Tag Archives: Cuban music

Artist Profiles: Roberto Fonseca

Roberto Fonseca

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Roberto Fonseca was born on March 29, 1975 in Havana, Cuba. He made his debut at the Havana International Jazz Festival in 1990 when he was 15.

Fonseca also played with Buena Vista Social Club, joining great the cast of stars such as Ibrahim Ferrer, Orlando ‘Cachaíto’ López, Rubén González, Guajiro Mirabal and Manuel Galbán and also recorded and toured with another of its stars, Omara Portuondo.

Throughout his career, Roberto Fonseca has collaborated with Mayra Andrade, Regina Carter, Anat Cohen, Carlinhos Brown, Vicente Amigo, Kepa Junkera, Snarky Puppy, Michael Brecker, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Nils Petter Molvær; performing in Palais des Congrès (París), Royal Albert Hall (London), Beacon Theatre (New York), Sydney Opera House (Australia), Frankfurt Alter Oper (Frankfurt), Jazz in Marciac, Festival de Jazz de Montreaux, the New York City Center Hall, Festival Jazz de Tokyo. He was also co-producer along with British Dj Gilles Peterson of Havana Cultura New Cuban Sound Vol I and II.

Discography:

Tiene Que Ver ‎(Egrem, 1999)
No Limit ‎(JVC, 2001)
Temperamento (Yemayá, 2007)
Zamazu (Enja Records, 2007)
Akokan (Enja Records, 2009)
Live In Marciac ‎(Enja Records, 2010)
Yo (Concord Jazz/Jazz Village, 2012)
At Home – Live In Marciac (Jazz Village, 2015)
ABUC (Impulse!, 2016)

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Magela Herrera, Rising Latin Jazz Flutist

Magela Herrera – Explicaciones

Magela Herrera – Explicaciones (Brontosaurus, 2019)

Explicaciones (Explanations) is the new solo album from Cuban composer and skilled flute player Magela Herrera. Currently based in Miami, Magela Herrera performs music rooted in American jazz and Cuban rhythms and melodies. She has a charming, highly expressive style as a flutist.

The musicians on Explicaciones are some of Miami’s finest jazz players: Tal Cohen on piano; Nestor del Prado on bass; Dion Keith Kerr on bass; Hilario Bell on drums; David Chiverton on drums; Greg Diamond on guitar; Jean Caze on trumpet; and Philbert Armenteros on batá drums.

Although most of the tracks are instrumentals highlighting the flute, Magela also sings on a couple of tracks. She includes the Spanish language romantic classic “Bésame Mucho” (“Kiss me a lot”), written in 1940 by Mexican songwriter Consuelo Velázquez and popularized by Los Panchos.

Explicaciones is a delightfully-crafted album showcasing the talent of a young composer and superb instrumentalist.

Buy the CD from CD Baby or the digital download from Amazon.

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Ruben Blades Charms with Alter Ego Medoro Madera

Rubén Blades – Medoro Madera (Ruben Blades  Productions, 2018)

Medoro Madera is Ruben Bades’ fascinating tribute to the great Cuban soneros. He does this by creating an alter ego, a character that sings with a different, unrecognizable voice.  Rubén changes his voice surprisingly, using a different timbre than we are used to and it’s all done without electronics.

The gentleman on the front cover, Medoro Madera is a new persona as well. It’s a superimposed picture of Rubén Blades’ 93-year old father and Rubén himself.

Medoro Madera features the superb Panamanian Roberto Delgado & Orchestra, although in a scaled down version to resemble a traditional son cubano ensemble. Additional Cuban flavor is added by Panama-based Cuban tres guitar virtuoso Mayito Travieso and conguero Juan Zelada.

The lineup on the album includes Medoro Madera (Rubén Blades) on lead vocals, chorus; musical director Roberto Delgado on double bass, guitar and choruses; Bolívar “Bomy” Román on tres; Juan Berna on piano; Marcos Barraza on congas; Carlos Pérez-Bidó on timbales; Raúl “Toto” Rivera on bongo, bell, güiros and maracas; Juan Carlos “Wichy” López on trumpet; Alejandro “Chichisín” Castillo on trumpets; George de León on chorus; Mayito Travieso on tres; and Juan Zelada on congas.

Medoro Madera is an irresistible and savory neo-traditional Cuban album by the multi-faceted and extremely talented singer-songwriter and actor Rubén Blades. “The most danceable album I’ve ever done.”

