Aldo López-Gavilán was born in Cuba to a family of internationally acclaimed classical musicians, his father a conductor and composer, his mother a concert pianist. At the age of five, he had written his first musical composition. By four, his mother introduced the budding prodigy to the piano, and he began formal piano studies at the age of seven. His first international triumph was at the age of eleven when he won a Danny Kaye International Children’s Award, organized by UNICEF. He made his professional debut at age twelve with the Matanzas Symphony Orchestra and later went on to perform Prokofiev’s Third Concerto with the National Symphonic Orchestra of Cuba. Parallel to his classical abilities, López-Gavilán developed remarkable skills in improvisation. He was invited to perform in the world-famous Havana Jazz Festival with the legendary Chucho Valdés, who called him “simply a genius, a star.”
His recording career began in 1999 with the CD “En el ocaso de la hormiga y el elefante”, which won the 2000 Grand Prix at Cubadisco as well as awards in the jazz and first-works categories. In 2005, he was invited to join a group of prestigious Cuban pianists to create an album and documentary in honor of Frank Emilio, “Amor y piano”. He was also included in a DVD set, “Cuban Pianists: The History of Latin Jazz”.
López-Gavilán’s second album, “Talking to the Universe”, was a success with audiences and critics alike. In 2006, he gave a concert of his newest works that was later turned into his third album, “Soundbites”. Two years later he was included in a documentary on the history of Latin jazz in Cuba titled “¡Manteca, Mondongo y Bacalao con Pan!”, directed by Pavel Giroud. It was in that same year that he recorded his fourth CD, “Dimensional”, which allowed him the flexibility for more musical experimentation. He was also hired to compose the music for a TV documentary titled: “El Proceso: la historia no contada.” In 2009 he released his fifth album, “Aldo López-Gavilán en vivo”, and finished his first live concert DVD, “Más allá del ocaso”, which included orchestral selections and jazz compositions. He also composed original music for the film “Casa vieja” by acclaimed Cuban director Lester Hamlet.
During the past decade, López-Gavilán’s collaborators have included some of the greatest artists in the classical, popular music, and jazz fields. The late Claudio Abbado, one of the world’s most celebrated and respected conductors, invited him to perform with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela in 2006, in a special concert dedicated to the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. Maestro Abbado subsequently invited him to perform Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 1 in Caracas and Havana.
In 2009 López-Gavilán was invited by popular Cuban singer-songwriter Carlos Varela to join his band for a tour of Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay; Aldo’s acoustic arrangements of Varela’s music won many accolades from critics and fans. In 2010 he joined the São Paulo Jazz Symphonic Orchestra to perform his music in a concert that was recorded and broadcasted on national television in Brazil.
López-Gavilán’s Carnegie Hall debut took place in November of 2012, when he was invited to participate in the hall’s prestigious “Voces de Latino América” festival. That same month he played a two-piano concert with his colleague Harold López-Nussa in Miami. In May of that year he released his sixth album, “De todos los colores y también verde”.
In 2014 López-Gavilán toured the U.S., appearing at Florida’s Miami Dade County Auditorium, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Jazz Festival, and he completed an ASCAP film music workshop under the direction of Robert Kraft at New York University. He also toured extensively in Europe, South America, Canada, and the U.S. with Carlos Varela, for whom he wrote all the string arrangements for an award-winning documentary (The Poet of Havana) that won many awards and was televised for several months by HBO Latino in the U.S.
A milestone in López-Gavilán’s professional and personal life came in early 2015, when he joined the New York-based Harlem Quartet—co-founded by his brother Ilmar, the quartet’s first violinist—for concerts in Calgary, Seattle, and Phoenix. That same year he was invited to play with his Jazz Quintet at the Centro Cultural Kirchner in Buenos Aires, Argentina; performed Rhapsody in Blue with the Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá, Colombia; and closed the year with a sold-out concert at the Teatro del Museo de Bellas Artes in Havana.
His partnership with Harlem Quartet continued in the summer and fall of 2016 with a U.S. tour that included concerts and residencies at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival, Chautauqua Institution, Santa Fe College, Las Vegas’s Smith Center for the Performing Arts, the Chamber Music Society of Detroit, and the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Arts in Beverly Hills.
Since December 2014, when a new era in the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba was announced, Aldo played a continually active role in the cultural exchange between the two countries. In April 2016, through Obama’s President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, he was part of the group of Cuban musicians who collaborated in Cuba with such renowned U.S. artists as Joshua Bell, Usher, Dave Matthews, and Smokey Robinson, A few weeks later López-Gavilán’s music was used to showcase Chanel’s Cruise 2017 Collection—the first fashion show to take place in Havana in recent times—and he partnered with American trumpet virtuoso Byron Stripling in a concert at Havana’s Teatro del Museo de Bellas Artes.
