|CD||Orlando Valle "Maraca"||
¡Suspendan Los Comentarios! - (Independent) Released 2013
Maraca apparently read the memo from that portion of his fans that wanted a front-to-back dance album. Here it is, and it is his best dance music recording to date, although it is musically intelligent enough to keep his Jazz fans engaged as well.
|CD||Orlando Valle "Maraca"||
Todo o Nada - (Independent) Released 2013
Maraca got the need to do dance material out of his system with another recording released at roughly the same time, "¡Suspendan Los Comentarios!". "Todo o Nada" is as seriously focused on Jazz (including some straight ahead as well as Latin) as the other recording is on dance music.
La Canción Cubana - (Cinquillo/Colibri) Released 2012
This remarkable trilogy, a multiple award winner (including the Grand Prize) in Cubadisco 2013 and a Latin GRAMMY nominee the same year, spans eight decades of the Cuban songbook and illuminates the material in beautiful ways.
Venir al Mundo - (Cinquillo/Colibri) Released 2008
There is so much excellent Jazz coming out of Cuba now that it would be foolhardy to attempt to rank the best albums. That being said, this one belongs somewhere in the top ten for the past decade. This writer considers it a must-have due to the innovative compositions as well as the performance quality.
Lo Mas Reciente de Eliades Ochoa - (EGREM) Released 2012
This trilogy is a great way to get a Latin GRAMMY winner and a Cubadisco (Cuba's most prestigious music awards) nominee in one package with a bonus of an additional collection of nice instrumentals.
Claroscuro - (Cinquillo/Colibri) Released 2012
This 2013 Cubadisco winner in the Ópera Prima category (similar to Best New Artist in other countries) combines a variety of influences from Cuban music, Jazz and Funk. It's a Cuban Jazz album, but there are some Funk moments that will knock your socks off too.
|CD||Juan Carlos Marín||
El Trombón de Santa Amalia - (Cinquillo/Colibri) Released 2012
This 2013 nominee for a Cubadisco award in the Jazz Cubano category showcases Juan Carlos Marín, who may now be Cuba's best Jazz trombonist, along with an excellent ensemble performing some modern Jazz and Jazz Fusion material. It is also yet another entry in Colibri's "The Young Jazz Spirit" series, which so far has consistently proven to be excellent.
Senses - (Ota Records) Released 2014.01.14
Omar Sosa's sixth solo piano CD is one of his most meditative, uses a concert grand piano and may also be of interest to Classical music listeners who are unfamiliar with his work.
|CD||David Calzado & Charanga Habanera||
Se Sufre Pero Se Goza - (EGREM) Released 2013.11.09
Charanga Habanera returns with a rousing Timba album that should appeal to its original fan base.
Voces D'Aida - (EGREM) Released 2009
This 4-CD anthology of the legendary quartet plus subsequent solo recordings by its members won Cubadisco awards in Música de Archivo and Liner Notes, has wonderful music, excellent new digital audio and, best of all, it includes a well-done booklet in both Spanish and English along with the CDs.
|CD||Liuba María Hevia||
Colección 30 años (Bis Music) Released 2013
This is an intriguing 8-CD box set covering 30 years of recordings by one of Cuba's best representatives of the Nueva Trova movement, Liuba María Hevia. It won a Special Prize in Cubadisco 2014.
45 D' LUJO (EGREM) Released 2009
This special collection of 10 CDs (192 songs) was issued in 2009 in honor of EGREM's 45th Anniversary and includes selections from the years 1961-2009.
|CD||Soneros All Stars||
Lolo - (Soneros Records) Released 2014.03.26
Yanesito has hit this one out of the ballpark!
Añejo carta de oro - 100 joyas de la música cubana (Bis Music) released 2013
This excellent 6-CD, 100-song set focuses on traditional music from as far back as María Teresa Vera to modern artists such as Mayito Rivero covering classic songs. It includes a few groups that you may have read about but never actually heard.
5 Leyendas de Cuba (EGREM) Released 2008
This 5-CD set covers the careers of Eliades Ochoa, Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo and Rubén González in a broader context than their work associated with the Buena Vista Social Club using EGREM's recordings of them.
