Album Review: Daniel Rojas - Latin Piano Expressions (2012 LP)


In this seminal release, Latin Piano Expressions, composer, virtuosic concert pianist, and master improviser Daniel Rojas offers listeners something not usually available for mainstream consumption. This is of course not to say the album is anything near mainstream as that would be an outright insult. Although not mainstream it is, however, quite accessible.

The Latin piano expressions, numbered one through four, for which the album is named, are off the cuff improvisations that take the listener on a vividly expressive journey through the performers psyche, cultural heritage, and musical prowess. They showcase the progressive abilities of a man who is clearly a master of his instrument and in no way ashamed to push the boundaries of convention, at the same time as knowing exactly when to stay within its confines. Other pieces on the album include compositions by Astor Piazzolla arranged for the piano by Rojas and Kyoko Yamamoto, as well as Rojas’ own compositions that on occasion offer aural insight into something as personal as the man’s love life.

The expressions use elements of both classical and Latin music in a dialogue that that elaborates on both these styles. They are sometimes lustrously discordant, and at others subliminally consonant, and occasionally surprise and delight the ears with unconventional percussive sounds attained by striking the piano in various locations.

Astor Piazzolla’s composition of “Resurrección del Angel”, arranged for piano by Rojas himself demonstrates the interpretive skills of someone who has clearly immersed himself in the great Argentinian’s work throughout his life. Historically, the most interesting is Piazzolla’s “Histoire du Tango”, which starts its journey at Tango’s ignominious beginnings in the bordellos of Buenos Aires through to its eventual glory in the concert hall and the world stage.

Rojas’ own compositions skillfully elaborate on the Latin American musical tradition in a more thoughtful fashion. In “Luna Sobre Miraflores”, you can practically taste the heartbreak and intense contemplation educed by a moonless night in Lima as the composer found himself in a maudlin state, afflicted by the troublesome emotions of love. “Danza de Montañas”, or “Dance of the Mountains” is far less somber and offers what is at times a rather danceable interpretation of Andean panpipe music arranged for the piano. You can almost taste the purity of the air.

Latin Piano Expressions is currently available through Fish Fine Music.

Review Score 9.1/10