Tag Archives: Cuban music

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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Dayramir González as a Formidable Orchestrator and Bandleader

Dayramir González – The Grand Concourse (Machat Records, 2018)

In recent years there’s been a wave of highly-talented Cuban pianists. Composer, arranger, producer and keyboardist Dayramir González Vicet is part of this group of skilled artists that has burst into the international music scene.

Dayramir González’s style incorporates jazz improvisation and Cuban musical forms. His compositions are modern, sometimes venturing into cutting edge fusion, featuring electric piano and synths, along with fabulous electric bass and electric guitar.

The Grand Concourse is full of pleasant surprises. He’ll follow a forward-looking Afro Cuban electric piece with an all-acoustic retro-style exquisite danzón. He also uses vibrant Afro Cuban chants and beautiful orchestrated classical strings on some of the pieces.

The album features an impressive cast of Cuban, Latin American and American musicians. Ther lineup includes: Dayramir González on Steinway grand piano, Fender Rhodes and synthesizers; Antoine Katz on electric bass; Alberto Miranda on electric bass; Carlos Mena on acoustic bass; Zwelakhe Duma-Bell Le Pere on acoustic bass; Zack Mullings on drums; Keisel Jiménez Leyva on drums; Jay Sawyer on drums ; Willy Rodriguez on drums; Raul Pineda on drums; David Rivera on drums; Paulo Stagnaro on congas, batá drums, surdo, cajón, güiro, pandero and miscellaneous percussion; Marcos López on congas and timbal; Mauricio Herrera on congas, batá drums; Pedrito Martínez on batá drums and lead vocals; Gregorio Vento on miscellaneous percussion and lead vocals; Yosvany Terry on alto saxophone and chékere; Harvis Cuni on trumpet; Oriente López on flute; Kalani Trinidad on flute; Rio Konishi on alto saxophone; Dean Tsur on alto and tenor saxophone; Edmar Colón on tenor saxophone; Ameya Kalamdani on electric and acoustic guitars; Tatiana Ferrer on backing vocals and viola; Jaclyn Sánchez on backing vocals; Nadia Washington on lead vocals and backing vocals; Ilmar López Gavilán on violin; Audrey Defreytas Hayes on violin; Jennifer Vincent on cello; Caris Visentin Liebman on oboe; and Amparo Edo Biol on French horn.

 

 

The Grand Concourse is a masterfully-crafted piano recording where contemporary American jazz and various seductive Cuban musical forms are combined with ease.

Buy The Grand Concourse

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An Era of Afro Latin Sounds from Guadeloupe and Martinique

Various Artists – Disques Debs International, An Island Story: Biguine, Afro Latin & Musique Antillaise 1960-1972, Volume 1 (Strut Records, 2018)

Strut Records, a world music label, known for reissues of music from many corners of the globe, explores the music of the French overseas territories in the Caribbean. Disques Debs International is a record label that has been producing music from of Guadeloupe and Martinique for over 50 years.

An Island Story: Biguine, Afro Latin & Musique Antillaise 1960-1972 focuses on artists from the 1960s and early 1970s. The music you’ll hear on this album has local roots from the Antillean islands as well as a strong Cuban and Latin jazz influence in terms of rhythms, instrumentation and arrangements. Vocals are in Creole French and Spanish.

Disques Debs International is a great collection of irresistible songs that demonstrates the rich musical cross-pollination that has been taking in the Caribbean for decades.

Buy Disques Debs International, An Island Story: Biguine, Afro Latin & Musique Antillaise 1960-1972, Volume 1

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Afro-Cuban All Stars to Perform at Barbican

The celebrated Afro-Cuban All Stars are set to perform Sunday, July 15, 2018 at Barbican Hall in London.

Juan de Marcos González leads the acclaimed Cunban emsemble. The band concert will feature veteran maestros of the Havana music scene as well as representatives of the next generations of Cuban music. The line-up includes Gliceria Abreu (percussion), Gliceria Gonzalez (keyboards, vibraphone, coros), Laura Lydia Gonzalez (clarinet, coros), Orlando Fraga, Yoanny Pino and Haile Uriarte (horns), Jose Marcos Crego (piano), Jiovanni Cofiño (bass), Asley Rossell (bongo, cowbell), Tany Allende (conga set), Caleb Michel (timbales, coros) and Emilio Suárez (vocals).