15 años locos por la música (Bis Music) Released 2008
This 4-CD-set is hands down one of the best collections of various artists to emerge from Cuba in the last two decades. It is loaded with Cubadisco winners and even includes genres like classical that seldom show up in packages of this tupe.
|CD||Los Van Van||
La Formell Manía (Bis Music) Released 2013
The 3 CD-set is one of the very best of the numerous Los Van Van compilations. Excellent song choices, ditto continuity, ditto production values.
|CD||Pedro Luis Ferrer||
Final (Escondida Music) Released 2014.03.25
Final almost certainly is not Pedro Luis Ferrer's final album, but it is a great album to put on during a quiet weekend morning with a loved one.
Derramando Luz (GC Music LLC) Released 2013.01.11
This beautiful and unique album is a rarity: a modern Filin recording released in the United States. It features stellar vocalist Gema Corredera with many of New York's Cuban Jazz elite. It was nominated for a Cubadisco award (Contemporary Song) in 2013.
Dreaming (Colibrí) Released 2012
This swinging album by William Roblejo is relatively unique for Cuba - a Jazz violin soloist carrying the entire recording with a variety of stylistic influences. Deservedly nominated in three categories in Cubadisco 2013.
Viva Qva Libre (Bis Music) Released 2011
Qva Libre is one of Cuba's best alternative bands and will especially appeal to fans of groups like Interactivo. Viva Cuba Libre is their second album, which won Cubadisco (fusion) and Cuerda Viva awards in 2011.
Palo! Live (Rolling Pin Music) Released 2014
This is a recording of a phenomenal concert by Palo! at the now-shuttered PAX Miami. Some video clips of this performance also appear in the PBS documentary Miami Boheme. Powerful vocals by Leslie Cartaya, serious Afro Cuban Funk beats, and Ed Calle goes insane on tenor sax.
Renacer (Independent Release) Released 2014
This debut CD by Cuban-born singer-songwriter-keyboardist Alex Bia includes an explosive opening track with special guest Tirso Duarte. It isn't a Timba album (except for the first track), but the other styles that it contains (Salsa, Latin Pop/R & B) are solid.
Rafael Rosa - Portrait
Rafael Rosa is a Puerto Rico-born, New York residing guitarist who has been making a name for himself since arriving in NYC in 2011. His debut album “Portrait” consists entirely of original material and was produced by Rosa along with legendary bassist John Benítez. His line-up of musicians includes a nucleus of Rosa, Edmar Colón, Dan Martínez, Joel Mateo and Carlos Homs with special guests John Benítez, Kenny Werner, Jean-Michel Pilc, Michael Rodríguez, Melanie Lozano, Carlos Maldonado and Milton Barreto.
|CD||Pupy & Los Que Son Son||
Sin Líimite - (EGREM) Released 2013
Sin Límite, his latest release on EGREM, is one of Pupy's most innovative albums, full of stylistic twists and turns that you wouldn't normally expect in a recording that still contains some great timba.
Cu-Bop - (EGREM) Released 2012
This extraordinary album is what the title says it is, and possibly the best recording of it ever made anywhere. Recorded in the EGREM studios and originally manufactured and distributed by a Japanese label, now available in Cuba as an EGREM CD. Nominated for a Cubadisco in 2013 (Vocal-Instrumental Music), it deserves to win something, somewhere.
Empezar de cero - (EGREM) -Released 2011
This is the well-done debut Timba recording by a former member of Gente de Zona and includes some heavyweights like Alexander Abreu and Amaury Pérez in the brass section.
|CD||Adalberto Alvarez y Su Son||
Respeto pa los mayores - (Bis Music) Released 2013
The style may be retro, and the lyrics may invoke tradition, but there's nothing old about the energy level. This is Adalberto's hardest-hitting album in decades. Take the energy from Son 14, augment the brass section, crank things up a couple of notches, and you're headed in the right direction.
|CD||Manolito Simonet y su Trabuco||
Sin Freno - (Bis Music) Released 2013
Those of you who have been mourning the fact that the 80s and 90s are over can stop now. Sin Freno is a knock-you-flat-on-your-arse Timba recording (with one stray concession to the bachateros) that easily holds its own with anything we old-timers remember from our own versions of the "Golden Age".
|CD||Paulo FG y su Élite||
Abre que voy - (EGREM) - Released 2013
Paulo FG returns with a mix of genres including Timba, Salsa and a Bachata and Regueton track, all performed well. Nominated for a Cubadisco in the Música Popular Bailable category.
