Mayquel González en el Festival Jazz Plaza 2020. Foto: Rolando Cabrera.

Be welcome these peaceful times

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Reviews

Even though today —due to the rise of the digital world— “musical creation” is becoming easier and, therefore, the appearance in the market of diverse phonograms, it is really difficult to find, among so much music, a sound material that we can call "piece of art", one that brings together aspects such as good taste, the technical mastery of the instrument, virtuosity, and simplicity. And that is what Mayquel González gives us in Tiempos de Paz, music made from and for the soul.

With the trumpet as a faithful companion, and after more than 20 years of artistic career, Mayquel finds his own path. Under Colibrí label, this —which is not available on digital platforms despite having deserved a Cubadisco award in 2019— becomes a beautiful trip, where the balance between the native and the most universal codes govern the proposal. Made up of a total of ten tracks —counting the bonus track— and with the musical production by Harold López-Nussa, Tiempos de paz uses jazz as a generic base, a starting point to visit other sounds such as the tango congo and concert music.

Once we get into the phonogram something is clear: the quality is incontestable. This not only happens because of the presence of Mayquel, an unquestionable seal of interpretive mastery, but also because of the joint work done by the rest of the musicians who accompany him, a combo of all-stars: Tony Rodríguez (piano), Ruy Adrián López-Nussa (drums), Gastón Joya (bass), Roberto Luis Gómez (guitar), Yaroldy Abreu and Otto Santana (percussion), among others.

It really catches my attention the different musical moments that the album is going through. Intentionally or not, it goes through three conceptual levels: the first as an ensemble, where each musician is equally important; the second is designed to highlight the figure of the soloist instrumentalist; and the third, the most grandiloquent, reveals a different facet of the composer from the incorporation of a symphony orchestra.

Cover of the album Tiempos de Paz, by Maykel González.
Cover of the album Tiempos de Paz, by Maykel González.

As a "jam" and with improvisation as the main resource to develop, Euphoria welcomes us. This successful overture of the phonogram can be understood as an advance of what we will find throughout the CD: a pasted and effective metal-cord, simple arrangements while well crafted, timely improvisations, and great sensitivity.

Compositions like Afrocuba and Yamblues (fourth and fifth track, respectively, both authored by Mayquel González), likewise highlight the excellent work done by the wind section: Emir Santa Cruz (sax and clarinet), Heikel Trimiño (trombone) and Mayquel himself (trumpet). The cleanliness in the execution of the written passages for this instrumental section, as well as the thymic filling achieved, refer us to the exquisite orchestras as Irakere and the Afrocuba band itself, to which it obviously makes a wink with the homonymous theme.

Beyond the technical elements, the delicacy of some of the arrangements is also a point of attention. With a very accurate version of guitarist Emilio Martiní of the song Isla, by maestro Ernán López-Nussa, we are shown the attractive combination between the refined performance of Martiní and the beautiful sound of the trumpet with a mute achieved by Mayquel. In this sense, another version that is noted within the album, for the freshness in its sonority and the minimalist of its arrangement, is that of Drume Negrita, a composition by Ernesto Grenet. Accompanied this time by the powerful voice and good musical instincts of Daymé Arocena, Mayquel offers from his sensibility what we could consider as a recontextualization of a Cuban music standard.

At the height of the sixth track, the composition Equinoccio ― a true master class of the use of color by Mayquel― reminds us at times the sounds of the great folklorists of the twentieth century. The use of the different sound masses of the Symphony Orchestra of the ISA attached to the Mozartian Lyceum of Havana and directed by maestro José Antonio Méndez, added to the novelty of the quena's woody timbre for the album, performed by Rodrigo Sosa, they immerse us in a world of totally new nuances and textures within the phonogram. Something similar provokes the interpretation of the song Mesié Julián by Armando Oréfiche ―also accompanied by the orchestra―, another obligatory work within the repertoire of Cuban "cult music". On this occasion, the Cubanness that Mayquel manages to transmit from the tone and the improvisation of the trumpet work as an added bonus.

Unquestionably Tiempos de paz is a work conceived by his protagonist from the greatest respect and serenity, in which good taste and elegance marked the way forward. The musical experience and sincerity of Mayquel González were not only reflected in his appearances as a trumpet player but in his projection as a composer, showing a work of great maturity and introspection, both at the compositional and spiritual level. Perhaps it was missing at times to see a more present Mayquel González as a soloist, more leader in most of the compositions, this aspect being noticeable only in Touch, Tiempos de Paz and Pacífico.

Beyond the technical and compositional successes, of the sensibility and the moderation, this phonogram gives us above all a music full of light, good vibes and beautiful sound images. We have no choice but to welcome those Tiempos de Paz.

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