Reflecting the cross-generational nature of the band, Afro-Cuban All Stars will perform material both old and new for this concert. The group’s discography includes A Toda Cuba le Gusta (1997), Distinto, Diferente (1999), Baila mi Son (2000), Bajando Gervasio (2002), Live in Japan (2005), Step Forward (2005), Absolutely Live (2009) and Absolutely Live II (2017).

19:30 (7:30 p.m.)
Box office: 020 7638 8891
The Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, Greater London
www.barbican.org.uk

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The Varied Cutting Edge Musical Landscapes of Cachaito

Orlando ‘Cachaito’ López – Cachaito (World Circuit, 2018), reissue

Do you have a copy of World Circuit Record’s 2001 release of Cachaito in your music collection right now? No? Well, you need to get one immediately. Seriously, get it. I’ll wait. (Cue: elevator music.)

Okay, released in 2001 and recorded at the Egrem Studios in Havana, Cuba, Cachaito is the master work of Cuban bassist and composer Orlando ‘Cachaito’ López. Son of bassist and composer of Orestes López and nephew of bassist and mambo innovator Israel “Cachao’ López, Orlando ‘Cachaito’ López was the undisputed bassist backbone of The Buena Vista Social Club. So intrinsic to the very fabric of Cuban music, one would have to twist inside out in discussing the breadth and influence of Cuban music without mentioning Cachaito or the López family of musicians.

So, it goes without saying that the Cachaito recording is a must-have for the Cuban music devotee. It just so happens World Circuit has just made things a little more interesting with their upcoming June 22nd first ever vinyl release of Cachaito, complete with a 12-page color booklet and a post card. Leaving aside whether to choose digital, CD or vinyl debate up to personal tastes, revisiting the Cachaito release reveals that this release is one of the essentials. Whether you are a seasoned collector or a newbie who just Googled a geographical map of Cuba, Cachaito hasn’t lost a bit of its luster in the some seventeen years since it was released, nor has its importance dimmed as a cutting edge Cuban music experience.

Putting it all together is Buena Vista Social Club and Ry Cooder producer Nick Gold with recording by Jerry Boys. In addition, Cachaito is brimming over with Cuban percussion masters like conguero Miguel ‘Anga’ Diaz, timbales player Amadito Valdés and bongo player Carlos González, but listeners get goodies like Jamaica’s Bigga Morrison on Hammond organ, Cuban guitarist Manuel Galbán, the famed vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer, flutist ‘Polo’ Tamoyo, violinist Pedro ‘Depestre’ Gonzalez and trombonist Jesus ‘Aguaje’ Ramos. If that were enough, there’s also Hugh Masekela on flugelhorn, Pee Wee Ellis on tenor sax and French DJ Dee Nasty on electronics.

What makes Cachaito so wonderful is its willingness to utterly defy convention, to fly in the in the face of Cuban music and remake it. Plucking influences from dub, reggae, jazz, surf guitar music and hip hop, Mr. López tucks those varied traditions neatly into a sound that comes across as fresh, even years after the recording first release. Mr. López steps out onto the thinnest of branches and takes flight, where listeners are mere passengers to varied musical landscapes Mr. López wishes to reveal.

Opening with a phone call on “Siempre Con Swing,” Cachaito slides into the sleekly jazzy “Redencion.” Mr. López lulls listeners with the equally smooth ride of “Mis Dos Pequeñas” before dipping a wing to show off the hypnotic percussive and guitar rich landscape of “A Gozar El Tumbao.” Diving in another direction, “Cachaito In Laboratory” is hip hop coolness before veering off onto the highly polished jazzy “Tumbao No. 5 (Para Charlie Mingus).” Mr. López offers flirty flashes on the flute-laced “Conversación,” delves deep into meaty bass goodness of “Tumbanga” and shows off all the colors of plumage on “Wahira.”

When we finally land in the midst of the party on “La Negra,” it’s impossible to deny that Cachaito has provided an impossibly rich ride.

Buy the Cachaito CD or digital or the vinyl edition.

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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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