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SpanishEnglishLa Canción Cubana by Miriam Ramos

CD Review - La Canción Cubana by Miriam Ramos (Cinquillo/Colibri 2012)
Review by Bill Tilford, all rights reserved 

This remarkable trilogy spans a period of approximately eight decades of Cuban song from the traditional Trova of the 1920s to the Nueva Trova of the first decade of our current century.   In each of the three volumes, contralto Miriam Ramos collaborates with a different team of musicians to recreate a different period in the development of the Cuban songbook. 

In Volume I, de la tradicion, Ms. Ramos works with laud virtuoso Barbarito Torres and his group to bring the traditional Trova of the 1920s and 1930s back to life.   The material includes some important songs from key artists of that period such as Maria Teresa Vera, Eusebio Delfin, Miguel Matamoros and Rafael Gomez "Teofilo" among others.   A unique feature of this volume is that after each of the songs that they perform, there is also a fragment of the original historical recordings from those decades.   The roots of this music in the Habanera and the Bolero are clearly evident here, and there is often a majestic feel to these songs that stands in contrast to the faster styles of the Son that are more familiar to modern listeners outside of Cuba.   Even though this is a distinctly Cuban musical genre, it would probably also appeal very much to those who appreciate interpretive song forms such as (for example) the Fado of Portugal. 
Volume 2, entre 1948 y 1960, is a magical partnership with Ernán López-Nussa and a small combo that captures the ongoing two-way conversation that Cuban music was having with Jazz, and some of the composers featured in this volume include Julio Gutiérrez, César Portillo de la Luz and René Touzet.  This music is urbane, intimate, very sophisticated - listen to it with your eyes closed, and you are transported to a small, smoky Jazz cabaret or 5-star hotel bar after midnight. There really isn't anything quite like this in stores right now; some of the more intimate musical scenes in the movie Chico y Rita are the closest thing you might hear in other recent recordings, and even those don't really arrive here. Some of this music, while not Filin itself, was happening contemporaneously with that movement, and there is almost a form of saudade reflected in some of the chord progressions. In addition to the wonderful vocals by Ms. Ramos, Ernán's piano style here will be a revelation to listeners in places like North America where the popular mind still usually associates him with groups like Afrocuba and Habana Report.  The rest of the combo also contributes some strategic solos in this volume. Entre 1948 y 1960 will have special appeal for Jazz aficionados but may also be of great interest to those who appreciate great female vocalists generally.  
Volume 3, entre 1962 y 2002, takes us into the Nueva Trova period and features some of Miriam's own compositions as well as works by composers such as Silvio Rodriguez, Noel Nicola, Pablo Milanés and Carlos Varela among others.   This volume features her in a duo with pianist Rolando Luna, who deserves closer investigation of other recordings that include him.   This writer confesses that his intense love affair with Jazz and modern popular dance music has usually led him to neglect Nueva Trova with the exceptions of some songs that were truly outstanding examples of composition.  The presentation of the material and the quality of the songwriting in this volume are compelling enough to persuade him that he should re-examine the genre with a more open mind, and this recording may also bring even more new listeners to that part of the Cuban songbook. 

La Cancion Cubana was understandably awarded the Grand Prize in Cubadisco 2013 as well as the awards in the Compilation, Cancionística and Traditional Trova categories.  It was also nominated for a Latin GRAMMY in the Traditional Tropical category.   The category choice for the Latin GRAMMY awards must have been an interesting challenge. On the one hand, the total range of the canción as presented in the collection doesn't neatly fit into any of the boxes available in that awards process.   This writer is pleased that the collection was recognized somewhere, but the Traditional Tropical category, while not technically inaccurate (this music really  IS part of Cuba's musical traditions), is usually filled with dance music,  and Volume 2 is sophisticated enough that it could theoretically be sold separately as a Jazz album. 

I would love to be able to tell you where to buy this - in addition to being very beautiful, it may one day be considered a classic due to the scope,  excellence and distinctiveness of the material. Unfortunately, I think that limited quantities of this collection may have been released in the marketplace, and this may be difficult to find.  Nevertheless, it is worth the effort to search for it, and if any stores are regularly selling legitimate copies of this, they are welcome to bring that fact to my attention.   

The web page of the record company is

Tracks Vol I: 

1. Aquella Boca (interlude: fragment of La Trova es inmortal  de Pedro Ibañez by Voces del Caney)
2. Ojos Malignos (interlude - fragment by "Chicho" Ibañez)
3. Veinte Años (interlude - fragment by Maria Teresa Vera & Lorenzo Hierrezuelo)
4. Le Guinda (interlude - fragment by Eusebio Delfin)
5. Pensamiento (interlude - fragment by Conjunto Los Naranjas)
6.  Tormiento Fiero (interlude - fragment by Dominica Verges & Adriano Rodriguez, Cotan & El Albino)
7. Mercedes (interlude - fragment by duo Hermanos Marti)
8. Mata y Beby (interlude - fragment by Miguel Matamoros)
9. ¿A Tú Qué Has Hecho? - (interlude - fragment by Eusebio Delfin)
10. Ausencia (interlude - fragment by Maria Teresa Vera & Lorenzo Hierrezuelo)
11. El Fiel En Amorado (interlude - fragment by Guillermo Portabales)

Tracks Vol II:

1. De Ti Enamorado
2. Es Nuestra Canción
3. Qué Emoción
4. Demasiado Que Pedir
5. Llegabas
6. Milagro De Amor
7. Libre De Pecado
8. Añorado Encuentro
9. No, Ya No Te Puedo Amar
10. Quiéreme Y Verás
11. Sufre Más
12. ¿Por Qué Tendra Que Ser Así?

Tracks Vol III:

1. Enamorado Desatino
2. Rabo De Nube
3. Eres Nada
4. Sobre El Dato Falso
5. Tú, Mi Desengaño
6. Vals De Tu Ausencia
7. Si De Tanto Soñarte
8. Ayer Y Hoy Anamorado
9. Regalo No. 1
10. Una Palabra
11. Siempre Canté


Personnel in La Canción Cubana

Role - InstrumentName
Vocals, Director, Musical Production
(Vol I, II & III)
Miriam Ramos
Laúd, Musical Production (Vol I) Barbarito Torres
Tres & Arranger (Vol I) Francisco Rodríguez
Tres (Vol I) Alfredo Durand
Trumpet (Vol I) Carlos Frank Iraola
Bass (Vol I) Pedro Pablo Gutiérrez
Clave, Bongó & Campana (Vol I) Enrique Castellanos Cuesta
Piano, Music Production & Arranger
(Vol II)
Ernán López-Nussa
Bass (Vol II) Gastón Joya Perellada
Drums & Bongo (Vol II) Enrique Plá
Acoustic & Electric Guitar (Vol II) J. L. Valdés Chicoy
Güiro & Maracas (Vol II) Tomás Ramos
Piano, Musical Production & Arranger
(Vol III)
Rolando Luna
Bill Tilford - Sunday, 02 March 2014, 09:19 AM