Tag Archives: Cuba

Artist Profiles: Julio Antonio Montoro Curbelo

Julio Antonio Montoro Curbelo

Producer, composer and guitarist Julio Antonio Montoro Curbelo Julio studied the Cuban tres as well as the guitar at the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory in Havana. He graduated in 1991.

While at school, he performed in jazz festivals playing with various bands. In 1993 he joined the group of singer Mireya Escalante on keyboard and guitar and also as musical director.

In 1996 he joined the group Kemell y la Barriada as pianist, recording several albums and participated in various international tours. He toured Europe with several Cuban ensembles, including Reve, Charanga Habanera, and later joined Felix Baloy of Afro-Cuban All Stars.

Since 2013 he has worked with Edesio Alejando and his son Cristian performing in Cuba and producing music television and film scores.

In 2014, Julio Antonio became the musical director and arranger of the band Tomezclao. They toured the UK, performed at Glastonbury festival and produced 3 CDs for Tumi Music.

He has worked as the guitarist with vocalist Laritza Bacallao, performing at the “Cuba Mucho Gusto” festival in Brasilia, Brazil. While in Brazil, he also worked with the famous Brazilian pianist Joao Donato at Club Do Choro.

In 2014 Julio Antonio released his debut album Alma Latina with Tumi Music. This was quickly followed by the CD Guajira Mas Guajira with Eliades Ochoa. In 2017 he set up his Alma Latina Studio, where he recorded albums for Candido Fabre, Reina y Real, Arturo Jorge among others.

In 2017, he participated as the guitarist and tres player in the CD “Tronco Viejo” with Johnny Ventura and also worked with Silvio Rodriguez.

In 2018 he recorded the “Black Roots” album.

He currently lives in Havana with his daughter “Sady” and his wife. His daughter, 4 years old at the time, contributed towards the Black Roots CD.

Discography:

Alma Latina (Tumi Music, 2014)
Guajira Mas Guajira (Tumi, 2015)
Black Roots (Tumi, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Dany Noel

Dany Noel

Dany Noel was born in Havana, Cuba. He began his performing career at only 8 years old singing and playing guitar. After taking up acoustic and electric bass, he began to play with the top son, salsa and timba groups from Cuba. Ultimately, he left his native country to settle in Torino, Italy.

Dany is a renowned bassist, musical director, arranger, composer, producer, singer and graduate of classical guitar at the Conservatorio Ignacio Cervantes de la Habana. He has collaborated and recorded with prestigious musicians such as Celia Cruz, Omara Portuondo, Chucho Valdés, Pio Leyva, Xiomara Laugart, Iovanny Hidalgo, Richie Flores, Jose Alberto El Canario, Richie Rey, Rey Sepulveda, Mayito Rivera, Roberto Van Van, Changuito, Alexander Abreu and Jerry Gonzalez among others.

He moved to Europe in 1997, first to Italy. Along with Cuban drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, he formed Italuba as bassist, musical director, arranger and composer.

Dany is currently living in Madrid and has worked with Spanish, Argentine and Greek artists Luz Casal, Victoria Abril, Lolita Flores, Ainhoa ​​Arteta, Mariza, Arvanitaki Elefteria, Fito Páez, Ojos de Brujo, José Luis Perales and film director Fernando Trueba in his movie Chico y Rita.

He has also entered the pop and flamenco scene, which has led him to record with artists such as Niño Josele; Concha Buika on her album Niña de Fuego, winner of a Grammy Award, produced by Javier Limón; and Limón’s project Son de Limón, as bassist, voices and arranger.

In his 2017 album, Por La Habana , Danny focuses on the roots of Cuban music, his ancestors and his own words: “It’s an album so that my parents and my people won’t stop dancing”.

Discography:

Mi Sentir (2006)
Dime Si Tú Sabes (2006)
Proposicion (2011)
Confidence, with Dario Chiazzolino (2014)
Tinta Unida (2014)
Por La Habana ‎(Abanico Records, 2017)

With Italuba:

Italuba (Timba Records, 2002)
Italuba II (Cacao Musica, 2006)

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Artist Profiles: Dayramir González

Dayramir González

 

Pianist, composer, arranger, producer and band leader Dayramir González Vicet was born on October 18, 1983 in Havana, Cuba.