Under the lead of famous Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell, Aldo aided in the organization of “Seasons of Cuba”, a PBS Special that took place at the Lincoln Center in December 2016, celebrating a new era of cultural diplomacy with a vibrant program that spanned from Vivaldi classics to Piazzolla tangos and beyond. Some of the prestigious artists joining Bell and López-Gavilán were Dave Matthews, the Chamber Orchestra of Havana, singer-songwriter Carlos Varela, and soprano Larisa Martínez.
During 2016 and 2017 Aldo continued headlining sold-out North American performances in various venues all over the United States, both as a solo artist and with the Grammy winner Harlem Quartet. In the prestigious Napa Festival in July 2016 Aldo rejoined with popular violinist Joshua Bell for his Seasons of Cuba concert at Far Niente Winery and that same month he premiered “Emporium”, his first concerto for piano and orchestra, at the Tahoe, Nevada with The Classical Tahoe Orchestra and conductor Joel Rezven.
In early 2018 Aldo continued his extensive tour in the US and made his debut with the Florida Orchestra with three amazing concerts on February 23, 24 and 25 in the Florida cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the symphony and making these his first collaboration with prominent British conductor Michael Francis. A few weeks later Aldo returned to Florida, this time to play the Concert for Piano in G major by Ravel during four concerts with The South Florida Orchestra conducted by Maestra Sebrina María Alfonso, and the local media praised him for his “…warmly lyrical, effortlessly virtuosic performance…” noting as well that the “…Cuban pianist lights a fire with South Florida Symphony”
In the fall of 2018, Aldo made history by becoming the first Cuban pianist to play at Piano aux Jacobins, a highly celebrated Piano Festival in Europe. Founded in Toulouse, France in 1979, the festival has welcomed some of the best-known pianists in the world, such as: Sviatoslav Richter, Alfred Brendel, Martha Argerich, Gonzales and Murray Perahias. Aldo’s outstanding performance at the Auditorium Saint-Pierre des Cuisines on September 21st won him not just a very long-standing ovation but also an invitation from the organizers to come back to Toulouse to record an album next year.
Aldo kickstarted the year 2019 with three remarkably successful concerts, performing George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, FL in early January with The Florida Orchestra under the direction of maestro Thomas Wilkins, a former resident conductor. He continued with his extensive North America touring agenda during the spring, that brought him to venues in Covington (LA), Chicago (IL), Montreal (QC), Napa (CA), Boston (MA) and Colorado Springs (Co). He also performed with his jazz quartet and a renowned group of guests at the iconic Teatro Marti in Havana, Cuba. The concert was filmed for a concert DVD and streaming Special: “Aldo Live at Teatro Martí”.
During the summer of 2019 Aldo and his brother Ilmar got to fulfill one of their long-standing wishes: to record an album together. Aldo wrote some new material for this special occasion while Ilmar took care of arranging Aldo’s music for Piano and Violin format. The results is “Brothers”, an amazing album comprising 11 tracks, which they plan to support with some live concerts in the near future.
Aldo and his brother Ilmar are featured in the documentary “Los Hermanos / The Brothers”, tracking their parallel lives and momentous first performances together despite the geopolitical divide. Featuring a genre-bending score composed by Aldo, performed largely with his brother, and with guest appearances by violin maestro Joshua Bell and Ilmar’s Grammy-winning Harlem Quartet. The documentary is screening at film festivals worldwide and will be nationally broadcast on PBS in the fall of 2021.
During the fall, Aldo continued touring in the US but also performed in Bogotá, Colombia and in Paris and Angoulême, France where he presented “Playgrounds”, a solo piano album released by French record label Espirit Du Piano. This album represents a new stage for him as a composer and brings together a very wide range of musical universes, from jazz to world music, including Afro, experimental music and Cuban sounds and rhythms. More generally, this album was conceived in an approach to the creative process that is at once calmer and more profound. Aldo’s musical landscape is always very varied and eclectic, and Playgrounds is no exception to the rule.
In November 2019, Aldo was honored as the composer in residence at Habana Clásica Festival’s third edition. Many international known musicians performed Aldo’s compositions in a very wide assortment of formats and instrumentations.
Aldo and his jazz trio made their Canadian debut in March 2020, with two memorable concerts: one at the Isabel Bader Centre in Kingston, ON and then one at The Jazz Bistro of Toronto. These were the last two live concerts Aldo played before COVID-19 turned into a pandemic and we saw the world turning upside down. During this difficult time Aldo continued composing and performing for his fans in Cuba and worldwide, taking part in several virtual concerts, such as the star-studded concert curated by Festival Napa Valley: “One Night, Many Voices” featuring artists like Joshua Bell with soprano Larisa Martínez; tenor Michael Fabiano; soprano Nadine Sierra; pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet; and the sensational Young People’s Chorus of New York City. Aldo closed the event with a swinging jazz performance performing with his band direct from Havana.