La Época, Part I - The Palladium Era (2009) Directed by Josué Joseph
This film is a cinematic ode to the Palladium Era and the Mambo Craze in New York, a time before "Salsa" and simplified dance steps and rhythms took hold in the clubs. This film is not without its flaws but raises some good conversation topics including the degree of communication between dancers and bands then vs. now.
La Época Part II: Lost Rhythms in Salsa (2012) Directed by Josué Joseph
Although this film has its imperfections, it is a valiant and earnest attempt to document and lament the loss of a number of distinct rhythms in the United States as a consequence of the "Salsa" marketing phenomenon.
|CD||Cubana All Stars||
A Dream Come True - (Viva Combo Music) Released 2012
A massive (40 musicians) all-star project recorded in Havana with alternate takes of various modern Cuban dance hits.
Mezcla - Live in Chicago 2013.06.29
Mezcla's tours in the U.S. have been limited to a few cities, it would be
Expectativas - (Mavo Records) Released 2013.09.03
This is the second album by Manuel Valera's New Cuban Express (the first was nominated for a GRAMMY in the Latin Jazz category and a Cubadisco in the Jazz Cubano category), and it is every bit as powerful and moving as the first. It has currently been nominated for a Cubadisco (Jazz Cubano)
|CD||Orquesta el Macabeo||
Lluvia Con Sol - (Discos de Hoy) Released 2013.06.07
(Reviewed for our "Nuestros Primos Musicales" section) One of Puerto Rico's most innovative young Salsa bands returns with new targets and solid music.
De Nuevo En El Solar - (Salsaneo Records) Released 2013.09.19
(Reviewed for our "Nuestros Primos Musicales" section). This is the second CD by Nabori, a rising "Salsa Brava" band in the Midwestern US. Many of its members are "on-call" when touring acts visit the region and need musicians.
San Francisco - (Bacalao Records) Released 2013
The Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel returns with a new release that represents some of the best of the California school of Latin Jazz.
Today's Opinion - (Criss Cross) Released 2012
Today's Opinion by Yosvany Terry won the Cubadisco award in 2013 for Jazz Cubano. Yosvany is a key figure in the colony of cutting-edge Cuban Jazz artists now based in New York.
Yo - (Jazz Village) Released 2012
This recording won the Cubadisco 2013 awards for Fusion and Recording (an engineering award), and it contains a potent mix of multiple genres.
No Pares - (Independent Release) Released 2012.12.05
"No Pares" is Leslie Cartaya's debut solo project. Many listeners know of her work with Miami's Afro-Cuban Funk band Palo!; her solo project features her in a wide range of styles and genres from the traditional to the now. This has been nominated for the Best New Artist Category in the 14th Latin GRAMMY Awards
Con La Música Cubana NO! - (Latin Power Enterprises) Released 2013.10.19
Timbalive keeps getting better and better - their new release, Con La Música Cubana NO! is the best of their three albums to date. Solid Timba with touches of Rumba (in a tribute to Irakere) round out the recording.
|CD||Chuchito Valdés & Eddy Navia||
Carnaval En Piano Charango - (Sukay/Pachamama) Released 2013.05.27
This is an innovative blending of Chuchito's Afro-Cuban and Jazz background with Eddy Navia's background in Andean folkloric music. The strongest ingredients in the mix are Andean, but the Cuban influences are unmistakable, and the final result is beautiful.
Grand Piano Live - (Music Roots Records) 2013.05.01
This recording, which has been nominated in the Latin Jazz category for the 14th Annual GRAMMY Awards, is the result of a live solo performance of Chuchito at the Steinway at the 2012 Indy Jazz Fest in September 2012.
|Concert||Pacific Mambo Orchestra||
Pacific Mambo Orchestra - Concert in Gary Indiana - 26 October 2013
So many high-caliber bands are putting on good concerts these days that it is worth noting when one of them goes the extra mile and puts on a real Show (if you don't get the difference, that means you've never seen the latter). PMO did that in Gary, Indiana to help kick off their national tour.
New Day - (Jazz Village) - Released 2013.10.08
Harold López-Nussa's newest album, New Day, brings more beautiful songwriting and virtuosic performing from this rising young member of the illustrious López-Nussa family.
Waterside (Self-Produced) - Released 2013.05.31
Appalatin's "Waterside" is an unusual and pleasant blend of Andean, Appalachian, "Roots" music, Cumbia, Caribbean - think of a Western-Hemisphere acoustic jam session where nobody asked you where you were from or what that instrument you were carrying is called.
|CD||Jorge Luis Torres||
Ancestral - (Iroko) Released 2013
This new Latin Jazz project by Toronto-based Cuban percussionist Jorge Luis Torres "Papiosco" will especially appeal to percussionists and fans of other groups like Bongo-Logic and Shades of Jade that make extensive use of violin and flute in their Jazz arrangements.
|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.
Todos Estrellas del Jazz Cubano - (Cinquillo/Colibri) Released 2013
If you think you know everything there is to know about Pablo Menéndez from his past recordings with Mezcla, think again - this intense Jazz DVD not only shows sides of him that you may not know, but it will radically change your perceptions of the current Jazz scene in Cuba as well.
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.
|CD/DVD||Septeto Nacional Ignacio Piñeiro||
La Habana Tiene Su Son - (Bis) Released 2012
This distinctive CD/DVD set includes both live and studio recordings of the Septeto, an interview with musicologist Helio Orovio and liner notes that make this both an excellent musical production and a valuable historical document. Nominated in both the Latin GRAMMY awards and Cubadisco 2013.
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.
|DVD||Juan Formell y Los Van Van||
Van Van 40 - (Unicornio) Released 2012
This DVD, which was nominated for a Cubadisco in 2013 in the live recording category, includes a 2006 40th Anniversary concert, extra footage of interviews and conversations, English subtitles in the spoken parts of the film, and some video and photo footage of the beginnings of Los Van Van.
Veinte Pianos - (Cinquillo/Colibri) Released 2011
Winner of the Grand Prize in Cubadisco 2012, this unique project features the music of Ernán López-Nussa in a way that also showcases the talent of some of Cuba's young generation of new pianists. The product also includes sheet music, a documentary, videos and a photo gallery with more than 3 hours of active content.
|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.
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.