He grew up in a family of musicians. His father, Fabian Gonzalez, is a successful Afro-Cuban jazz trumpet player. At the age of 7, Dayramir began his classical piano studies under the tutelage of Amado Touza and Miriam Valdés. This was followed by intermediate level studies under the guidance of the prestigious Cuban pianist and composer Huberal Herrera.

With a solid classical training, Dayramir started his professional career at 16 in the band of former Irakere vocalist and percussionist Oscar Valdés, who invited him to join Diakara as a founding member, pianist, and composer. They played at all the jazz clubs in Havana and participated in the Jazz Plaza International Festival in 2000 and 2001.

In 2002 he formed a jazz quintet made up of young people from the National Art School (ENA), with which they performed at the Jazz Festival that year, sharing the stage with saxophonist Janne Brunnet, Timbalaye and Ramón Valle, among others. In the following editions (2003 and 2004) he was presented as a guest with different formats.

In 2005 he joined Giraldo Piloto’s famed timba band, Klímax, with which he toured Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain), sharing the stage with Jerry Rivera.

 

Dayramir González

 

While working with Klímax, Dayramir formed his own band, Dayramir & Habana enTrance. Towards the end of 2005 he won the Concurso de Jóvenes Jazzistas (Young Jazz Players Competition), Jojazz.

He recorded his first album with enTrance on Cuba’s Colibrí label. This album would later win three Cubadisco awards in the categories of Best Debut Album, Best Jazz Album, and Best Engineered Recording.

Dayramir González has explored the roots of danzón and contradanza (genres that were fashionable in the mid-nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Cuba).

He received a scholarship from one of the most prestigious jazz schools, the Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 2013, Dayramir graduated Berklee Summa Cum Laude after receiving the Wayne Shorter Award for Most Outstanding Composer of the Year.

Discography:

Dayramir & Habana enTrance (Producciones Colibrí, 2007)
Solo tú y yo, with Giraldo Piloto & Klimax (EGREM, 2008)
Todo Está Bien, with Giraldo Piloto & Klimax (Bis Music, 2009)
Octave (Jazz Revelation Records, 2011)
The Grand Concourse (Machat Records, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: X Alfonso

X Alfonso

X Alfonso is a renowned Cuban fusion and Afro Rock musicians. He was born on September 13, 1972 in Havana, Cuba.

As most of the young musicians from Cuba, he studied at the Conservatorio Amadeo Roldán, at the Escuela Nacional de Artes de Cuba. The famous school that earned its golden reputation as a result of the many generations of musicians who have studied here, where the creativity and the high technical level places these young men among the best musicians of the world.

Other than his excellent education, X Alfonso also comes from a world renowned musical family. His parents, Carlos and Ele, are the leaders of the band Sintesis, pioneers of progressive rock in Cuba and innovators in the fusion of Afro-Cuban rhythms and rock. Sintesis released essential albums such as Ancestros, Ancestros 2, and Orishas. The band created a characteristic genre and today, in full maturity preserves its legion of enthusiasts in Cuba and abroad. X Alfonso participated in Síntesis’ during the last few years, imprinting a characteristic of novelty on the arrangements and interpretations of the group and assimilating the musical influence from Síntesis.

Because of his musical creativity, X Alfonso accumulated a work that served as the base to his own project, which had the participation of important young Cuban musicians, like the pianist Roberto Carcasses and drummer and composer Descemer Bueno. They performed at the Karl Marx Theater in Havana, to an audience of more then 5000 people, in a memorable show that stimulated the pop environment of Cuban music.

With Mundo Real, his first solo album, completely composed and arranged by himself, X Alfonso demonstrates that it is possible to combine a pop project with all the modern influences. The mix of sonorities and timbres with suitable doses of jazz, hip-hop with the undeniable underlying Cuban rhythms. X Alfonso went from the rumba-guaguáncó, to the violins of the cha cha chá. Or the sweet closing of the song “Bailando en la distancia”, where he illustrates dreams of Cuban dances from the turn of the century finalized in a beautiful ballad.

I think that diverse styles and trends converge in me, although Cuban trends rule. It has to do with the environment in which I was brought up, listening to all sorts of music styles, from different authors, artists and countries, from African rhythms to alternative rock or instrumental music. That is why I don’t have a style or, if you wish, a favorite genre.”

My creations have pop, rock, Afro-Cuban music, folk, and reggae influences, and I don’t think the album X Moré is an exception. Even when it has been distinguished for a strong hip hop component, idea I don’t completely share, since, he who listens to the entire album will realize that from the fifth track on it ceases to be rap as such.”