Te doy una canción - (Colibrí) - Released 2013
This 3-CD set, which includes a short video documentary in one CD, is a Special Prize winner in Cubadisco 2014 and is a collection of Silvio Rodríguez compositions interpreted in various instrumental settings by Augusto Enríquez. More musically diverse than this writer was expecting when he first opened the package, and put together quite well.
Abre todas las puertas - (Bis) - Released 2013
Nominated in the Pop category in Cubadisco 2014, this recording captures many of the styles now appearing regularly on Cuban radio, from Disco to Latin Pop to surf guitar.
|CD||Germán Velazco & Jorge Reyes||
Duetto - (Bis Music) - Released 2011
This delightful musical conversation between saxophonist Germán Velazco and bassist Jorge Reyes won a Cubadisco award in the Instrumental Music category in 2012. Mandatory listening for bassists and saxophonists, recommended listening for everyone.
Concierto de Frank Emilio -(EGREM)-
This excellent 1978 live concert was nominated for a Cubadisco in 2014 in the Música de archivo category. Part of EGREM's Cuba En Vivo series
Canto a Dios - (EGREM) - Released 2011
Canto a Dios is as deep as the river (the Mississippi) which inspired some of its compositions, and when the excitement surrounding Chucho's most recent release, Border Free, has subsided a bit, this 2011 release deserves a much closer second look by North America. It is not impossible that it will be one day be considered a masterpiece.
Tremendo Delirio - (Inspector de la Salsa) - Released 1997
By 1997, the Timba scene in Havana had reached the flash point. The innovations of NG La Banda and Charanga Habanera had been embraced and assimilated by a new generation of musicians and an exciting array of new groups had emerged... In the heady days of 1997, Timba was surging forward with dizzying momentum, and in the eye of that storm, in an atmosphere of tremendo delirio, the original Charanga Habanera released their eagerly-anticipated fourth album. Neither they nor anyone else would have dreamed that it would also be their last.
Pa' que se entere La Habana - (Inspector de la Salsa) - Released 1995
By 1995 Charanga Habanera and their second album, Hey You Loca, had become a major sensation in Havana. Their concerts were packed with young "Charangueros" who danced and dressed as they did and knew all of their songs, each of which became, in rapid succession, a huge radio hit. With the band's popularity reaching "mania" proportions....
|CD||Manolín, El Médico de la Salsa||
El Puente - (Ciocan Music) - Released 2002
Given the amount of water that's passed under "the bridge" for the amusingly enigmatic character known as "El Médico de la Salsa", it's no wonder that the historic release of "El puente" has rekindled the many controversies swirling around the current state of music and politics in Cuba and the United States. Fortunately, "El puente" also has the power to make us forget such annoyances and remember why we're drawn to this music in this first place. This live double CD captures the torrid adrenaline rush of the live Timba experience as no commercial recording ever has...
Self Portrait (Mavo Records) - Released June 2014
Manuel Valera's formidable range of musical influences, his uncanny sense of swing in any meter and the emotional depth of his compositions combine to make Self Portrait full of a sense of wonder that listeners who enjoy any form of advanced music will find irresistible. This is every bit as distinctive among solo piano recordings as the New Cuban Express releases are among ensemble projects. This album brings more of his classical influences to light but still has plenty of Jazz.
Que líndo es el amor - (Independent) - Released 2013
Interactivo's latest release puts a heavy emphasis on Funk, R & B and modern Cuban dance music, and it brings the roster of musicians to make it all work. The best of a series of excellent releases by this group, and - a bonus- even those who live in the United States can buy it on-line. Winner of the Fusion category in Cubadisco 2014.