Born: November 10, 1983 Primary Instrument: Piano
Recently named one of four young pianists on the rise by the New York Times, Cuban born pianist and composer David Virelles grew up in a musical home. His father is a professional singer-songwriter and his mother is a flautist in the Santiago de Cuba Symphony. He started studying classical music at the age of seven, as well as being exposed to the large array of Cuban music styles. Eventually, David discovered his grandfather’s jazz collection and also became interested in that tradition.
In 2001, he left for Canada as a protégé of Canadian musician Jane Bunnett, with whom he recorded several albums (two of them Grammy nominated), toured and collaborated with on a number of projects.
While in Canada, David graduated from the music program at Humber College. He studied privately with pianist Barry Harris and has also studied composition with the influential composer Henry Threadgill, which had a profound impact in Virelles’ artistry.
Over the years he has performed and/or recorded with: Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Henry Threadgill, Dewey Redman, Sam Rivers, Hermeto Pascoal, José Luis Quintana “Changuito”, Stanley Cowell, Rudresh Mahantappa, Horacio “El Negro” Hernández, Mark Turner, Paul Motian, Ben Street, Chris Potter, Ravi Coltrane, Jeff Ballard, Miguel Zenón, Wadada Leo Smith, among others.
In 2003 he became the first recipient of the Oscar Peterson prize, presented by Peterson personally. His debut album, Motion, was released in 2007 on the label Justin Time, after winning the Grand Prix de Jazz Award at the Montréal Jazz Festival that year.
Virelles’ current group is also named Continuum, featuring bassist Ben Street, legendary drummer Andrew Cyrille and percussionist Román Díaz, who continue to develop his artistic concepts. His anticipated album under the same name was released on October 23rd, 2012 by New York based jazz label Pi Recordings.
The album is an exploration of both notated and spontaneous composition with each track delving into different aspects of ritual practices that still thrive in Virelles’ homeland. Each track on Continuum is about a different myth or symbol related to belief systems found in Afro-Cuban folkloric traditions. David Virelles also worked closely with Cuban painter and sculpture Alberto Lescay, who created a series of twenty paintings that are inspired by the music of Continuum and some of which are featured on the record.
“This is my jazz artist of the year. He’s another amazing Cuban pianist and mixes old rumba mystique with free jazz. Gilles Peterson Jazz artist of the year
This young Cuban pianist’s new album, “Continuum” (Pi Recordings), moves backward, forward and sideways through history. Intuitive and original, it’s equally of the American experimental jazz tradition, Afro-Cuban religious culture and modern nonjazz composition. It’s got nerve and soul and memory. Ben Ratliff, New York Times, no.1 Album of 2012