(left-right) Juan Ernesto Laya, David Peña, Cheo Hurtado, and Luis Julio Toro.
|Genres||Venezuelan folk music|
|Labels||Sony Music, Independent|
|Associated acts||Serenata Guayanesa, Camerata Criolla, Great Marshal of Ayacucho Symphony orchestra, Moisés Torrealba, Alexis Cárdenas, Ofelía del Rosal|
Luis Julio Toro
Juan Ernesto Laya
|Past members||Cristóbal Soto|
The Ensamble Gurrufío is a celebrated quartet dedicated to the research, arrangement and reinterpretation of Venezuelan instrumental music. Their approach has to do with a new, classically-schooled, educated style, but allowing for improvisation as a fundamental element, leaving ample room for the spontaneous, the unexpected, the ability to extract the most from the virtuosity of each one of its members, resulting in unique and hardly repeatable performances.
The Ensamble Gurrufío was founded on 1984 by three young musicians, Luis Julio Toro (flute), Cristóbal Soto (mandolin), and Cheo Hurtado (cuatro). David Peña (bass) completed the quartet in 1989. All of the four are academy musicians and teachers with considerable background as soloists and performers. The group immediately became well known for their lively persona, instrumental virtuosity, and sense of humor. Their mood can vary from rigorous and solemn, up to festive and hilarious, a quality greatly enjoyed by the public when they perform live. A fifth member, Juan Ernesto Laya (maracas ) joined the ensemble since 1998, when Cristóbal Soto moved to a permanent residence in France. The group has occasionally incorporated additional members, such as Jaime Martínez (oboe) and Moisés Torrealba (bandola). The ensemble has performed in collaboration with other celebrated Venezuelan groups, such as Serenata Guayanesa, the Camerata Criolla, and the Great Marshal of Ayacucho Symphony orchestra. Similarly, they have recorded together with acclaimed foreign musicians like Bela Fleck, among others. The reason why this ensemble is regarded as among the most important of the genre lies not only in their virtuosity, but also in their contemporary sense, expressed through the urban traditional genre of Venezuelan music. Gurrufio conserves the romanticism, the melancholy and the “cool” sense of the Venezuelan instrumental tradition, and at the same time adopts present-day harmony and rhythm. Improvisation is exploited to the maximum, always resulting in exceptionally pleasant renditions.
Repertoire and Style
Gurrufío’s repertoire, comprising works of yesterday and today, and often including their own original compositions, is enriched by the individual musical sense of each member. Their live performances and recordings are characterized by the addition of long-forgotten pieces, rescued through research and interaction with other scholars experienced in Venezuelan music.
In their works, sparkling, romantic, affectionate, lyric, and virtuoso passages flow and coexist effortlessly. Gurrufio resists to be placed in a category. Their graceful and refreshing style does not truly belong to folklore, or to classical music, or to jazz, or to new age. What they offer is a versatile, multi-faced contemporary instrumental music, deeply rooted in the Venezuelan tradition. To be able to watch them performing live is a unique and most enjoyable experience.
- Ensamble Gurrufío
- (in Spanish) - Bio of the Ensamble Gurrufío
- "El Cruzao" CD promo, featuring track samples
- YouTube - portion of song 'Morenita' featuring Gurrufío
- Culture in Venezuela: A General View
- (in Japanese) CD album sales website
- (in Spanish) 'Dimedonde Magazine'
- The New York Times article of Dec. 6, 1994 – Critic's Notebook – Tuning In to Venezuelan Music and Its Rich Tradition – by Alex Ross Mentions four concerts by Venezulan artists, including one by Ensamble Gurrufio.