Manos y Alma
Virginia and the Piano There is no doubt that women and the piano have had strong ties in Venezuela. In her time, Teresa Carreño made history when she became one of the first renowned female pianists in the world. She also became a representative of the sounds from this land of grace called Venezuela. Later, after our Teresa followed pianists such as Rosario Marciano and Judith Jaimes. New generations include Elena Aben, Vanessa Pérez, and Gabriela Montero, among many other pianists that not only have made us proud, but also have made us fall in love with music and the understanding of the force of femininity in the creation, the magic, and the power of the melodies. These women fill us with their own passion, bringing us to understand the meaning of music, for music is a woman. I have known Virginia since she started in music. She has always been dedicated, disciplined, studious, and consequent in the search for her own path and her own way to express herself musically. Nowadays, when copying seems to be easier than creating, and where the average takes us to paths signaled by mediocrity, emptiness, and repetition, it is always satisfying to see roadways of light that draw new traces that take us in other directions where the rudder is commanded by the need to express rather than the easy quest to imitate other sounds and languages. This need to tell is the conductive thread that Virginia's recording possesses, where we not only find ourselves playing with her, but confront ourselves with ideas as she shows us what she wants to say through her love for music. Undoubtedly, this compact disc is the result of personal work and a set path, where even though the CD is dominated by jazz, she flirts with Venezuelan music and new trends. Virginia leaves us this beautiful work of original compositions as well as some standards. She creates luminous atmospheres of various intensities; hence every piece in this work has it's own light and language. Each song is a parallel world amid a diverse universe existing with the unity given by the piano Virginia interprets. She has drawn her own path tracing her dreams as they emerge out of the necessity of a personal quest from those who love what they do. We hope that this road goes on and this album becomes the continuation of her personal work as well as a starting point towards other ways, other roads. This is undoubtedly an excellent work that will become a required reference for generations to come. There is only one thing left for me to say, congratulations Virginia for this accomplishment! Let there be success! Aquiles Báez, New York, February 2009 Virginia and her music The idea of mixing rhythms and elements of Venezuelan traditional music with Jazz is a combination that enables an endless number of rhythmic and harmonic possibilities. These possibilities begin to be deeply explored by the works of such artists as Virginia Ramírez, Edward Simon and Aquiles Báez. Thanks to them, more and more people around the world are being exposed to the great musical potential that exists in Venezuela. Such is the case of the music on this CD. The first time I heard Virginia live was at "Juan Sebastián Bar", back in 1991. At that time I was the house pianist at that famous Jazz Club in Caracas. It was obvious, then, that she was a very mature artist with an avid desire to learn, as well as possessing a great potential and talent. Eighteen years later, I am particularly impressed by her music and the big steps she's taken to improve her technique, now perfected by her advanced studies in Cuba, as well as her stylistic and compositional improvements. She has also managed to absorb an ample gamut of styles. Far from just mimicking them, she's been able to make them part her own personal and organic style. After carefully listening to this music, I'd like to offer some brief comments just as one more listener. I do it with the idea of highlighting some details that personally draw my attention, although when it comes to artists with the talent of Virginia, art speaks for itself and needs no explanation. The CD starts off with Blue and Green, a beautiful and melancholic melody with a very lirycal piano solo, and a flow of ideas that evolve from the simplest one, connecting perfectly with each other as a jigsaw puzzle. As I listened to the first bars of Hands and Soul, a ballad played by two pianos, I smiled as I recognized immediately the personal phrasing and playing of Gerry Weil, my teacher for many, many years. It is remarkable the way Virginia and Gerry exchange ideas and phrases without overstepping each other. Actually, one completes the phrase where the other leaves it, complementing one another in such way that it becomes almost impossible for the listener to recognize who is who. Blues with Sangueo is an authentic "Tour de Force" for guitarist Carlos Eduardo Arellano, who takes a very energetic solo, doubling his melodic line in unison with his voice in a very confident manner. Virginia comments: "I wrote this thinking of Saint John The Baptist dancing a blues. Also, because of the importance that this genre (the blues) has for me." Then, there is Days of July, composed to honor her parents. This track possesses a very interesting harmonic progression, which serves as a foundation for a piano solo that she develops in a very organized and natural way. A remarkable bass solo by Roberto Koch follows it. In the Venezuelan meringue Dulcinea, one can appreciate the great uniformity and clarity in Virginia's phrasing. Each note is clearly distinguished from the others in a very particular manner, as if each note had it's own life. Guasipati is a calypso, a popular genre in various Antilles islands, which arrived in Venezuela via Trinidad and settled in the town of El Callao. "I wrote it for my mother, who was born in that little southern Venezuelan town, located in the Estado Bolivar" she's said. Mambo Influenciado, written by the great Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés, is the "jam" track of the CD. It's harmonic progression, based on a reharmonized 12-bar blues, serves as a vehicle for a concise and straight to the point piano solo. Planet Earth is a "gaita tambora" rhythm, a genre similar to the Puerto Rican bomba, which offers many rhythmic possibilities, especially syncopation, which Virginia uses very intelligently on her solo to create moments of tension and release. Her fluency of ideas is also attractive. Reunion takes us amid the Patanemo and reggae rhythms. This time around, Virginia plays a solo on synthesizer with a rhythmic/melodic sense that instills energy to the rhythm section. Seis con Catira, a joropo, draws attention from the pianistic point of view. Here, we can listen to the piano playing the melody and the bass simultaneously (the later one takes the role of the Venezuelan harp bass strings). This piece has a high degree of syncopation, which may be difficult to understand for some, but in the hands of Virginia it sounds totally natural and effortless. The handclaps give a tinge of Flamenco and the addition of the violin confers a very progressive and refreshing effect to this song. Mr. Jou is another theme where she shows off her great pianistic technique. In this theme, the countermelody and accompaniment require a very trained left hand, which Virginia has accomplished after many years of studies. It is also evident that she commands a wide range of nuances and dynamics. It is worth pointing out the masterful, steady and consistent interpretation of bassists Roberto and Heriberto as well as the drummers Adolfo and Diego; the harmonic knowledge and great energy of guitarist Carlos Eduardo; and every guest musician that participated in this recording. All of them are essential components in the creation of this CD. A special shout out to maestro Carlos "Nené" Quintero, a musician you can always count on when it comes to making music of the highest level. The music in this CD is proof of the great talent Virginia Ramírez possesses as a pianist, composer and leader, as well as her remarkable musical sensitivity, selecting the material and the musicians involved in this project. It is a great pleasure for me to write these notes. I'm sure you'll enjoy the music and the talent of an artist with a great international forthcoming as much as I have. Sincerely, LUIS PERDOMO. New York, 2009 Hands and Soul When Virginia Ramírez gave a concert in London, I interviewed her for the BBC Two editions of my program "Notas de Jazz" were dedicated to her and I also wrote an article for the BBC Web page in Spanish. I pointed out that her music is difficult to describe in words, since she has such an artistic power, there isn't a language to supersede that of music to do it with. I uphold my opinion, now that I listen to her new creation, and I dare use the language of words to add that there is something refreshing once again. It is an artistic production that, although unpretentious, is rich in refinement, elegance, swing, and creativity. There is also, once again, an impressive enthusiasm for fusing the essence of Venezuelan music with jazz traditions and blues, even going beyond to embrace more global elements. When we talked about the relationship between jazz and boleros, Virginia said that she considered them "a universal symbol of love and friendship." I would extend that concept saying that it is the main feature of her music creation. Love for jazz, Venezuelan and world music. Pablo Aguirre, BBC-London, March 2009.