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Diego Hedez Offers Postcards from Havana on Debut Album ‘Distante’

The Cuban jazz trumpeter and his quintet move through moods, styles and tempo freely and fluently

Arpito Gope Feb 03, 2022

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When I heard Diego Hedez’s trumpet playing for the first time, it was on guitarist-composer Abhay Nayampally’s self-titled debut album last year. I was advised to look out for his prowess on the instrument and I did. A few months down the line, news of Hedez’s own debut album arrived. I was very excited to get hold of it the moment it was out and it’s safe to say the wait has been worth it.

Distante by the Diego Hedez Quintet released on January 6th. The album starts with a fast-paced track “Calle 9” with Miguel Angel taking off with a beautiful run on the keys. At the outset, I was expecting a lot of Diego and his trumpet playing, but I was surprised how well he has balanced his writing to craft a very wholesome album. I love his work on “Calle 9,” in which he comes in later but his trumpet speaks for his abilities. 

Diego brings in a solo to the fluid second track “Prangana” and is ably supported by his quintet – pianist Miguel Angel aka Wiwi, bassist Lino Piquero, conga player Miguel Pacifico and drummer Rey Ponce. The composition is really mature and restrained at the right places.

Piquero sets a nice bass groove fit for a sunny afternoon in “Tardes Soleada” and all you need is a cool beer in hand as tenor saxophonist Miguel Sarduy joins the gang with some smooth work.

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The title track “Distante” is a more complex arrangement with breaks in the beat which has some interesting piano work by Angel against the backdrop of Pacifico’s congas and it all builds up to a strong crescendo helped by Ponce on the drums. Nowhere does the track lose its groove or flow, ending with Diego hitting some super high notes. 

The mood-setting vibe of the album is solidified with “Tus Campos,” which sounds like a postcard from a holiday. A short composition in which Sarduy joins forces with Diego’s trumpet. 

The penultimate track “Historias” appeals the most, with an instantly memorable lead phrase that lingers long after the song ends. The rhythm is laidback and runs right through in the background but the trumpet work weaved on top is powerful and pacy. 

The quintet carry forward the sense of urgency, energy and pace on the closing track “En Las Nubesis.” A high-tempo live recording, this track is more about the performance than Diego’s writing as opposed to the other six tracks. 

While you hear Latin grooves throughout the album, it’s never an overwhelming sound. If anything, it’s a contemporary jazz atmosphere and the arrangement by Marlon Castro is an appropriate fit. This is a live recording and the natural interplay between the musicians is fluent and free. 

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There’s Mozambique and there’s mambo throughout the album and the fluid compositions aren’t limited to Latin roots. Diego has written about his love, his travels, the sounds and colors of the Cuban landscape, all of it emerging vividly in the music. 

Diego Hedez has arrived quietly and strongly on the scene. He has worked with good musicians in the past and he’s only going to grow stronger from here. Tune in to Distante for some steady contemporary jazz grooves.

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