Transportive Piano and Cuban Rhythms
Nachito is one of the world’s great Cuban pianists. His jaw dropping technique and the rich, powerful soulfulness of his playing blend in what is often an amazing display of musical power and emotion.
Herrera recently received a nod from the state of Minnesota in 2014 when he was named an Immigrant of Distinction and an American Heritage Award from the American Immigration Council, one of three musicians in 2012 (along with Australian Tommy Emmanuel and South Korean Yura Lee) to receive this prestigious prize. (The last Latin musician to receive the honor was Carlos Santana.)
Although he has been residing in Minnesota for the past few years, his renown is growing. He has played multiple times at the preeminent piano festival in North America, the Gilmore Festival. In 2011 Herrera was part of a 40 city tour of American performing arts centers and theaters as the pianist in the Afro-Cuban All-Stars. We don’t know how much longer his historically regular Dakota performances will last, as he is traveling more and more.
Nachito Herrera’s talent was recognized early on; he performed Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Havana Symphony Orchestra at age 12. Herrera revisited that experience in October and November of 2012, appearing again with the Havana Symphony and playing Rachmaninov while on tour of the US.
Combining Western Classical music with traditional Cuban rhythms, Herrera has been at the forefront of an exciting renaissance in Cuban music. While in his twenties, Herrera took the job of Musical Director at the famous “Tropicana” nightclub in Cuba, playing every night and deepening his repertoire. He spent the late 1990s touring with Cubanissmo, serving as lead pianist, arranger, and musical director and touring the world.
Since moving to the Twin Cities in 2001, Herrera has been an invigorating presence in the music community, and a fixture here at the Dakota. His most recent recordings, Live at the Dakota, Vol 1 and 2, are available here.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“Hotter than the burning tip of a contraband Cuban cigar. Stronger than a straight shot of Havana rum. As exciting as a World Series game, with ‘El Duque’ on the mound. Explosive. Crowd pleasing. Rhythmically intense. Romantic. Dynamic. Jaw-droppingly good.”
– Tom Surowicz, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Ignacio “Nachito” Herrera steps onto the national stage as a fully evolved artist, brimming with confidence, in total command of a vast array of traditional and contemporary Cuban idioms” – All About Jazz
“It was the pianist’s night on Wednesday . . . Nachito Herrera, working with the group Cubanismo, was having a good time. On a cha-cha-cha he tore up the music, dropping a series of quotes—melodies from other cha-cha-chas—into his solo; the chorus picked up one and sang it. He worked over the dissonance of a whole tone scale, and flatted the fifth degree of a chord, ending a phrase on its bitterness. Left and right hands sprayed contrasting rhythms, and the intensity of the band soared in reaction.”—Peter Watrous, New York Times
“As magnificent as is Nachito throughout this set, he is nearly upstaged by his daughter’s vocal incantation on Mercedita Valdes’ ‘Babá Fururú.’ Hayo starts off on congas, providing a tribal/folk vibe of anticipation; he is joined by Nachito’s solemn, almost hymnal phrases that hint of thunder, a passage reminiscent of Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Sounding like a cantorial sorceress conjuring the Gods, Mirdalys Herrera gives a ceremonial performance, her voice powerful and penetrating. One can imagine a mythical Yoruban Princess, especially when her only accompaniment is the congas. The rest of the cast serves as the chorus; the piano sounds the final benediction as the crowd erupts.” – Andrea Canter, Jazz Police
“His 18-year-old daughter, Mirdalys Herrera, began the show with grand, soaring vocals, her pianist father creating a storm beside her. Herrera made use of a grand piano, a synthesizer and even a cowbell. Yohannes Tona plucked out heavy funk on electric bass, and Kevin Washington backed it all with solid drumming. The musical stew, with Mirdalys’ amazing voice, was evocative of a funky Cuban mysticism.” – Mark Wedel, Kalamazoo Gazette 7/30/08