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Universal Appeal of Cuban Vocal Music

Vocal Universo – Música Universal (Ansonica Records, 2018)

Vocal Universo is an acclaimed a cappella ensemble featuring four gifted women: Martha Jacqueline Ramírez Torres, Anna Lee Carrete Ramírez, Anne Gómez Medero, and Carmen Rosa González Álvarez.

On Música Universal, the quartet uses wonderfully-crafted lush jazz harmonies to recreate various forms of Cuban music, ranging from Cuban son and conga to boleros, pop and lullabies.

Vocal Universo also venture into Brazilian music with a classic by Tom Jobim and scat singing on Neil Hefti’s Flight of the Foo Bird.

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Alma Latina’s Tribute to African Diaspora


Julio Montoro y Alma Latina  – Black Roots

Julio Montoro y Alma Latina  – Black Roots (Tumi Music, 2018)

Cuban guitarist and composer Julio Montoro and his band Alma Latina dedicate Black Roots to the African-rooted music of South America , the Caribbean and North America.

Black Roots features one of the rising stars in Cuban music, vocalist Dayana Botello as well as guest appearances by Congolese guitarist Papa Noel and vocalist Nolita Golding.

The album is a multifaceted set that includes an effervescent mix of reggae, Afro-Cuban, funk, hip-hop, Cuban son and salsa. Unfortunately, a very melodic smooth jazz saxophone appears throughout the album. It may make the music more accessible to wider audiences, but it also makes it less appealing if you are seeking fiery Cuban music.

The lineup includes Dayana Botello on lead vocals and chorus; Julio Montoro on guitars, chorus and keyboards; Roger Reina on bass;  Yosvany Betancourt on drums, congas and  timbales; Ivan Reyes on percussion; Juan Lázaro Pompa Zamora on piano; Abel Hernández on alto and soprano saxophone; Juan Kemell on trumpet and chorus; Raul Hernandez on congas; Amaury Balzan on double bass; Leonardo Milian on piano; Javier Chacon on piano and keyboards;  Osmel Cuellar on tenor saxophone; Osmel Cruz on tres; Nolita Golding on vocals;  Papa Noel on guitar in Sambembere; Jose Luis Hernandez (El chewi) on tenor saxophone; and Esteli Roz and Maydenis Palomino on chorus.

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Jazz Bata 2, the Extension of an Inspired Journey

Chucho Valdés – Jazz Bata 2 (Mack Avenue Records, 2018)

Cuban pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger Chucho Valdés’s Jazz Bata 2 is a recording where everything is right and wonderful in the musicscape of Latin jazz.

Encompassing the eclectic, the electric and the elegant, Jazz Bata 2 is where the lyrical of Mr. Valdés’s extraordinary piano meets the meaty richness of batá drum and percussion. On this, his first release on the Mack Avenue Records label, released on November 16th, Mr. Valdés opens the floodgates to a glorious ebb and flow of jazz punctuated by delightful Cuban and African influences.

To trace the creative thread of Jazz Bata 2, one must go all the way back to 1972 and Mr. Valdés’s Cuban album Jazz Bata with bassist Carlos del Puerto and batá player Oscar Valdés, both who would become members of the group Irakere. Now, Mr. Valdés has teamed up with Cuban musicians Yaroldy Abreu Robles on percussion, Dreiser Durruthy Bombale on batás and vocals and Yelsy Heredia on double bass. Mr. Valdés notes that this continuation of his creative journey of Jazz Bata now comes, “with more resources, in every sense” and “with a wider panorama.” The results are extraordinary.

Opening with “Obatála,” Jazz Bata 2 unfolds as a mesmerizing puzzle of shards of Mr. Valdés’s prodigious talents on the piano, rounded curves of double bass, textures of vocals and architectural constructs of percussion and batá. “Obatála” easily incorporates the free sleekness of jazz, the sweet soulfulness of Cuba and the rich recesses of the Yoruba traditions with the batá drums.

“Son XXI” is no less extraordinary with delicious bass, piano and sultry Cuban rhythms. It should also be noted that the recording itself is fabulous and a listen to the lushness of “Luces” and “Ochun” is evidence of the expertise put into the recording. The sassy “Chucho’s Mood” is certainly a standout with bass and batá solos.

Jazz Bata 2 is also a bit of a tribute recording to Mr. Valdés’s father and teacher Ramón “Bebo” Valdés. In celebration of the centenary of Bebo Valdés’s birth, and interestingly enough Mr. Valdés’s 77th birthday as father and son share the same birthday, Jazz Bata 2 contains the track “100 Años de Bebo.” A charmer with Cuba writ all over it, it also features guest violinist Regina Carter who adds sweetness to the tribute.

