Cool and Breezy Cuba

Various Artists -  Cafe Cubano
Various Artists – Cafe Cubano
Various Artists

Cafe Cubano ( Putumayo World Music, 2008)

Deliciously flirty and seductively fresh sum up Putumayo’s Cafe Cubano, the latest offering in their Cafe series. Featuring a whole host of guajiras, sones and boleros, Cafe Cubano is a cool and breezy look into the evolution of Cuban music.

Compiling tracks by seasoned veterans and artists little known outside Cuba makes Cafe Cubano delightfully refreshing. Delving into the "nueva trova" movement of mixing lyrical poetry with the island’s folk traditions, Cafe Cubano smartly flavors the familiar with a remodeled Cuban sound.

The familiar chunky Cuban sound on opening track "El Chacal" by Jose Conde y Ola Fresca swings with the Carlos Puebla melody "Hasta Siempre Comandante," but its Conde’s new lyrics questioning Che Guevara’s theory of social change through violence that turns the track upside down. Veteran Cuban musician Ignacio "Mazacote" Carrillo’s "Lagrimas Negras" is one of those Cuban classics that never tarnishes and Carrillo makes it shine. Rene Ferrer’s "Como A Cada Manana" is ripe with the "nueva trova sound" against a plummy son that is light and imaginative. While the sultry "Morenita" by La Orquesta Mágica de la Habana sounds like an old favorite, the song is really a new composition by Edesio Alejandro and Gerardo Garcia. Other treats include German Obregon y Palma Real’s guajira "Pincel Campesino," Armando Garzon’s romantic bolero "Escandalo" and Kelvis Ochoa’s slick "Fue Una de Mambo."

With new takes on old favorites and original compositions firmly seated in the Cuban music tradition, Cafe Cubano smoothly lays down a rich landscape of sounds that will enchant listeners.

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Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.