The Story

34-year-old Cuban piano sensation Harold Lopez-Nussa is one of the brightest lights on Havana’s thriving jazz scene. The son of drummer Ruy López-Nussa and nephew of pianist Ernan López-Nussa, he gained international attention when he won top honors at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Piano Competition in 2005 (a triumph that earned him a featured festival spot the following year). While touring widely with legendary Buena Vista Social Club vocalist Omara Portuondo, he launched his solo career as the leader of a superlative trio with his younger brother, the phenomenal drummer Ruy Adrián López-Nussa, and bassist Gaston Joya. “These are my closest friends and two of the greatest musicians of my generation in Cuba,” said the dazzling pianist. “We’ve played a lot together through the years, but this is the first time that we’ve toured and recorded as a working trio. When we play to together, something special always happens and I feel comfortable and free, because they know how my music works and where I will go even before I get there.”

Their Exit Zero Jazz Festival debut comes in the wake of producer Michael Kline seeing the band live at the 2019 Havana Jazz Festival. Swept away by Lopez-Nussa’s dazzling piano playing, young brother Ruy Adrián’s crisp, interactive drumming and Luques Curtis’ resounding tumbao groove underneath and poignant arco work, he invited the band to perform at Exit Zero Jazz. Joining the trio will be trumpeter Mayquel Gonzalez.

López-Nussa was born 1983 in Havana, where he still lives. “I need the kind of relaxed life that Havana gives me,” he the pianist, who holds dual citizenship in Cuba and France. “Every time I return to Cuba, I feel something special—not just a connection with my family and friends, but with the place itself. This is where my music comes from, what it talks about.” Growing up in Centro Habana, a neighborhood known for its folkloric Afro-Cuban ceremonies, allowed him to soaked up the rich sounds all around. “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.” 

The Sound

Within two days of release, Harold’s new album Un Día Cualquiera was The Most Added on Jazz and College Radio in the United States. In the past year alone, Harold has performed for sold-out audiences at the Kennedy Center and SFJAZZ, along with the best jazz festivals in the world: Newport, North Sea, Monterey and Detroit. You will hear both the indelible tightness of this remarkable quartet and their sheer joy of making music in their Exit Zero Jazz Festival premiere. 

Where & When: It’s A Breeze & Hawk Haven Vineyard Stage in Cape May Convention Hall, Sunday, 12:00pm

Michael Kline