David Virelles

Nuna
(Pi)

It’s impossible to sum up David Virelles’ music in one word, but if one were forced to do so, “limitless” is better than most. The Cuban-American keyboardist/composer’s recordings have combined Cuban and classical forms, hip-hop grooves and avant-garde dissonance, ceremonial chants and fluid jazz improvisation to express a musical concept that uses ancient roots to inform future dreams.

The recording at hand is Virelles’ response to the incontrovertible limits upon assembly imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. What, after all, is a piano player to do when they can’t convene a band or audience?

Play piano, of course. Aside from its first track, which is played on the marimbula (a large, bass-register variant on the thumb piano), Virelles plays only piano on Nuna. He plays it alone, save for some percussion supplied by Julio Barreto on three of the album’s 16 (20 on the accompanying download, if you purchase it from Bandcamp) tracks.

From the first phrases of “Ocho,” Virelles’ unwillingness to accept confinement is on display. The delicacy with which Virelles mutes notes on “Rezo” attests to his command of his instrument.

He gets everything he needs from his forthright touch on the keys, his moderating use of pedals and his encyclopedic stylistic reach. However, the injection of rhythmic intrigue that takes place each time Barreto appears suggests that while Virelles has a lot to say on the piano, he plays best with others.