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New Album from Verny Varela y La Tropa - La Rumba No Se Acaba - Salsa Dura de Colombia

Sin Clave No Hay Na

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Sunday, 24 July 2011, 07:24 PM

PARA USTED: YOU TOO CAN SEE MARACA NOW!

Kennedy Center Concert To Be Webcast Live

Monday, 25 July 2011 at 6PM Eastern Time

  All of the people who talked to us about seeing Maraca live during this current tour said some version of "That was great, we wanted more!"  Well, folks, more has come to your doorsteps -- on Monday, July 25th at 6PM Eastern, Maraca will be performing on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and this performance will be webcast live on the Kennedy Center's website.  If you are able to attend the performance live, admission is free, and if you can't attend in person, the webcast is free.  Opportunities like this don't come along very often, so enjoy it while it's there. 
CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO THE KENNEDY CENTER WEBSITE

The Kennedy Center folks  aren't going to win the "Most Eloquent Description of What A Musician Is Presenting" contest for their promo blurbs, but the fact that they stage these concerts and do these webcasts at all more than compensates for that.  AND, best of all, if you couldn't be there for the live stream, they archive performances on their website.  (Remember though, there's nothing like an in-person experience when you can do it...)

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Saturday, 16 July 2011, 08:42 PM

SIERRA MAESTRA LAUNCHES U.S. TOUR IN CHICAGO

Also: Maraca Tour Continues, and More...

      Sierra Maestra launched its 2011 United States Tour in Chicago with a rousing outdoor concert at Chicago's Millennium Park on Thursday, July 14 followed by a great indoor dance party at the Mayne Stage on Friday, July 15.  The Millennium Park concert had an opening set by Chicago's own Funkadesi,  which does a mix of bhangra, funk, reggae and the kitchen sink quite well.  They made a tasty appetizer to Sierra Maestra's main course of la musica Cubana.  Much dancing erupted, even in the seated area.  It's always fun to time how long  the city's "Please don't dance in the seats, there is space for that back in the park" requests actually remain effective when a band like Funkadesi or Sierra Maestra hits the stage.  Kudos to the city for bringing them here.

Sierra Maestra in Chicago - Cuban Music
Sierra Maestra 's followup at the Mayne Stage was a high-energy Cuban dance party with Son, Guaracha and  other rhythms that ended with a Conga line (we're saving  that Conga line  for a future post). Now then, there's really no substitute for catching a band like this live, so Timba.com's own Michelle White has posted their tour schedule here , but for those of you who live on another planet or just can't get to a live concert for some other reason, there is some relief available:
click here to read the full story about Sierra Maestra in Chicago and more concert photos

1.  Chicago's radio station WFMT (98.7 FM) is broadcasting its recording of  the Millennium Park concert on Friday July 22 at 11pm Central time, and they stream on the web!
2.  You can always buy (you should really do that anyway) their recent CD, Sonando Ya, which was nominated for a Latin Grammy last year and which we reviewed here a few posts ago.  
3.  We have posted a few photos from the Chicago concerts.  We also sat down with some of them for a fascinating video interview last Friday, and we'll be posting that in the future after we add in an English translation. For now, Click here for photos of Sierra Maestra's Chicago concerts

Item Two:  Maraca Tour Continues

Maraca Live in Chicago - Cuban Music

     We caught Maraca 's performances in Milwaukee and Chicago and can't say enough good things about the current incarnation of his 13-piece band from Havana.  In fact, we're going to help you see what the crowds thought:  We have a gallery from Chicago and Milwaukee (and Colorado thanks to Celine's help) that includes, in addition to the usual shots of the musicians,  some pictures with a "band's eye" view of the crowds.  This group is throwing down some serious dance music (including some killer Timba), and the crowds are responding accordingly. click here to read the full story about Maraca and for more photos from Colorado, Wisconsin and Illinois

Item Three:  ¡Que Palo, Palo!

