Tag Archives: Piano

Ryan Timoffee: Cuban Safari

Cuban Safari Front CD Cover

Today’s album comes from Ryan Timoffee, a piano player, composer and producer from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He composed, arranged, produced and played piano and keyboards on his debut solo album “Cuban Safari” which was released on November 12.

The album features an all-star line-up of Cuban musicians from Camaguey, Havana, New York, Miami and Los Angeles:

  • Keyboards – Ryan Timoffee
  • Bass – Daymar Calvario
  • Percussion – Daniel Rodriguez
  • Saxophone – Yasel Barreras Sifontes
  • Trumpet – Randy Veitia Godinez
  • Flute – Javier Porta
  • Guitar – Dean Faulkner
  • Tres – Yuniel Jimenez
  • Trombone – Diana Osumy Sainz Mena
  • Guitar – Roman Lajara
  • Vocals – Yoandri Castro

Ryan explains on his website: “In 2017 I had been on a composing frenzy and everything I wrote had Cuban flavor. Since I returned from Cuba for the second time in January, I felt very connected to the music of the island and it was manifesting in everything I wrote. So my next step was to turn my Cuban-influenced themes into something real.”

The project became real, but the realization was not straight-forward, it turned out to be an adventure.

Ryan continues: “The band recorded at an unknown studio in the Castro compound in Havana. Police pay-offs, a jam-packed vehicle full of musicians, 14-hour sessions, a missing sound engineer and detours around the Hurricane-flooded streets of Old Havana brought the world this hard-fought victory for music.”

Nevertheless, the result of this fight is an excellent album that combines a wide range of authentic Cuban grooves like Timba, Son Montuno, Mozambique and Cha cha cha with Funk, Soul and Jazz elements, it is old-fashioned and modern at the same time.

The album starts with “Super Tren”, bass and horns play the melody very precise and accentuated. The first solo goes to Ryan on piano, he starts softly and relaxed, dynamics increase and prepare us for a trumpet solo and percussion fills. The band grooves perfectly, the horns are sharp, the trumpet plays high and we see that these guys know what they are doing.

“Bambino” comes next and continues in the traditional Salsa style, but the song gets it special touch from the electronic piano sound. The horn section is extended with Diana Osumy Sainz Mena on trombone.

“Bolo” has a steady funk groove dominated by Dean Faulkner on guitar. The solos go to saxophone and guitar, followed by a dialog between drums and bass.  A nice change in style and my first highlight on this album.

“Guajira” is going back to traditional Afro-Cuban music. Yuniel Jimenez on tres opens the song and plays an excellent solo. Randy Veitia Godinez on trumpet again shows his mastery and the song ends with vocals. Yoandri Castro as lead singer and Yasel Barreras Sifontes singing background carry us away.

“Bio Ritmo” is the next tune and this is another Salsa tune with a great piano solo, increasing intensity by the horn section and a steady pushing bass by an outstanding Daymar Calvario.

“Border Control” the next song, is a Cha cha cha. The first solo goes to Yasel Barreras Sifontes on saxophone, followed by Ryan Timoffee on piano and Daniel Rodriguez on percussion.

“Persigueme” introduces Javier Porta on flute and Ryan Timoffee on a Fender rhodes e-piano. A pushing groove by bass and percussion lay the foundation for a modern latin song. This is one of my favorites on the album.

“Fantasma” is a tune with a funny melody but returns to a classic Salsa song when the piano starts with the montuno. We hear a short bass solo, a piano solo and another great finale from the  trumpet.

“Cohiba Funk” is the second funk tune on this album, again with a grooving guitar by Dean Faulkner. The melody is played by the flute which gives the song its unique character. Ryan plays a nice solo on the Fender rhodes.

“Tapp Timba” is the last song on the album. It reminds me a little bit on fusion bands like the Brecker Brothers but with a Cuban percussion section.  Cool horns, a brillant guitar by Roman Lajaraa and funky slapping bass are the ingredients for another fantastic tune and a great finale of the album.

There is a Youtube video available for this song which I don’t want to keep back from you:

To sum it up, “Cuban Safari” is an excellent album with a lot of variety in it. The songs are perfectly arranged and Ryan Timoffee found a bunch of incredible musicians to record this album. The combination of traditional Cuban music, Jazz and Funk works perfectly and creates an entertaining and diverse album which I can highly recommend.

Some more background information about the musicians and the genesis of this album are found on Ryan’s website:

And a playlist on Spotify to listen to the album:

Florian Ross Quintet: Swallows & Swans


German composer and pianist Florian Ross has released his latest album “Swallows & Swans” on November 25 on his own label Toy Piano Records. The album contains 10 original compositions by Florian Ross plus one composition by Renaissance-composer Orlando Gibbons and one Irish air.

