui’s and with his own Big Band – the album has a disc for each formation and where the Big Band is mainly performing Monk’s music, the quintet first of all plays the Homage through compositions by Pepe, most notably the Suite Family, a four movement suite of amazing and powerful music (live as well as on disc). The repertoire for the concert was actually taken from both discs and the quintet enlarged by either another sax or a trumpet to make up for the missing Big Band.

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Despite the fact that all musicians played and improvised extremely well, it was Pepe shining through Monk’s and his own compositions and improvisations – in one solo he kind of went through the history of jazz, from a Ragtime feel to modern jazz piano and left the audience (including  a smiling Paquito D’Rivera) in the packed club breathless. Late in the second set he performed a duo with bass player Reinier Elizarde ‘El Negro’, which was of such a beauty and had an uplifting Cuban groove, that the audience screamed for more … Which they will get, as he told me afterwards that he is working on a full album of duets with Reinier and the repertoire will be old and partly unknown Cuban songs. Can’t wait to hear that ! Yes, Pepe Rivero is an excellent pianist and his Homage to Monk is a record (or better 2 records) worth checking out.

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