David Virelles

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David Virelles
Playing in Aarhus, Denmark
Background information
Born1983 (age 34–35)
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Years activeEarly 2000s–present
LabelsJustin Time, Pi, ECM
At Cosmopolite Scene in Oslo, 2016.

David Virelles (born 1983) is a Cuban jazz pianist and composer.

Early life[edit]

Virelles was born in Cuba in 1983[1] and grew up in Santiago.[2] His father is José Aquiles, a singer-songwriter;[2] his mother was a Santiago de Cuba Symphony flautist.[1] Virelles started classical piano studies at the age of seven and heard various forms of Cuban music during his childhood.[1] He met Canadian musician Jane Bunnett in Cuba and she invited him to Toronto.[2] He eventually studied at the University of Toronto and Humber College.[3] Virelles also recorded and toured with Bunnett,[1] including for her 2001 album Alma de Santiago.[4] He started communicating via e-mail and telephone with Steve Coleman around 2006; the saxophonist gave him detailed responses to questions on music.[2]

Later life and career[edit]

A Canada Council for the Arts grant allowed Virelles to study with Henry Threadgill in New York.[2] Virelles moved to New York permanently in 2009[1] and soon played with major jazz figures, including saxophonists Coleman, Chris Potter and Mark Turner.[2]

Virelles was part of a trio in 2010, with bassist Ben Street and drummer Andrew Cyrille, that played largely improvised music.[5] The pianist later added percussionist Román Díaz to this group.[5] In 2011, Virelles played prepared piano, celeste and harmonium on Potter's album The Sirens.[6] Virelles made his ECM Records leader debut with the 2014 release Mbókò.[7] The Guardian reviewer reported that "Virelles explores ancient Afro-Cuban sacred and ritual musics through imaginative fusions with contemporary materials. Mostly he does this by using the two basses as drones, mixing spacious chord-moods with bursts of startling improvisation in a flux of styles, and focusing much of the melody-playing on [the two] drummers."[7]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Personnel/Notes
2008 Motion Justin Time Most tracks quintet, with Luis Deniz (alto sax), Devon Henderson (bass), Ethan Ardelli (drums), Luis Obregoso (percussion); some tracks sextet, with Mark Turner (tenor sax), Jose Aquiles (vocals), or Pablosky Rosales (guitar) added; one track septet, with Turner (tenor sax), Celso Machado (vocals, gimbri) added
2012 Continuum Pi Quartet, with Ben Street (bass), Andrew Cyrille (drums), Román Díaz (percussion)
2013 Mbókò ECM Quintet, with Thomas Morgan and Robert Hurst (bass), Marcus Gilmore (drums), Roman Diaz (biankoméko, vocals)
2016 Antenna ECM Nonet, with Alexander Overington (electronics, samples, cello), Henry Threadgill (alto Saxophone), Román Díaz (vocals), Marcus Gilmore (drums, MPC), Rafiq Bhatia (guitar), Etián Brebaje Man (vocals), Mauricio Herrera (percussion), Los Seres (percussion)
2016 Gnosis ECM With Román Diaz (vocals, percussion), Allison Loggins-Hull (flute, piccolo), Rane Moore (clarinet, bass clarinet), Adam Cruz and Alex Lipowski (percussion), Matthew Gold (marimba, glockenspiel), Mauricio Herrera (ekón, nkomos, erikundi, claves, vocals), Thomas Morgan (bass), Yunior Lopez (viola), Cristine Chen and Samuel DeCaprio (violoncello), Melvis Santa (vocals)
2018? Igbó Alákorin (The Singer's Grove) Vol. I & II Pi With José Ángel Martínez (bass), Lázaro Bandera (congas), Román Filiú (alto sax), René "La Flor" Domínguez (tenor sax), Baudelis Rodríguez (baritone sax), Abel Virelles (trumpet), Gabriel Montero (pailitas criollas, claves), Rafael Ábalos (timbal, güiro), Emilio Despaigne Robert and José Aquiles Virelles (vocals), Alejandro Almenares (requinto, vocals)[8]

As sideman[edit]

Year recorded Leader Title Label
2001 Jane Bunnett Alma de Santiago Blue Note
2002 Jane Bunnett Cuban Odyssey Blue Note
2011 Chris Potter The Sirens ECM
2012 Tomasz Stańko Wisława ECM
2015 Henry Threadgill Old Locks and Irregular Verbs Pi Recordings
2016 Tomasz Stańko December Avenue ECM
2016 Chris Potter The Dreamer Is the Dream ECM
2018? Román Filiú Quarteria Sunnyside


  1. ^ a b c d e Jurek, Thom "Artist Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Ratliff, Ben (6 October 2011) "New Pilots at the Keyboard". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "David Virelles Wins the Louis Applebaum Composers Award". All About Jazz. November 18, 2008. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  4. ^ Josselyn, Jim (1 November 2001) "Jane Bunnett: Alma de Santiago". AllAboutJazz.
  5. ^ a b Blumenfeld, Larry (30 January 2013) "A Man of Two Islands". The Wall Street Journal.
  6. ^ "ECM". ECM Records. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  7. ^ a b Fordham, John (16 October 2014) "David Virelles: Mboko CD review – Jazz-Infused World Music That Goes Beyond Categories". The Guardian.
  8. ^ Murph, John (January 2019). "David Virelles: Igbó Alákorin (The Singer's Grove) Vol. I & II". DownBeat. p. 65.