The album features Australian singer Kristin Berardi, who added the lyrics on two songs, other lyrics are from late 19th century writers Robert Louis Stevenson, Samuel Ferguson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Florian Ross lives and works in Cologne, Germany and this is already his 18th album. He is a sought-after composer and arranger and his commissioned works include pieces for the German NDR and WDR big bands, the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra, the BBC Big Band, the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra, RTE Irish Radio Orchestra and the Sydney Mothership Jazz Orchestra.

Kristin Berardi made headlines when she won the Montreux Jazz Festival’s International Vocal Competition in 2006. She lectures in jazz voice at the Australian National University in Canberra. She released an album with master guitarist James Sherlock (whom I saw live some 8 years ago at in Melbourne) which was short listed for Best Australian Jazz Vocal Album at the renowned Bell Awards.

The line-up for this album is very international and features

  • Florian Ross (Germany) – piano
  • Kristin Berardi (Australia) – vocals
  • Matthew Halpin (Ireland) – sax
  • Dietmar Fuhr (Germany) – bass
  • Hans Dekker (Netherlands) – drums.

An ambitious project that has been realized with the support from the Deutschlandfunk radio station.

Florian told me that he wanted to make an album with a vocalist for a long time, but failed to find the right person. He thinks that Kristin is not only a singer but also a musician who is able to take different roles depending on the arrangement and so he found with her the perfect cast for this project.

Florian’s passion for English music and literature determined the selection of the lyrics for this album.

The album starts with “Midway”, softly but very rhythmically with drums and piano. Saxophone and vocals “play” the beautiful melody and solos go to Mathew Halpin on soprano saxophone and Florian Ross on piano.

“Horologe of Eternity” is a slow balladesque tune with lyrics from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow presented by Kristin over a complex harmonic structure played by the piano in steady arpeggios. The solo part in this song is a dialog between voice and saxophone.

“Recurring Dream” is another tune where Kristin sings the melody without words, again together with Matthew Halpin on soprano saxophone. The groove changes from 3/4 to 4/4 meter for the solos of piano and saxophone and returns to 3/4 meter for the melody.

“Swallows” the title song comes next. Lyrics for this song are from Robert Louis Stevenson and Florian Ross has composed a great melody around this text. This song gets it’s special mood from the harmonies changing between major and minor key.

“Solid Air” is much more pushing then the tunes before. Based on a piano riff it develops into a great saxophone solo and a formidable piano solo. This tune is one of my highlights on the album.

“Looking Inward” has lyrics from Kristin Berardi and is the next ballad. It begins in a dark and mysterious way, but moves to a positive mood. We hear a soft saxophone solo with the piano holding long chords, very open and spacious.

“Cold Smoke” again with lyrics from Kristin starts with vocals, bass and drums, the piano is added and the pulse comes from a 7/4 meter. We hear a gentle saxophone solo and a precise piano solo. The song ends in a very melancholic mood.

“Albatros” is even more sophisticated than the tunes before with a complex melody over harmonies with changing tonal centers. A short bass solo and a dynamic vocal solo by Kristin Berardi make this song fascinating.

“The Silver Swan” by Renaissance composer Orlando Gibbons starts with piano and saxophone only, elegiac and majestic and keeps this spirit throughout the whole song with Kristin Berardi again presenting the lyrics in a soft and plain way, almost without any vibrato and perfect intonation.

“Kolibri” is a short freely improvised tune with nice sound painting by Matthew Halpin on tenor sax.

“Trip to the Water Cooler” returns with a pushing pulse by drummer Hans Dekker.  Soloists are Matthew Halpin on saxophone,  Dietmar Fuhr with an excellent bass solo and finally Florian Ross on piano. Another highlight for me because the band plays really unleashed here.

“The Lark in the Clear Sky”, an old Irish air closes the album. The lyrics are by Sir Samuel Ferguson and this tune is also played in a very traditional style , piano and vocals only, very atmospheric and a gorgeous finale for this album, leaving us in a great melancholia.

This album shows a complete different facet of contemporary jazz music which is heavily influenced by composition and arrangement. We see here with Florian Ross a master of this form. The arrangement are subtle and sophisticated but provide space for improvisation and individuality.

The use of the voice is extraordinary but also part of the whole concept of this album, so it fits perfectly. I enjoyed it very much.

Overall an excellent album which I can highly recommend.

The album is available on CD Baby, iTunes and Amazon and you can order a “real” CD at Florian’s own label Toy Piano Records.

Here is the link to CDBaby.com for you to listen to extracts of the album:

For more information about Florian Ross take a look on his website:

And finally a video with some impressions from the recording session: