For LatinArte’s project Vues transversales. Panorama de la scène artistique latino-québécoise (Across Disciplines: A Panorama of Latin American Art in Quebec), ten artists spoke about their practice and about Montréal. Here is Rafael Zaldivar’s story.
“Noted for his virtuosity and fluid phraseology, Zaldivar’s compositions are characterized by structural and rhythmic complexity, balanced by a strong sense of harmony and emotional depth.” — JazzTimes Magazine, New York
Originally hailing from Camagüey, Cuba, Rafael Zaldivar is a virtuosic pianist, composer, artistic director, and educator. His compositions combine elements from his ancestral roots and contemporary sound for a unique fusion of musical languages.
Zaldivar’s singular works are full of prolific complexity, conjuring a blend of Afro-Cuban spiritual traditions and contemporary jazz rhythms that makes for a powerful cultural experience. This fusion draws on the rich textures of Afro-Cuban rhythms, including those of the Yoruba (or Lucumí), Congo (or Bantu), Arará, and Abakuá traditions.
Growing up in a family of musicians, Zaldivar was exposed to music from a young age. A cascade of rhythms, which Zaldivar masterfully works into his compositions, defines his creative aesthetic. These rhythms take on different forms that turn each piece into a voyage—a story that takes us someplace new.
Dedicated to his art and naturally curious, Zaldivar is interested in seeking out new musical worlds and combining them to perfect harmony. Classically trained at Havana’s Instituto Superior de Arte, he continued his studies at Université de Montréal and completed a PhD at McGill University once he arrived in Québec, playing music professionally throughout this period. Zaldivar has garnered numerous accolades and, today in 2019, he teaches at Université Laval’s music faculty, passing down a unique and culturally vast perspective on music to his students.
Throughout his career, Rafael Zaldivar has worked with music icons such as Barry Harris, Kenny Barron, Greg Osby, and Herbie Hancock. He has also played with Steve Coleman, Francisco Mela, and Danilo Pérez. His latest album, Consecration, shows a vaster creative vision than ever before, leaving listeners swept away by the rich rhythms of Afro-Cuban roots and the syncopated magic of jazz.
ARGONZA, Mariza Rosales (dir.). Vues transversales. Panorama de la scène artistique latino-québécoise, Montréal, Éditions du CIDIHCA, 2018, 300 p.