Palacio de la Rumba big band is an ensemble formed by Gai Bryant in late 2013 to play with Cuban rumbero Roman Justo Pelladito Hernández on his first visit to Sydney in November 2014. It gave us all an opportunity to experience Cuban rumba from an acclaimed master of percussion.
Recording with Justo, who was already seventy-odd years old, was a special experience. This was the first time he decided to share his passion and his music in a studio recording outside Cuba. The result was our CD “Talking in Cuban”.
Our experience performing with Justo, followed by Grammy-nominated pianist/composer Elio Villafranca in 2018, has given Palacio de la Rumba an unwavering respect for the music of Cuba and its storied history. The ensemble’s 18 members have created a project that is grounded in the past, while focused on the future. Palacio de la Rumba delivers a riveting and exuberant approach to playing traditional Cuban music styles driven by Gai Bryant’s deceptively simple yet complex arrangements and compositions. Her inventiveness allows the music to offer a sense of history alongside room for dazzling solo explorations.
Justo Pelladito Hernández is a founding member of the Conjunto Folclórico Nacional de Cuba as well as percussionist and dancer. He created the Cuban Percussion Department at the Higher Institute of Art (ISA) and was awarded a diploma of artistic value by ISA for his contributions to Cuban teaching and percussion.
He is an honorary member of the National Association of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) and in 1996 he was awarded as the best Rumbero Mi Salsa TV.
Trumpets: Daryl Carthew, Eamon Dilworth, Warwick Alder and Ray Cassar
Saxophones: Peter Farrar (sop & alto saxes), Gai Bryant (sop & alto saxes, flute), Craig Walters (tenor sax, clarinet, flute), Mark Ginsburg (tenor sax) and Paul Cutlan (bass clarinet & baritone sax)
Trombones: Paul Weber, Danny Carmichael, Martin Taylor and Colin Philpott (bass trombone)
Rhythm: Jeremy Sawkins (guitar), Alsiter Spence (piano), Lloyd Swanton (bass)
Percussion: Fabian Hevia (drum kit)
And special guest Justo Pelladito on congas.
Talking in Cuban was recorded over two nights in a lovely small church situated in suburban Sydney. Sound engineer, Ross A’Hern designed and built a huge microphone tree inspired by Morton Lindberg to capture the best room sound possible.
The music is raw yet true to the character of Cuban rumba, danzon and bolero including a venue piano that refused to play in tune! In keeping with the spirit of rumba the congas rise up above the ensemble.
We hope you enjoy this introduction to these styles through Gai’s compositional lens.
“In Cuba, rumba is much more than just music: it is life, love and art. The rhythm invites us all to share its passion and joy. Rumba is intense, passionate and festive, just as life must be lived. Born in Cuba, although it has followers all over the world, rumba is music to be lived and not only heard.” Justo Pelladito
There is little access to rumba outside Cuba as it passed down by example. For all the musicians in Palacio de la Rumba learning from one of Cuba’s foremost exponents was a rare privilege. The group continues to evolve and grow through playing with the next generation of Cuban masters.