December 2006

The Luis Deniz Quartet
December 16, 2006 The Rex Hotel & Jazz BarToronto
Americans Not Required
by Paul J. Youngman | Photos by Roger Humbert
It’s just before show time; a Chicago Tribune reporter has just tracked down a couple of young Cuban horn players. They are crowded into the basement washroom of one of Cuba’s hottest nightclubs, they will rehearse one last time, warming up, perfecting their technique. One of the horn players is 19-year-old Luis Deniz; the other is trumpeter, Jorge Miguel Vistel Serrano, 20 years old. The horn players are about to storm the stage, to play Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” they play it with passion and fire, as if their lives depend on it. (from a Chicago Tribune article appearing in 2003.)

Serrano, is quoted in the article saying, “If I can’t come to America, I may never get to the heart of jazz.” The Tribune article infers that the musical growth of these talented young musicians will be stymied if they are not exposed to American jazz musicians.

Flash forward four years to Toronto, Luis Deniz, leading his own quartet has taken to the stage, he has been a resident of Toronto since 2003. In that time he has established himself as one of the top players in this city. Mr. Deniz has played with many of the top musicians in Canada, as well as some premier American jazz musicians. He shares the stage this night with David Virelles (piano), Devon Henderson (acoustic bass) and Frank Duran (drums). The quartet would be joined by several guest artists: vocalist Larra Skye, Kervin Barreto (trumpet) and rapper Telmaris.

The first song moves along at a rapid pace. Mr. Deniz pulls off a blistering solo on alto saxophone. Hundreds of pleasing notes fill the club as if fired from a flame-thrower. The passion, the fire and that feeling that he is playing as if his life depends on it, are still there. David Virelles leads the rhythm section masterfully; he is completely engaged and communicating with pure lucid lines. Bassist Devon Henderson lays out the foundation and maintains a rock steady bottom end. The newest Cuban on the block, Frank Duran is drumming with intense swing and playing freestyle off Luis Denis and David Virelles. The first song finishes to rousing applause. Mr. Deniz introduces the band and leads in the next song, “Ceras Negras.” He has officially started his role as leader. He is a natural, creating a warm rapport with the audience, taking command and guiding the show’s direction.

The quartet would play a couple of songs before the arrival of the guests: “Like Us” in tribute to Greg Osby, one of David Virelles favourite musicians; a blues based marching rhythm that opened up to some great counterpoint for the piano and set up syncopated lines that the bass and drums would play off. Larra Skye was introduced to the audience as a great vocalist and Mr. Deniz’ girlfriend. Larra Skye sang “Turn Up The Stars,” a very pretty song with nice accompaniment.

Luis Deniz
The next guest, Mr. Deniz announced as his childhood friend from Cuba. “We have known each other since grade school, I’ve known him since he was 10 years old. Please welcome Kervin Barreto on trumpet.” Playing a Greg Osby composition, “Her” — trumpet and saxophone in unison. Mr. Barreto seemed tentative, his runs were fluid and clean sounding, he was hitting some high notes but he was holding back. When Mr. Deniz was featured, he was in fine form, screaming and varying his technique from fast runs to howling notes of sustain, and his playing was incredibly exciting.

Kervin Barreto, trumpeter — graduated from the National Institute of Arts in Havana, Cuba. A highlight to his years of musical study, was his selection to the student big band "The Dizzie Gillespie All Stars.'' While in Cuba he played with Klimax, a famous salsa band, conducted by Giraldo Piloto, and performing festivals all over the world. He has also shared the stage with Chucho Valdes, Irakere, Danilo Perez, Steve Coleman and Antonio Hart. Kervin Barreto has performed at the Jazz Plaza Festival , the Heineken Jazz Festival in Curacao and at the Pori Jazz Festival in Finland. He received a first place award at the Jojazz Festival according to one of his Cuban schools’ news articles.

The second set found Mr. Barreto in a much more relaxed state, playing a David Virelles song,” Friday Afternoon” he really showed some award winning playing. He stepped up to the challenge laid down by Mr. Deniz and came on very strong. Pianist Mr. Virelles, an award-winner himself, played beautifully. He was flying over the keys, very reminiscent of a young Oscar Peterson. The joy in Virelles’ playing was contagious, the drummer and bassist were motivated to pick up the energy and they did some superb comping.
The third set featured a Cuban rap artist, Telmaris. She performed one of her songs, a funky tune, that had Telmaris rapping in English and Spanish. Everybody really enjoyed the change of pace, light and easy going with a joyful feel. Telmaris was on her way back to Cuba the next day. She seems to have perfected rap and I didn’t hear about any Americans helping her with that. As to Cuban jazz artists, the more they are exposed to, the more they absorb. They have the best of both worlds in Canada, a multicultural Mecca that plays host to the greatest music — the music of the world.
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Paul J. Youngman
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Roger Humbert
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