X Alfonso has worked with jazz bands, founded rock band Havana, and has also wrrote music for Danza Abierta and Transit.

Discography:

Mundo Real (2000)
X Moré (2001)
Civilización (2005)
Revoluxion (2007)
Reverse (2011)

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Artist Profiles: Yosvany Terry

Yosvany Terry

Yosvany Terry was born in Cuba. He received his earliest musical training from his father, Eladio “Don Pancho” Terry, violinist and Cuba’s leading player of the chekeré. His father was also known as the founder and director of the Orquesta Maravillas de Florida, one of Cuba’s most important charanga bands. Mr. Terry went on to receive his classical music training and graduated from both the prestigious National School of Art (ENA) and Amadeo Roldan Conservatory.

While in Cuba, Yosvany was known for his musical innovation performing with Chucho Valdés, Silvio Rogriguez, Fito Paez, and Cubanismo!, as well as forming the influential group, Columna B. Their work represented the new voice of young Cuban jazz players. Columna B toured throughout the US and Europe, and in 1998 premiered their Inroads Commissioned-piece by Arts International (through the Ford Foundation) at Stanford Jazz Festival. Moving to New York in 1999, Yosvany was immediately recognized as a remarkable talent in the Jazz scene, playing with Roy Hargrove, Steve Coleman, Eddie Palmieri, Dave Douglas, Jeff Tain Watts, Horacio El Negro Hernandez, and bassist Avishai Cohen.

Always a student, Terry absorbed and incorporated American jazz traditions with his own Afro-Cuban roots to produce compositions and solo work that flow from the rhythmic and hard driving avant-garde to sweet sounding lyricism.

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Artist Profiles: Yusa

Yusa

Born in the Buena Vista district of today’s Playa and growing up in the modern Alamar housing community of east Havana, Yusa’s childhood was spent between music and the sea, cherished by her economist mother and her sailor father whose eyes always have, ‘the gaze of the sea in them.’

Yusa started with guitar, went on to Cuban tres guitar, piano and bass. She was influenced by Spanish and North American pop and jazz as by ‘nueva trova’ and son.

What inspired her debut album were the vital creative years spent jamming in the hallways and classrooms of the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory exchanging musical ideas with contemporaries such as Roberto Carcasses, who was the arranger of many of the songs on Yusa. Then there was Yusa’s time improvising female quintet Quasi-Jazz at El Zorro y el Cuervo’, the basement night club on Havana’s central La Rampa street which has been at the cutting edge of Cuban jazz since the early 20th century.

A key phenomenon of 1990s Cuba was the emergence of contemporary duos revitalizing in totally unexpected ways the older fashion of singing two part harmony with guitar. In the same way as Gema and Pavel had before them, Yusa and Domingo became a sensation in the small corner bars and neighborhood clubs where for centuries new Cuban musics have always been dreamed up.

Discography:

Yusa (Tumi Music, 2002)
Breathe (Tumi Music, 2005)
Haiku (Tumi Music, 2008)

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Artist Profiles: Vocal Sampling

Vocal Sampling in 2005

Vocal Sampling is a band where all the instruments are sung instead of played. In addition to the lead vocals and the background choruses, all the instruments of the Cuban orchestra are vocally reproduced: percussion, horns, keyboards, bass, and all the other instruments. There is no technical manipulation and no other instruments are used.

The group is comprised of six Cuban men, all accomplished instrumentalists and arrangers, who met at music school. What began as an amusing after-school game has become their full-time career.

For those new to Latin music, Vocal Sampling is a highly entertaining introduction to the rhythms and styles of Cuban music: guaracha, boleros, rumba, son and swinging salsa. For those familiar with this genre, the group always brings amazement and a smile of delight. Similar to the doo-wop groups of the United States, Vocal Sampling was formed after school and between classes, standing on the sweeping lawns of Havana’s National Superior Institute of Arts. Poney Gross, of Belgium’s Zig Zag World, met the group in Cuba while they were still students, and encouraged them to continue this approach. He arranged several European tours for them.

Very soon they began to be noticed by artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Peter Gabriel and David Byrne. Gabriel brought them to his Real World Studios in Bath, England, where they recorded two songs and Byrne included one of their earliest recordings on his Luaka Bop compilation, Diablo Al Infierno.

