World Premiere of Sinfonía Afro Cubana for Trio and Orchestra composed by Hilario Durán

Originally written by Raul da Gama

Edition, adaptation and comments by Toni Basanta in Fairfax, Vermont,  USA

LJN = Latin Jazz Network, Canada

The term “legend” is usually reserved for a revered musician who is long gone.

However, there are times when you must apply this to someone living and active and doing absolutely wonderful things with his gift of and genius for music.

Hilario Durán is one such musician.

When Mr. Durán came to Canada from Cuba in 1998 he came with credentials that went before him. His compatriot and pianist Maestro Chucho Valdés had this to say about him:

Hilario Durán is an unparalleled pianist, as well as being a composer and arranger of the first order… one of the greatest Cuban pianists of the 20th century”.

Dr. CHUCHO might have included this century as well. Praise such as this, does not come easily from a musician as great as Mr. Valdés.

But if there’s anyone who deserves to be so celebrated it is Mr. Durán.

But here’s the thing: some musicians might rest on their laurels (and the pianist wears many) and become complacent and glib. But not Hilario Durán.

With his quicksilver mind, as sharp as a rapier, he has continued to go from strength to strength, performing and producing many magnificent albums with his own Trio that includes Roberto Occhipinti on bass and Mark Kelso on drums, and also with the great soprano saxophonist and flutist Jane Bunnett. Perhaps one of his greatest assets has always been composing and arranging music.

This year, Hilario Durán returned to a setting he has perfected like few other musicians: writing for the large ensemble. And this was not simply for a large ensemble, but one as stellar as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

To celebrate the many facets of Pan-American Culture and in time for the Pan-American Games, Mr. Durán was commissioned by the TSO to write a concerto for Orchestra and Trio through support from the Esther Gelber Fund.

Sinfonía Afrocubana was the result of that commission. The world premiere of this iconic 19-minute piece took place at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall on April 29, 2015. It was performed by a superbly rehearsed Toronto Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maestro Roberto Minczuk and Hilario Durán’s Trio of repute.

The music for the Sinfonía was a searing performance that also featured Joaquín Hidalgo on batá drums. This, in addition to glorious and melismatic writing, conjured vivid images of the Afro-Cuban heritage of its composer, and also celebrated the forthcoming event for which it was written. However, Mr. Durán writes in a veritable Babel-like language. Here as elsewhere he has refused to be constrained by artificial boundaries that peg his music into boxes. With the lines that separate contemporary Jazz, Classical and Afro-Caribbean music blurred the music soared like a proverbial condor.

My comment

I have just come back home today, after 6 fantastic and  exciting  beyond words days in Havana, Cuba invited by  Piano Master HILARIO DURAN for the recording of his new album CON TUMBAO for ALMA RECORDS  a label in Toronto, Canada.

This visit will also include a film to narrate the prolific life of HILARIO documenting these 6 days in Havana, and more than four decades of constant inspiration  as an unchallenged leader for all his contemporaries.

This morning, I simply wanted to invite THE CUBAN BRIDGE readers to immerse in the life of Mr. Durán,  also known as CON TUMBAO since his hey school days in Grammar School in his borough of LA VIBORA, and what can  better than the World Premiere of “Sinfonía Afro Cubana” For Trio and Orchestra by Hilario Durán accompanied by a full-length description of Canadian Music chronicler Raul da Gama.


The experience to work in this recording at EGREM Studios in Centro Habana with the likes of bassist Jorge Reyes, guitarist Jorge Chicoy, tres player Pancho Amat, drummer Horacio “El negro” Hernandez, percussionists Jorge Luis Torres “Papiosco” and Changuito Quintana, and Los Rumberos de Cuba  will live in me forever.

Also the experience to work with ALMA RECORDS Team, John “Beetle” Bailey – the best recording engineer of Canada,  photographer and multi-trackman Jake, who will be rolling the film of equal name CON TUMBAO and Peter Cardinalli – head of Alma, a label with Soul  historically bringing to life many important music productions that I have been enjoying and playing on my radio shows here in Vermont since 2010, adds a new jewel to my humble career as a broadcaster, chronicler  and supporter of events.

This spirited celebration of CUBAN CULTURE culminated  with a CONCERT  at THE THEATER of the FINE ARTS MUSEUM – a Music Hall that has become the best Jazz stage in the capital of the island nation of CUBA in the last 15 years.

It was the best opportunity to meet with friends of “La Vieja Guardia” – long time musicians who have been working together on national and international stages as : El Cabaret Parisien of The National Hotel or The North Sea Jazz Fest in Holland. Just meeting them at the Theater and before that at the Egrem Studio drew inspiration from many sources.

Special thanks and acknowledgements to My Friends of RADIO METROPOLITANA, RADIO CIUDAD, RADIO CADENA HABANA and CUBA VISION INTERNATIONAL, for their support in promoting HILARIO DURAN’S  Second Encounter in Havana with music composed for this new  performance

To my buddies of The Museum for their generosity in accomplishing every detail for the show.


Expect great Songs when this new album is finished : Guajira 2016, Los Munecos,  Parque 527, Pilon Influenciado (Tribute to singer Pacho Alonso),  Segundo Encuentro, El Tahonero, Lekeleke and Papiosco’s March, a composition inspired by brilliant percussionist  Jorge Luis Torres “Papiosco”, – another successful Cuban artist based in Toronto, whose  execution was one of the highlights of the Concert in Havana, what a DUO !

HILARIO’S band mates brilliantly captured the essence of his new compositions with musicianship and exciting solos. Individually and collectively, they have been soldiering in the forefront of CUBAN JAZZ.

This release is a testament to what greatness comes out of a union of simpatico musicians who love and respect the art form and each other.

Most people who know me, would agree that these have been SIX of the luckiest days of my life, so my next approach will be this coming SUNDAY November 13, 2016, in my radio show THE CUBAN BRIDGE @ WWPV 92.5 FM  “The Mike” – 12 noon – 3:00 p.m.

Toni Basanta

DJ Host of The Cuban Bridge on the radio and on television

To know more and get acquainted with Hilario Durán’s  Music  and ALMA RECORDS Productions feel welcomed to visit and contact them through

We can also get in touch through FACEBOOK

Dance Dance Si Si  and Parche : An Enciclopedia of Cuban Rock

Photo : Hilario Durán and Chucho Valdés in Toronto, Canada






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