By Lucy Komisar
I saw jazz pianist Ramon Valle at the A-Trane in Berlin. He bills himself as “The Other Face of Cuban Jazz.” He and the members of his trio are Cubans, but they don’t play with the Latin rhythm we might expect. This Cuban jazz is modern jazz performed by Cubans.
The Ramon Valle trio includes Valle on piano, Omar Rodriguez Calvo on bass, and Ernesto Simpson on drums. They play Valle’s compositions.
The sounds are smooth, mellow and melodic. Often up tempo but not loud and brassy, helped by the fact there are no horns and the drums are not ear-splitting.
Valle trills the ivories, fingers speeding over keys, making the piano ethereal. Sometimes the mood seems almost classical, sometimes atonal. It‘s a very modern, original sound.
Valle, who lives in Amsterdam, introduced the numbers in Spanish-accented English. Members of his family were present and perhaps because of that, he played a composition that sounded Latino. But Valle and his group are European musicians.
Bass player Omar Rodriguez Calvo lives in Hamburg and drummer Ernesto Simpson in London. Berlin jazz journalist and radio host Wolfgang König, who was there, said, “There are lots of Cuban musicians in Europe, some for 17 or 18 years. Many go to see families and to perform in Havana.
The A-Trane, where the trio played for a week, was founded in 1992. It’s considered one of the top jazz venues in Berlin. It has presented such American greats as Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis as well as musicians prominent in Europe. Every Monday features a piano player.
It‘s an intimate square room with small red formica-topped tables and a bar with turning stools. It‘s casual; most of the summer patrons were in shorts and jeans, sandals and sneakers. A very good after-dinner entertainment.
18 Euros admission.
Seats about 43. Reservations are recommended.
In a group, reserve red leather banquette table for 4 or 5.
Review on NY Theatre Wire.