In 1992 the group met producer team Sammy Figueroa and Rachel Faro, who arranged for them to be signed to Paroli/BMG Music of Cologne, Germany. Faro Figueroa Productions produced the group’s first album, which attracted the attention of Sire Record’s president Seymour Stein, who immediately began steps to acquire the master. The first album, Una Forma Más, released in 1995 on Sire/Elektra Records and Warner worldwide, was a musical journey through Cuban musical culture, demonstrating several styles of classic Cuban music.

In 1995 the group made an historic tour of the United States where they were an instant success in San Francisco, New York and Puerto Rico, attracting the attention of luminaries such as Paul Simon and Carlos Santana. Since then, they have continued to tour throughout Europe and Latin America, invariably garnering multiple encores and rapturous receptions.

In the summer of 1996 they were invited to appear at the 30th Montreux Jazz Festival as the special guests of Quincy Jones for his 50th anniversary. In 1997, they were invited for a 3 weeks tour in Japan. Vocal Sampling released their second album, De Vacaciones (East West), produced by Rachel Faro and the band. De Vacaciones is almost totally comprised of original compositions and arrangements in a modern salsa style and is sure to be recognized as one of the most amazing a cappella achievements in many years.

In late 1997 the band, created by René Baños, Abel Sanabria and Reinaldo Sanler, included Jorge Núñez, Renato Mora and Oscar Porro. This artistic restructuring was executed in order to increase the musical quality of the band and to widen their potential, for example in the field of classical singing.

In 1999, the band went to Japan, Venezuela, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Isle of Reunion, Canada, Mexico and all over Europe. In October they made a special concert for the first “World Music Award” at the World Music Expo (Womex) in Berlin.

In February 2000 they recorded a new CD called “Cambio De Tiempo” and created a new show under the direction of Katina Genero (Italy). In August 2000, Vocal Sampling had a sold out performance at the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms late night concert. In December 2000, the band signed with Decca records for the international release of “Cambio de Tiempo” in 2001.

Discography:

Una Forma Mas (1995)
De Vacaciones (1997)
Live in Berlin (1998)
Cambio de Tiempo (Decca, 2002)
Akapelleando (2008)

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Artist Profiles: Vocal Baobab

Havana-based folklore group Vocal Baobab, taking their name from the Baobab, sacred tree of Africa, are known for their own highly individual take on Afro-Cuban chants and rumba.

Specializing in choral style arrangements, spiced up with the odd dash of more contemporary flavors such as reggae, their high energy performances are characterized by explosions of virtuoso dance, drumming and vocal improvisation.

Singing in Spanish and Yoruban, the seven performers of Vocal Baobab present a varied repertoire that connects their African roots with contemporary arrangements and rhythms, bringing out the afro in Afro-Cuban. Their work aims to preserve the spirit of the Yoruba and Afro-Cuban oral traditions.

With regular appearances at some of Havana’s most prestigious venues and at festivals all over the island, they were featured on Cuban television as one of the top folklore acts.

As well as attracting the commendation of esteemed authorities on Cuban culture throughout their career (Ros, Natalia Bolivar, Zenaida Armenteros, Corina Campos and Miguel Barnet) they have received accolades and played alongside luminaries in Cuban music such as Changuito, Compay Segundo and Mario Rivera (Mayito) of Los Van Van.

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Artist Profiles: Vieja Trova Santiaguera

Vieja Trova Santiaguera

The original Vieja Trova Santiaguera quintet was the living embodiment of a musical tradition with roots in the nineteenth century. The five members of this group had been playing together as Vieja Trova Santiaguera only since 1994, but individually, they were an important part of the history of the bolero and son throughout the twenties, thirties, and forties.

Reinaldo Creagh, on lead vocals and claves, was a member of La Estudiantina Invasora, originally founded in 1927.

Pancho Cobas, guitar, vocals, and chorus, played virtually all his life and was a founding member of, among other groups, the Cuarteto Patria.

Aristóteles Limonta, the bassist, worked with La Orquesta de Chepín, with La Moderna Orchestra, with La Estudiantina Invasora, and the Cuarteto Patria, among others.

Amado Machado, vocals, maracas, and vocal improvisations, was also a member of both La Estudiantina Invasora and the Cuarteto Patria.

Reinaldo Hierrezuelo, tres, flute, vocals, and chorus, comes from a musical family, was one of the founders of the Cuarteto Patria, and played with Los Compadres – and virtually every other great musician in Cuba.

