“ Every Steinway has its own character. From pianissimo to fortissimo, from the most intimate sound to the craziest sound that you can imagine, the colors that I can find in a Steinway outperform every other piano.”
Steinway Artist Harold López-Nussa’s music reflects the full range and richness of Cuban music, with its distinctive combination of classical, folkloric and popular elements, as well as its embrace of jazz improvisation and interaction. His career gracefully spans styles. Early on, he recorded Heitor Villa-Lobos ́ Fourth Piano Concerto with Cuba’s National Symphony Orchestra, and won First Prize at the Jazz Solo Piano Competition at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland. He was featured on the album Ninety Miles, playing alongside jazz stars David Sánchez, Christian Scott and Stefon Harris, and Esencial (of compositions by revered Cuban classical guitarist, composer and conductor Leo Brouwer). He spent three years in the touring band of the beloved Cuban singer Omara Portuondo.
Havana-based composer and pianist Harold López-Nussa has performed on NPR’s Tiny Desk series, at the SFJAZZ Center, The Kennedy Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and has appeared on CNN ESPAÑOL. He has performed at major musical festivals including Newport, Monterey, Detroit, North Sea, Montreaux, Montreal, and Tokyo jazz festivals, and has collaborated with artists including Chucho Valdés, Christian Scott, Stefon Harris, Horacio “El Negro” Hernández, and with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra.
López-Nussa grew up in Centro Habana, a neighborhood known for its folkloric Afro-Cuban ceremonies. “There would be two or three ceremonies each week, and I could hear them from my house,” he recalled. “What I soaked in there has never left me.” His original composition, “Elegua,” translates batá drum rhythms and chants for a Yoruba deity to a jazz-trio format, and forms one of the dramatic high points of his recent Mack Avenue release, Un Día Cualquiera.
He works primarily in a trio format, integrating classical, native, and jazz idioms. In earlier recordings he explored some of the repertoire of Ernest Lecuona—“one of the greatest Cuban composers of all time,” who, like Gershwin in the U.S., brought indigenous and popular forms to bear on classical repertoire. Lopez-Nussa’s interpretations of “Danza de los Ñañigos,” which is based on Afro-Cuban religious rituals, and “Y la Negra Bailaba,” which, he said, “is somewhere between Cuban son and danzón styles,” represent less liberties taken than the unfolding of a deep understanding of Lecuona’s towering legacy.
El Viaje (The Journey), López-Nusa’s debut release on Mack Avenue Records, visits many genres of music and travels seamlessly between Harold’s stylistic inspirations. Soon after its release, the album reached No. 1 on iTunes Jazz Chart and No. 2 on Amazon’s Jazz Chart. Downbeat magazine gave the record a 4-star review, noting: “López-Nussa’s single-note grace is akin to Herbie Hancock’s, and his two-fisted attacks are as joyous as Chick Corea’s.” The recording features The Harold López-Nussa Trio with younger brother Ruy López-Nussa on drums and percussion.
The island of Cuba is dotted with families known for musical achievement. In 2018 Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center paid tribute to this legacy within its sprawling “Artes de Cuba Festival” through a concert showcasing the Lopéz-Nussa family. Harold Lopéz-Nussa and his brother performed alongside their father, Ruy López-Nussa, an esteemed drummer and educator, and their uncle, Ernán López-Nussa, an acclaimed pianist. (Their late mother, Mayra Torres, was a highly regarded piano teacher.)
He is managed by The Kurland Agency.