Pablo Menéndez & Mezcla
Pure Mezcla – Direct from Cuba Live at Yoshi’s Oakland (Tilford Productions TP114, 2014)
This superb album captures live a performance by Mezcla, one of the most exciting and original bands in Cuba. Led by electric guitarist Pablo Menéndez, Mezcla brings together a sizzling hot mix of Latin jazz, rock, santeria chants, timba and other Cuban and Caribbean musical forms.
The band plays a fusion of great original pieces by Pablo Menéndez and equally wonderful compositions by other composers like Chucho Valdés, Gerardo Alfonso, José Acosta and Santa Maldonado, as well as a piece by Irving Berlin titled ‘I’ll See you in Cuba’ (a retro piece and my least favorite) and the classic ‘Round Midnight’ by Thelonious Monk.
There are a lot of album highlights in this album like the opening piece ‘Mambo influenciado,’ a superb Afro-Cuban Latin jazz-rock composition with scorching guitar solos. Another stand out is ‘Hijos de la Mezcla’ where the percussion builds up and Menendez delivers another stellar guitar performance.
On ‘Suzi’s Mood,’ Mezcla presents one of its new stars, the young violinist Julio Valdés. He shows his impressive dexterity here with electrifying violin solos and interplay with Menendez’s guitar. Remember his name. This is one of the great new instrumentalists from Cuba.
I really love Cuban afro rock. Bands like Sintesis and Mezcla have been mixing progressive rock and fusion with santeria chants for many years. Pablo Menéndez connects both bands so it’s no surprise that several of the pieces on Pure Mezcla – Direct from Cuba Live at Yoshi’s Oakland have that unmistakable Mezcla and Sintesis sound. ‘Oyá-Echubelkeo’, ‘Akete Oba Oba’ and ‘Imbe Imbe Mayeyé’ are other high points in the album; a mesmerizing style that it’s not found elsewhere.
One of the most unexpected tracks on the album is a bachata version of ‘Round Midnight’. It’s Mezcla’s tribute to American jazz and their Dominican island neighbors.
The Mezcla lineup on this occasion features Pablo Menéndez on guitar and vocals; rhythm maestro Octavio Rodríguez on drums, percussion and vocals; famed musician Roberto Smith “El Capitán on drums, percussion and vocals; Julio Valdés on violin, keyboards and vocals; and José Hermida on bass.
Pure Mezcla – Direct from Cuba Live at Yoshi’s Oakland is a first-rate recording of Cuban hybridization, loaded with dazzling electric and acoustic interplay, irresistible rhythms and captivating melodies.
The initial digital release will be on latinpulsemusic.com on February 15 and will be available at other online retailers at a later time. There is no release date for the CD yet.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.