David Virelles, Roman Diaz & The Nosotros Ensemble – Gnosis (2017) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

David Virelles, Roman Diaz & The Nosotros Ensemble – Gnosis (2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 52:12 minutes | 878 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  – Source: Qobuz | Booklet, Front Cover | © ECM

In “Gnosis”, the Santiago de Cuba-raised and New York-based pianist-composer David Virelles looks towards one melting pot from the vantage point of another. At one level an autobiographical album, a sequence of images conveyed through sound, Gnosis is a far- reaching work with deep roots. Transculturation and traditions are among the subjects under consideration, and the complex tapestry of Cuba’s music: the sacred, the secular, and the ritualistic. It’s an exciting, vivid and multi-faceted project of rapidly changing temperament, in which pulsating ensemble music and pristine, meditative solo piano both have their places. And it is enveloped in a feeling of mystery and magic that has made each of Virelles’s albums special.

Gnosis marks pianist, composer, and percussionist David Virelles’ third release for ECM. After two earlier, more conventional jazz outings — Motion (Justin Time, 2009) and Continuum (Pi Recordings, 2012) — Virelles began to actively engage what dictated his musical pilgrimage with the glorious Mboko for ECM in 2014, bridging and highlighting the rich, diverse, and primal Cuban musical traditions alongside avant-jazz.
Gnosis was originally written and performed in 2015. It was jointly presented by The Music Gallery, Arraymusic, and Lula Music & Arts as a work of complex yet accessible tones and timbre, colors, silences, and textures, and spoke of transculturation and traditions. Gnosis was recorded a year later with production by ECM label head Manfred Eicher. The 14-piece ensemble assembled here is used more often than not in parts and pieces. Once more, Virelles has engaged the talents of vocalist and percussionist Roman Diaz on the date. Also present are bassist Thomas Morgan, clarinetist Rane Moore, flutist Allison Loggins-Hull, the celebrated Nosotros Ensemble (percussionists), playing mostly drums and instruments of Afro-Cuban heritage, a string trio, and a chorus of four backing vocalists.
As a work, Gnosis is at once both exploration and discovery. All of its 18 individual pieces are (mostly) short. Opener and intro “Del Tabaco y El Azúcar” is a strategically articulated pianistic exploration with accompaniment by the percussion ensemble and Morgan, who adds ballast and centrality. The Afro-Cuban piano and percussion groove that introduce “Fitití Ñongo” is dance — complete with sleight of hand montunos and circular rhythms. “Lengua I” is the first of many solo piano pieces that appear incidentally throughout the album. Diaz asserts his voice as the guiding light of the all-too brief “Erume Kondó.” “Tierra” commences mysteriously with piano, percussion, and flute in a questioning melodic line atop a repetitive rhythm before clarinet, marimba, congas, and bata drums gradually elongate the phrase; mutating into almost swinging jazz improvisation before breaking out completely in its final third — and never loses its groove. Virelles puts an ellipsis on that piece with the elegant, intimate solo “De Ida y Vuelta, Pt. 1.” The seemingly completely free “Visiones Sonoras” is a chamber piece that reveals the influence of the New York School of composers on Virelles as well. No matter which side of the pianist’s musical persona is articulated on Gnosis, it comes across in toto as a balanced work in its entirety, full of interrogation and erudition. It may not be an “easy” work to absorb initially, but with repeated listening, it become far less oblique; one need only use the episodic piano solos as guides. Virelles wrote Gnosis not as a statement but as a series of plausible yet labyrinthine questions. Its beauty lies in that fact that though his questions have purpose and direction, they are, by their very nature, unanswerable.

01 – Del Tabaco Y El Azúcar
02 – Fitití Ñongo
03 – Lengua (Pt. 1)
04 – Erume Kondó
05 – Benkomo
06 – Tierra
07 – De Ida Y Vuelta (Pt. 1)
08 – Lengua (Pt. 2)
09 – De Ida Y Vuelta (Pt. 2)
10 – Nuná
11 – Epílogo
12 – Dos
13 – Caracola
14 – Visiones Sonoras
15 – De Portal
16 – De Tres
17 – De Cuando Era Chiquita
18 – De Coral

Produced by Manfred Eicher. Engineered by James A. Faber.
Recorded in May 2016 at Avatar Studios, New York.

David Virelles – piano, marímbula, vocals
Román Díaz – lead vocals, percussion
+ Nosotros Ensemble