Dropping by the M-Shop on their latest tour is famed Cuban jazz group, the Harold López-Nussa Trio. With their award-winning music and recent performances on music stages such as at the Montreux, Monterey, Montreal and Tokyo Jazz Festivals, The San Francisco Jazz Center and even at The Kennedy Center, the trio, headed by 35-year-old pianist Harold López-Nussa, is an act to keep your eyes on.
Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, Harold López-Nussa comes to us from a notable music family, as the son of well-known drummer Ruy López-Nussa and nephew of pianist Ernan López-Nussa. Surrounded by music in the home, Harold López-Nussa started on the piano at eight and has been playing ever since. However according to him, music has not always been his first love.
“When I was a kid, my dream was baseball. I really loved it,” Harold López-Nussa said, “But, when I was eight, my father and mother took me to a music school and that is when I began to discover how wonderful the world of music is and I fell in love after every year more and more until this day. I’m still in love with baseball and sports but now I love music and consider myself very lucky to be a musician.”
Harold then attended the Manuel Saumell Elementary School of Music, the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory and eventually graduated from The University of Arts of Cuba (Instituto Superior de Artes). Soon after he went on tour with famous Cuban singer and dancer, Omara Portuondo, and worked with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra in 2003. His claim to fame, however, is when he won first place in a piano contest at the Montreaux Jazz Festival. He released his first solo album, “Canciones” in 2007 and has released six more albums since.
The two other members of the trio are Harold’s younger brother, Ruy Adrián López-Nussa (drums, percussion), and longtime friend and colleague, Gaston Joya (bassist). Though they have worked together before, this is the first time they have gone on tour as a group. Harold is appreciative of his bandmates and said that it feels natural to be playing with his brother, Ruy Adrián López-Nussa, and with someone he has collaborated for almost 10 years, Joya.
“I am happy with those guys because they know my music and the way I play the piano,” Harold López-Nussa said, “It is very comfortable to be playing with those guys. I don’t need anything else.”
Aside from being able to perform with Ruy Adrián López-Nussa and Joya, Harold López-Nussa said that his favorite part of being on tour is getting to share his music with anyone and everyone who wants to listen.
“Getting to go to places and getting to meet old people, people we know, is a treat but meeting new people is even better,” Harold López-Nussa said, “To share our music with new people is a gift. It is something that I always look forward to, so this is my dream coming true.”
On the other hand, Harold López-Nussa said the hardest part of being on tour is leaving his family — which includes his wife and children — and his home behind.
“I miss my country and how it feels when I am home with my family and my friends. I miss the way the life is in my house,” Harold López-Nussa said.
His latest tour is to promote the group’s latest album “Un Día Cualquiera” (“Just Another Day”) which was released June 15.
Although not an official term, Harold said their music is not just Latin jazz but what he calls “Cuban jazz.” Aside from the obvious jazz elements in their songs such as the boisterousness and energy that it carries, their music also contains a touch of classical pianism that comes from Harold’s music school training.
“Our music is a mix of traditional Cuban roots, jazz and some classical music. I like to call it Cuban jazz because this is the music that we do back home, over there in Cuba, right now,” Harold López-Nussa said.
Their most recent album exemplifies the spontaneity of jazz in Harold’s songs by staying true to the albums name. “Un Día Cualquiera” holds the idea they should perform their music like any other day.
“Put the trio together and play like we do every day,” Harold López-Nussa said, “We wanted that authentic feel so what we did is we played a track form beginning to end and that would be it. We would do it in one take and not go again to fix our mistakes. We would go once and leave it like that to keep it real.”
At the moment, the trio has no definite plans for the future, but they don’t plan to stop anytime soon.
Harold López-Nussa said how happy he is that his music can make people feel the range of emotion he tries to put into his songs.
“If they can feel things, that’s the goal for me,” Harold López-Nussa said, “My work, my songs, they all have different themes, so if the audience can feel that then I will be more than happy. I remember that I can try to give all the love I have to them. To give the love that we feel about the music to the people, that’s the goal for me.”
Harold López-Nussa hopes for a good audience on Wednesday and wants to be able to share a true musical moment with them as they have done every night so far, in order to make the crowd’s night special in some way.
The trio will perform Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. in the M-Shop. The concert will be seated. Tickets are $15 for ISU students and $20 for the public with a $2 increase on the day of the show. They are available for purchase at the M-Shop box office or online via Midwestix.