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VJC Kicks off the season with the Dayramir González Habana enTRANCé Quartet

Cuban Pianist Dayramir González will perform at the Vermont Jazz Center on Saturday, September 16th at 7:30 PM with his quartet called Habana enTRANCé which includes James Robbins on bass, Juan Chiavassa on drums, and Taka Nikaido on percussion.
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Cuban Pianist Dayramir González will perform at the Vermont Jazz Center on Saturday, September 16th at 7:30 PM with his quartet called Habana enTRANCé which includes James Robbins on bass, Juan Chiavassa on drums, and Taka Nikaido on percussion.

González’ piano-playing is reminiscent of his compatriots Chucho Valdés and Alfredo Rodriguez. He possesses blazing technique that was developed through rigorous practicing in the classical tradition and supercharged by an embodied sense of internalized rhythms. González applies to those skills a profound understanding of jazz harmony resulting in a performance style that is both forward-thinking and respectful of tradition. He is also a percussionist whose music serves as a living reminder of how drumming was a critical element that gave the enslaved peoples in the Americas an essential tool in their efforts to maintain their spirits and culture. González is the whole package – charisma, talent, good taste, fascinating concepts and authenticity all wrapped up in a grooving sound that makes audiences want to dance. 

González is a classically trained musician who studied initially with Chucho Valdés’ sister, Mayra Caridad Valdés, and then continued in the esteemed Centro Nacional de Escuelas de Arte de Cuba, earning his “monster technique” by fortifying his given talent with hours of classical study six to eight hours a day. At the age of 16, González joined former Irakere member Oscar Valdes’ Afro-Cuban jazz ensemble Diákara, and immersed himself in timba music of the highest level. González has twice won first place in Havana’s JoJazz Festival and earned three Cubadisco Awards, considered the Grammys of Cuba. He attended Berklee College of music as the first Cuban-national “Presidential Scholar” and performed at Carnegie Hall as one of the representatives of the up-and-coming generation of Afro-Cuban jazz pianists in their Voices of Latin America Series. 

As a young man González toured the U.S. and Europe with the father and son dynasty of Cuban piano: Bebo and Chucho Valdés. He was mentored by these two legendary musicians, the most important living exponents of Cuban piano music at that time. In conversations and lessons, González deepened his knowledge about the broad expanse of Cuban popular music and how to channel it through the piano (which he considers an extension of the drum). He learned from Bebo Valdés (father) about the rich historical Cuban piano repertoire of són, mambo and chachachá harkening back to Bebo’s association with the legendary Cuban composer, Ernesto Lecuona. González was also strongly influenced by the younger Chucho Valdés’ modern approach to the piano and composition and the dramatic impact it had on the direction of Cuban music in general. Chucho’s group, Irakere, was one of the most significant ensembles to shift the weight of Cuban music from salsa to timba. One of González’s recordings as a leader is a tribute to Juan Formell and Los Van Van, a timba super group whose style and popularity grew from the seeds planted by Chucho Valdés and Irakere. 

Dayramir González understands the Cuban musical structures on both micro and macro levels – from its historical roots to its modern, urban and electric sounds. He also is keenly aware of music’s impact on the cultural and social soul of the nation. Many of his original compositions use facets of the time-honored styles of Cuban music as building blocks and referential blue-prints. But as a conceptualist and creative person with a voice all his own, González’ music demonstrates the integration of all aspects of Cuban music, from folkloric drumming to its connection to newer styles that include hip hop and electronics. His repertoire demonstrates a deep knowledge and respect for the origin of stylistic details and a delight in moving the tradition forward. 

