A very talented keyboardist and composer, Mario Dueñas was born and raised in Ecuador and is now based in Chicago. After many musical experiences as a sideman and a leader, he makes his recording debut as a leader on Beliefs.
This album is rather unusual for it features Mario Dueñas playing unaccompanied solos on electric keyboards. Dedicated to God, it consists of six spontaneous compositions that are thoughtful, often melodic and develop logically. The titles (“God,” “Other Minds,” “Time,” “Love,” “Free Will” and “Afterlife”) cover wide areas of life and philosophy, subjects that have been thought about for eternity. Dueñas has said that the music on Beliefs is inspired by “the human desire to understand the nature of reality.” A rather philosophical individual, Dueñas believes in the importance of regularly questioning one’s beliefs about life, and in seeking to know rather than just to believe.
The improvisations on Beliefs are melodic, logical, thought-provoking and generally peaceful. The opening “God” is quiet and reverential before becoming a little playful. “Other Minds” is energetic and musically inquisitive while “Time” evolves and builds up quickly.
“Love” is a ballad that (not too surprisingly) is a bit romantic. “Free Will” is the cooker of the set, an uptempo romp that has its exciting moments. The program concludes with the mysterious but ultimately straightforward “Afterlife.”
The six selections on Beliefs form a suite of music that rewards repeated listenings. Overall, this is an impressive debut for Mario Dueñas.
– Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including The Great Jazz Guitarists, The Jazz Singers, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76.
Recorded in Naperville, USA