“El Guije” opens with some catchy rhythms and vocals before giving way to some hypnotic rhythms and piano lines and finally lapsing into some wonderful drumming and call-and-response vocals.

Jazz Bata 2 closes with “The Clown.” As lushly worked as the rest, this track is the piano playground by Mr. Valdés and is where piano lines curve, bend and turn themselves inside out in the most wonderful of ways.

If Jazz Bata 2 is the continuation of a creative journey the ride is more than fine.

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Artist Profiles: Arturo O’Farrill

Arturo O’Farrill

Arturo O’Farrill, born June 22, 1960 in Mexico City, is the son of renowned Cuban composer Chico O’Farrill (whose works have been recorded by Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Dizzy Gillespie, the Machito Orchestra, and Mario Bauza).

Arturo pursued studies at the Manhattan School of Music and the Brooklyn College Conservatory, and played in the award-winning jazz band at New York’s High School of Music and Art with future luminaries Marcus Miller and Omar Hakim. He then went on to develop as a solo performer and an ensemble member on recordings and performances with a spectrum of artists: Wynton Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie, Steve Turre, Noel Pointer, Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band. In 1987 he became musical director for Harry Belafonte. He currently directs the Chico O’Farrill’s Afro-Cuban Jazz Big Band.

Arturo O’Farrill leads the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. the ensemble exemplifies the best that Latin jazz culture offers: rich tradition through music and timeless appeal around the world. Latin jazz is a general term given to music that combines rhythms from African and Latin American countries with jazz harmonies from the United States. Afro-Cuban Latin jazz includes salsa, merengue, songo, son, mambo, bolero, charanga and cha cha cha. Originated in the 1940s, Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Kenton began to combine the rhythm section and structure of Afro-Cuban music. Latin jazz employs straight rhythm, not swung rhythm and the conga, timbale, guiro and claves are used in this unique music.

O’Farrill also directs the band that preserves much of his father’s music, the Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra. He has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Fort Apache Band, Carla Bley, Lester Bowie, Harry Belafonte, Freddy Cole and Wynton Marsalis. The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra became a resident orchestra at Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2002 and has toured internationally, bringing the rhythms and heat of Latin jazz to places as far away as China. Performing the very best of traditional compositions in the canon of the Afro-Latin genre, the large ensemble commissions new work and leads education events when on the road and at Frederick P. Rose Hall. Ultimately, it seeks to provide an opportunity for a new generation of composers, arrangers and instrumentalists to further explore and define the music.

Discography:

Blood Lines (Milestone, 1999)
A Night in Tunisia (32 Jazz, 2000)
Cumana (Pony Canyon, 2004)
Live in Brooklyn (Zoho, 2005)
Una Noche Inolvidable (Palmetto, 2005)
Song for Chico (Zoho, 2008)
Risa Negra (Zoho, 2009)
40 Acres and a Burro (Zoho, 2011)
The Noguchi Sessions (Zoho, 2012)
Final Night at Birdland (Zoho, 2013)
The Offense of the Drum (Motéma, 2014)
Cuba: The Conversation Continues (Motéma, 2015)

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Two Giants of Cuban Guitar

Eliades Ochoa and Alejandro Almenares – Dos Gigantes de Música Cubana (Tumi Music, 2018)

The Tumi Music label continues to release some of the finest artists from Cuba. This time it’s the pairing of two of the greatest guitar players in the Cuban traditional music scene: Eliades Ochoa and Alejandro Almenares. Eliades Ochoa Bustamante became worldwide famous as one of the stars of the Buena Vista Social Club. Alejandro Enis Almenares is lesser known outside of Cuba, although he’s an outstanding guitar player from Santiago de Cuba.

The two artists play instrumental versions of Cuban son (son cubano) and boleros composed by Alejandro Almenares and his father Angel Sanchez Almenares, who was a great “trovador.” It’s a set of exquisite guitar duos and solos with some accompaniment.

The musicians on Dos Gigantes de Música Cubana include Eliades Ochoa on guitar; Alejandro Almenares on requinto (soloist) and tres; Gabino Jardines on guitar; Enrique Diaz on acoustic bass; Alfondo Borges on percussion; Ren Dominguez on soprano saxophone; and Pedro Alarcón on violin.

Dos Gigantes de Música Cubana is a flavorful and masterfully performed guitar album deeply rooted in rural Cuban music tradition.

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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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