Vieja Trova Santiaguera was formed as a result of jam sessions at the Casa de la Trova in Santiago de Cuba, attended by an ever-changing and always exciting relay of musicians. They were first recorded as a group for a film documentary about Caribbean music, and shortly thereafter were invited to tour Spain, which resulted in this recording for Manuel Domínguez’s acclaimed Nubenegra label. All five had been retired from both regular musical performance and from their ‘day jobs’ (only Hierrezuelo was able to make a living playing music full time), and were living on their pensions. But the inspiration of playing together, of introducing whole new audiences to boleros, sones, guarachas, and cha cha chas as traditionally performed, undiluted by American influence, was enough to convince all five that retirement was boring. It’s clear that all of them were having the time of their lives, as one reporter wrote, “like five little boys with brand new shoes.”

While young musicians, both in Cuba and elsewhere, are again making music from the trova tradition a part of their repertoire, Pancho Cobas noted in an interview with El Diario in Spain that the “traditional trova is totally different from contemporary trova. To play traditional music, you have to be born to it, to have the right flavor; not everyone can play traditional music, because it’s not something that can be learned. There are young trovadores who have studied the music, but they haven’t reached into the essence of vieja trova. You have to be born, like the son montuno, in the country. The best musicians come, like the trova itself, from Santiago de Cuba.”

Even though the songs we sing were created fifty years ago,” said Hierrezuelo in an interview in Spain, “they are certainly not old songs; good music never gets old, it’s those who sing it who grow older.” They approached the rhythms of their native Cuba “simply, feeling it with our hearts,” and believed that traditional music is still alive and well in Cuba, despite having heard otherwise. They themselves rejected what Hierrezuelo referred to as “electronic abuse and the excessive innovations by young musicians.” Hierrezuelo was very clear on what makes great music. “Music is still the art of perfectly combining melody and rhythm. Being good or bad has nothing to do with the color of the crystal you’re using to look at it, but rather with the color of the crystal with which it is made.”

In an interview in Madrid’s El Pais, Hierrezuelo explained that the music selected for their recordings came very much from their roots. The songs are those all had performed at one time or another, and most of them knew many of the composers, such greats as Miguel Matamoros, Sindo Garay, Pepe Sánchez, among others. He responded to a question about the mixture of cultures and races in Cuba by saying, “Nature gave us the opportunity to be a hybrid which turned out to be better than the original. We are the product of both Africa and Spain, and Cuban music is born from this blend, and from the rhythms of both cultures. Nature made us your children (and I say this without vanity) made us prodigies; we’re delighted that we were good students and surpassed our teachers. The son is more than the essence of Cuban music, it is the music’s mother and father. The son was born in Santiago de Cuba’s rural surroundings, because it is a rural music, like montuno, which is from the mountains. The other genres arose from this, the bolero, the guaracha. To me the son is a wild, original musicthat’s why I love it so.”

Amado Machado, the oldest member of the group, died in October of 1998. He was the maracas player and the main singer of the group’s montunos.

The group retired in 2002, after an acclaimed tour of Spain. Its last concert took place in Madrid at La Riviera. Virgin Records Spain released a DVD in 2002 featuring music, discography, music videos and a documentary of the legendary band.

Discography:

Vieja Trova Santiaguera (NubeNegra, 1994)
Gusto y Sabor (NubeNegra, 1995)
Hotel Asturias (NubeNegra, 1996)
La Manigua (Virgin, 1998)
Boleros de toda una vida (Warner Music Spain, 1999)
Domino (Virgin, 2000)
El Balcón del Adiós (Virgin, 2002)

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Artist Profiles: Valle Son

Valle Son

Valle Son is a 7 piece group from the rural village of Viñales in the lush tobacco-growing highlands of Pinar del Rio, the westernmost province of Cuba, where most of them have been playing together for more than a decade.

In July 2000, Valle Son traveled to the Yukon (Canada) for a month-long tour. There they recorded their CD Son de Cuba at Old Crow Studio in Whitehorse, released on their imprint, Caribou Records- home to the Undertakin’ Daddies, Kim Barlow, and Anne Louise Genest.

Son de Cuba is rooted in the traditional son style, yet embodies a contemporary, hybrid sound. Driven by the clave rhythm, the music integrates elements of jazz and mambo to create a propulsive, vibrant groove.

Valle Son would have returned to Canada sooner, but a 2002 North American tour crumbled, with visa delays in the wake of 9/11.

In 2003, Valle Son returned to Canada for an extensive summer tour.

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