Cuba Culture

Afro-Cuban jazz artist Osmany Paredes plays Boston

Posted June 03, 2005 by publisher in Cuba Culture.

By Bob Young | Boston Herald

Boston’s an unlikely stopping-off point for some of the world’s best young Latin jazz players, but that’s exactly what the city has been for several years now.

Cuban-born pianist Osmany Paredes, the latest heavyweight to hang his hat here, put on a show Wednesday night at Ryles that had the crowd rushing home with a message to absent friends: Catch this guy while he’s still in town.

The 32-year-old native of Havana called his band a traditional Cuban quartet, but there should be a big, fat asterisk attached to the description. Traditional with a very modern edge is more like it.

From the supporting instrumentation - stand-up electric bass, timbales, congas, guiro and vocals - to the interpretations of songs, danzons and guarachas, this was Afro-Cuban jazz for the new millennium.

Paredes is an aggressive stylist with a bright-sounding, percussive approach and penchant for fiery improvisations, yet time and again he revealed a sweet side on the likes of the stately contradanza opener “La Comparsa’’ and the bolero “En Nosotros.’’
It’s a mix he’s comfortable with, having studied classically in Cuba, then working in Mexico City and other spots with such powerhouses as Israel Cachao Lopez and Patato Valdes.
At Ryles, his band of like-minded compadres hailing from Cuba, Costa Rica and Colombia sounded far tighter than anyone could have expected from a first gig together. They were clearly more than happy to take direction from the quietly charismatic Paredes.
He turned Miles Davis’ “Seven Steps to Heaven’’ from jazz standard to seething danzon, playfully slowing and speeding the tempo as his bandmates grinned at the challenge.
He quoted “The Girl from Ipanema’’ and a half dozen other songs on an intensely polyrhythmic “Tres Lindas Cubanas’’ and made the case for a dance floor on the Cuban descarga “Pa Gozar,’’ with timbalero Jorge Najarro and conga player Gregorio Vento leading the charge.
Heed the buzz: Paredes is not to be missed.

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