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SpanishEnglishCésar López & Habana Ensemble Live (Bis Music) - Released 2013

CD/DVD Review: César López & Habana Ensemble Live (Bis Music 2014)
Review by Bill Tilford, all rights reserved

César López & Habana Ensemble have been part of the vanguard of the progressive Jazz movement in Cuba for over 15 years.  César started young; he won the 1st Prize in the Cuban National Sax Contest when he was 13 years old, was introduced to Latin Jazz by Bobby Carcassés, and from 1988 to 1997, he performed with Irakere.  In 1997, he formed Habana Ensemble.  The group has released several recordings, and this newest one, Live, is distinctive for a few reasons:
1.  There is no piano here.  Instead, guitarist Emilio Martiní serves as both a very impressive soloist and accompanist.   
2.  It received a Cubadisco in 2014 in the Live Recording category, and the video production is as superb as the audio.   It was also nominated for a Cubadisco in the Cuban Jazz category. 
3.  You can hear a kaleidoscopic range of influences in this performance including (but by no means limited to) Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Chick Corea (Chick a lo cubano is César's extended tribute to him), Duke Ellington, possibly a bit of Al Dimeola, and a touch of Irakere, but the final result goes far beyond simple quotations of any of these, and the compositions are all by members of the band except for Latin Coltrane (Lazy Bird), which is by Charlie Parker
4.  The bassist, José Hermida, contributes some of the most advanced passages that you are going to hear in this music. 

This is a live recording of a March 2012 concert at the Sala del Teatro de Museo Bellas Artes in Havana, and it is an excellent example of what fully-mature Cuban Jazz can accomplish when both parts of that phrase are flourishing equally.    This group deserves far more international attention than it currently receives. 

César is also one of the Jazz artists in Cuba who has a dedicated website (in Spanish, English and Japanese), so I'm going to do something a little different.   Rather than write at great length about this CD/DVD combination, I am going to refer you to the website where you can get a taste of the styles at work in this group.  It does not include clips of Live, but after watching a few of the videos that ARE there, you'll understand why you'll want to pursue this recording. 
The website is

CD Tracks:

1. Prefació - Chick a lo cubano
2. Desamor
3. Latin Coltrane
4. Keily San
5. Chapa Negra
6. Me faltabas Tú
7. Bloqueo-Contrabando

DVD Tracks: 

1. Prefació - Chick a lo cubano
2. Desamor
3. Latin Coltrane
4. Kelly San
5. Chapa Negra
6. Me faltabas Tú
7. Bloqueo
8. Contrabando

Roster for César López & Habana Ensemble Live

Role - InstrumentName
Alto & Soprano Saxophone, Flute, Music Direction César López
Electric Guitar, Music Direction Emilio Martiní
Electric Bass José Hermida
Percussion  Otto Santana
Drums Ruly Herrera
Producer César López
Recording & Mastering Engineer Eduardo Pérez
Mix Engineer Eduardo Pérez, Emilio Martiní
Audiovisual  Rolando Almirante
Design Reynerio Tamayo, Lizbett Villegas y Heidy Curbeio
Recording Assistant and Sound Engineer for Concert Ricardo Molina
Coordinator Alberto Salazar
Video Production Julio del Corral
Photography Direction Oscar Ernesto Ortega
Editing Kenia Velázquez, Carlos Rafael Betancourt
Cameras Oscar Ernesto Ortega, Héctor David Rosales, Juan Carlos Millán, Toussaint Ávila




Bill Tilford - Friday, 01 August 2014, 07:15 PM