Cuban/Brazilian exchanges have not been uncommon at Velas Records, a Latin-oriented label that has recorded Brazilian artists in Havana and Cuban artists in Rio de Janeiro or São Paolo. From Havana to Rio is an example of the latter. Recorded in Rio, this excellent hard bop/post-bop CD finds Cuban jazz pianist Ernán López-Nussa leading a team of Cuban and Brazilian musicians. On the acoustic piano, López-Nussa has a crystalline sound that is heavily influenced by Bill Evans and Chick Corea, he obviously shares Corea's appreciation of a variety of Latin music, although From Havana to Rio concerns itself primarily with Cuban and Brazilian rhythms. Some of the material is more Cuban-minded (especially "Contradanza" and Mario Bauza's "At the Mambo Inn"), and some of it has more of a Brazilian orientation (including "Baião de Lucan" and López-Nussa's own "Isla"). The pianist's version of Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" is a very pleasant surprise; López-Nussa successfully transforms the well known standard into a Cuban-style danzón. Some will argue that "Sophisticated Lady" is one of those standards that has been done to death and should be left alone in the 21st Century unless the artist has something fresh to bring to it -- and López-Nussa, to his credit, manages to breath new life into the piece. "Sophisticated Lady" has been recorded countless times over the years, but the market hasn't been flooded with danzón interpretations. From the son, rumba, and danzón of Cuba to the samba and baião of Brazil, this is a CD that lovers of hard bop and post-bop jazz piano will want to obtain.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson