Blue Cha Cha (Concord Picante, 2012)
Cuban guitarist and bandleader Manuel Galban’s final recording Blue Cha Cha hits the streets June 26th and those diehard Cuban music fans should get it while the getting is this good. Released almost a year to day of Mr. Galban’s sad departure; Blue Cha Cha is one last listen into what made Los Zafiros, Buena Vista Social Club and the man himself such an icon on the Cuban music scene. Traveling between styles as easily as a breeze off the deep blue sea, Blue Cha Cha intrigues, soothes and affords listeners a rare glimpse into the music that piqued Mr. Galban’s musical soul.
Mr. Galban’s daughter, Magda Rosa offers this as an inspiration behind the recording, “Blue Cha Cha is a record that needed to be made, so it’s a real gift. My father used to laugh a lot, and he would say that everything in life has to be given because ‘you know, from up the sky, there are many clouds that you cannot see…’ With this album he could see his dreams come true, and I hope that God enjoys his music as much as we have here on earth.”
Opening with “Pachito Eche,” listeners are treated that signature Galban sound where an inexpressible joy ekes out of a familiar, carefully crafted Cuban band feel. Blue Cha Cha sizzles with additions like Eric Bibb on the sassy title track “Blue Cha Cha” or kora master Ballake Sissoko on “Batuca.”
Other gems include the achingly lovely “Duele” with Omara Portuondo’s vocals leaking sorrow like unshed tears and the lazy jazz of “Alma Mia” with vocalist Rosa Passos. Tracks like “Y Deja,” “Alma de Roca” and the deliciously dishy “Bossa Cubana” fairly thrum with Mr. Galban’s signature Cuban flash and will have fans shimming across the floor. “Lluvias De Mayo” and “Rumba Del Angel” are truly outstanding tracks that showcase Mr. Galban’s ability to conjure up a sound that is razor sharp and timeless.
A friend noted Mr. Galban’s passing this way, “there is always a big sadness when someone beloved has gone, but for Manuel there is a sense of happiness, because he lived as he wished, he traveled the seven seas, he loved, he drank and he touched the angels. Sure, tonight they are preparing a jam session with Ibrahim, Cachao and his other friends – where rum will finish all of them, and they’ll keep playing until dawn…”
Mr. Galban left behind a large, empty chasm but we can sure console ourselves with the wonderfulness of Blue Cha Cha.