Palo featuring Ed Calle - Cuban Music in Chicago

When the music is good enough, we have a special place in our heart for musicians and bands that defy labels if they really do have the music to go along with the posture.  Palo! is based in Miami, and its highly-talented members include Ed Calle, whose sax work alone is worth a listen, along with a vibrant singer, Leslie Cartaya, mad musical scientist Steve Roitstein (the leader), and two killer percussionists originally  from Cuba,  Philbert Armenteros and Raymer Olalde. Click here to read the full story and for more photos from Palo's recent Chicago concert.

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Sunday, 03 July 2011, 06:19 PM

MARACA ON THE MOVE

Plus: New CDs by Cuban Recording Artists

Dateline Milwaukee Wisconsin, 3 July 2011
Maraca Raises The Bar In Milwaukee
Serves Potent Brew of Timba Nuclear  to Local Dancers

     We had already heard great things from our colleagues on the West Coast about Maraca's new tour and eagerly made the drive up to Milwaukee to catch the band's set at the Wherehouse on the night of July 2 (and the morning of July 3, this was a 2-set show that went into the morning hours).  It turns out that Milwaukee has a performing Rueda dance  group, Salsabrosa,  and a nicely evolving dance scene.  An opening performance by that group followed by Ital Caribe, an AfroCuban dance group with live percussion, an audience ready to burn off some calories and an energetic  dance club atmosphere all provided a setting that inspired Maraca's band to unleash a take-no-prisoners Timba show that was even more intense than we were expecting (and we already had high hopes going in).  No mush here, and this new dance band (which is an actual working band in Cuba and a largely different cast of musicians than performed on the jazz CD Reencuentros ) is putting out the Timba at an intensity level we very seldom get to experience live here.  Even older material like Castigala has been ratcheted up a few notches, and we'll put this band as it is right now up against just about anyone (13 musicos gives you a LOT of firepower, and Maraca unleashed the full fury of the band  on the club).
     Two thumbs up to Milwaukee's dancers as well; they managed to give the lie to the notion that U.S.  audiences can't handle the pace of real Timba.  Oye, Maraca, we know that you'll be  playing at a Festival in a park rather than a dance club when you come to Chicago, but still,  please bring us some of that stuff we heard last night when you come...    Chicago wants to prove it can dance to it as well as Milwaukee can.

Recent CDs by Cuban Recording Artists

     See our last blog entry for our review of Reenceuntros, the just-released Jazz CD by Maraca & His Latin Jazz All Stars.  (Read the full review here .)  It's a great recording with a different set of musicians than the current touring band.   Two other recordings worth checking out are Sonando Ya by Sierra Maestra, which was nominated for a Latin Grammy for Best Traditional Tropical Recording in 2010 (Read the full review here ) and El País de las Maravillas by the Harold López-Nussa Trio, an absolutely brilliant Jazz recording. (Read the full review here )  Maraca and Sierra Maestra are currently touring the United States including Chicago appearances by Maraca on July 10th at Welles Park and by Sierra Maestra on July 14th at Millennium Park and July 15 at the Mayne Stage.  

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Sunday, 03 July 2011, 04:05 PM

REENCUENTROS by Maraca & His Latin Jazz All Stars

CD - DVD Review

In the United States, we sometimes get too fixated upon labels and boundaries when discussing music, partilcularly when it comes to Jazz and Classical; some Americans like to entertain the notion that the two disciplines rarely mix well, and consequently, when strings (other than solo violin) are incorporated into Jazz recordings here, the results are sometimes met with suspicion by casual listeners and critics alike who fear, rationally or not, that the session is a cynical attempt to crack the "easy listening" market.
     Cuban musicians aren't confronted with that issue, at least not to the same degree.  Even in the middle of the last century, Cachao, a key figure in the development of the Mambo as well as the art of the descarga, had a dual career as a classical bassist, and most if not all of the younger generation of Cuban jazz artists has been classically trained as well.  No sane listener would accuse the best of them of a failure to swing as a consequence of their familiarity with classical idioms.
     This brings us to Maraca's latest Jazz recording, Reencuentros , which was recorded live at the Grand Theater of Havana  with a specially-assembled, international all-star cast of jazz musicians including: ...read the full review here

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