In a conversation with Brian Pace (the Pace Report online), Dyramir discussed the presence of rhythm and emotion in Cuban music and how those two factors serve as catalysts for creativity:

One of the biggest blessings we have in Cuba is that we still carry the legacy of the Yoruba tribe, it’s still very alive. I’m talking about those who came from West Africa – Benin, Congo, Nigeria. When our ancestors came as slaves to Cuba they were able to establish themselves and express their joys and sorrows through the tambor (hand drums). Many of generations of musicians used drums before we had the piano to express how happy or how sad we feel. In the Rumba we have Yambú, a slowed-down, crying music that conveyed frustration and disappointment. You can see those emotions in the movement of the body and you hear the emotion in the playing of the tambor and the singing. You notice that [early on] the person was able to communicate these feelings through the drum and voice. And then – it was transferred to the piano. I’m a percussionist who plays piano who has the blessing to understand harmony and to have control of the craft. The piano is a percussive instrument that channels rhythm through the lens of harmony and scales, that’s the craft.

The Vermont Jazz Center Concert

For the Vermont Jazz Center concert on September 16th, González will be playing the Steinway concert grand in a quartet setting with bassist James Robbins, a former student and junior instructor of the Vermont Jazz Center who is now an established player on the New York scene. Robbins has released one album as a leader and played with Clark Terry, Billy Taylor, George Benson, James Moody, Freddie Hubbard, Eric Lewis, Johnny O’Neal, Gerald Clayton, Sullivan Fortner, Joel Fram, and many others. He also played with the Colombian electro-group Delsonido, and the rock band Thank You Scientist. Robbins teaches part time at the American School of Modern Music in Paris. In 2008, he was awarded the Groningen Award from NJPAC, the Roy Meyer Swingers Award, and the Berklee Writing and Composition Scholarship. 

The group’s drummer is Argentinean-born Juan Chiavassa, who graduated from Berklee College of Music on a Zildjian Scholarship Award after attending Escuela de Música Contemporánea in Buenos Aires. He has worked with Mike Stern, Paquito D’Rivera, Esperanza Spalding, Omar Rodriguez Lopez, George Garzone, David Kikoski, Leo Genovese, Benito González, Jeremy Pelt, Eric Alexander, Leni Stern, Dayramir González, Bob Moses, He also performed on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon with multi-Grammy winning rappers Residente and Bad Bunny. He has released two records as a composer and producer.

Taka Nikaido will be playing percussion. He has performed with Carlos Vives, Yosvany Terry, Terence Blanchard, Jon Secada, Darren Barrett, Totó la Momposina, Paquito D’Rivera, Artruro O’Farrill and others. Nikaido received a “Best Foreign Entrant” award in La Fiesta del Tambor in Cuba. He has performed at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival and others. He has recorded numerous CD projects is one of the soundtrack creators of the video games Final Fantasy XV and Dr. Stone. 

The press for his concert at Carnegie Hall claimed “Dayramir González can be added to the pantheon of distinctive Cuban jazz voices… setting the Latin jazz world on fire in America.”

“A stunningly gifted composer and arranger, an entertainer who captures the attention and live spirit of the audience in every performance.”

Wall Street Journal

“The cutting edge of what’s going on in Latin Jazz today”

Marcus Miller (Grammy award-winning bassist)

Come see and hear for yourself the amazing level of his infectious performing. 

Habana enTRANCé Quartet on Saturday, September 16th at 7:30 PM is made possible thanks to the generous financial support of Chrisman Kearn, a new-old friend of the jazz center who especially appreciates the sounds and energy of Cuban music because it makes him feel like dancing. Publicity is underwritten by The Commons and The Brattleboro Reformer. The VJC is also grateful to the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Humanities Council and New England Foundation of the Arts for their constant and generous support.

In-person tickets for the Dyramir González and the Havana enTRANCé Quartet at the Vermont Jazz Center are offered on a sliding fee scale from $25 to $60 per person (contact the VJC about educational group discounts); available online at www.vtjazz.org, by email at ginger@vtjazz.org, or by calling the Vermont Jazz Center ticket line at 802-254-9088, ext. 1. Handicapped access for the in-person event is available by emailing eugene@vtjazz.org.

The online streaming of this concert will be offered by donation.  Please give generously and support live music. Access to the on-line event can be found online at www.vtjazz.org and at https://www.facebook.com/VermontJazzCenter/live/

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