|CD||Ivan Acosta y su Grupo De Cuba Somos||
A not-yet-released recording by one of Santiago de Cuba's best Jazz bands. Ivan Acosta's Grupo de Cuba Somos is one of the mainstays of the small but vibrant Jazz scene in Santiago. Review includes photos and links to an interview.
Piano & Rhythm
Highly accomplished and acclaimed pianist Michael Eckroth offers up his most recent recording as a leader entitled Piano & Rhythm. Both a "nod to the piano masters of the past as well as a showcase for Eckroth’s own identity as a composer", this is an exquisitely recorded and performed album from top to bottom.
Gasolina de Avion - (Latin Power Enterprises) Released 2015
Gasolina de Avion is a rousing new release from Timbalive that includes several guest appearances including Descemer Bueno, Robertón, Los 4, Maykel Fonts and others.
|CD||Magic Sax Quartet||
Gotas de Sabor - (Termidor) Released July 2013
Magic Sax is Santiago de Cuba's answer to Habana Sax, and they are every bit as good. This was nominated for a Cubadisco (Instrumental Music) in 2014.
Caminos Abiertos -(EGREM) Released 2015
Caminos Abiertos is the stunning debut album of trombonist/bandleader/composer/arranger Eduardo Sandoval, who has nearly cured my years-long period of mourning over our loss of Juan Pablo Torres with this new release.
Jazzeando Jazzeando - (EGREM) released 2015
This new Jazz and Fusion compilation from EGREM includes some things that you wont find anywhere else to date, including some tracks by Harold López-Nussa's excellent project La Yuka Funk. That alone would make the recording worthwhile, but the rest of it is also excellent.
|CD||César López & Habana Ensemble||
Sonajero - (EGREM) released 2015
This new album by César López & Habana Ensemble is one of their best yet, and César, an alumnus of a later edition of Irakere, is putting out work that deserves a similar level of attention.
|CD/DVD||Zule Guerra & Blues de Habana||
Blues de Habana - (EGREM) released 2015
This is the VERY impressive debut release by Zule Guerra & Blues de Habana, a relatively new presence in the Nu Jazz scene that is beginning to flower in Cuba. Yasek Manzano and Bobby Carcassés add additional firepower to an already formidable group. This hasn't really hit the US yet, but when it does it may make some waves.
|CD||Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra||
Cuba The Conversation Continues -(Motema) released 2015
An historic recording in a very literal sense - recorded in Havana with several prominent Cuban guest artists, and the scope of the music ranges from the days of Gillespie and Pozo to the sounds of today (and perhaps even a taste of tomorrow). Currently a nominee for a GRAMMY for Best Large Jazz Ensemble and Best Instrumental Composition. If Jazz is part of your diet, this should already be on your shelf by now.
Dime Qué - (Calle Real Productions) Released 2015.12.21
"¿¡Dime Qué?!" has a rich instrumental texture: tres, piano, subtle synthesizer, elecric guitar, electric and acoustic bass and the horns, all woven together to create an irresistible dance album.
Bailar Casino es muy facil - Rueda Entertainment & RTV Commercial 2005
Made in Cuba with a great deal of passion for the subject, this video about Rueda de Casino is a multilevel instructional course AND includes history and interviews with founders of this now-global dance phenomenon.
|Concert||Chicago Jazz Philharmonic||
Scenes From Life: Cuba!
An excellent collaboration between the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic and ISA. Hopefully this will evolve into an expanded, continuous exchange between the musical communities of Chicago and Havana.
Tribute to Irakere [Live in Marciac] (Jazz Village) - Released 2015
This may not be exactly what many of us would have imagined for an Irakere anniversary tribute, but who would have imagined the original once upon a time? Faithful to the spirit and as riveting as the original. If Irakere had still existed today as a regular band, it might very well have sounded like this. New generations of virtuosos are at work here.
Parafrasear - (EGREM) Released 2014
Parafrasear by Frasis is a mostly-instrumental album of Cuban popular music by a Fusion group in Cuba centered about a string quartet and a rhythm section. Before you scoff, consider that in Finland, Apocalyptica is performing some very entertaining Heavy Metal with cellos. It works if you know what you're doing, and Frasis does.
|CD||Ivan "Melon" Lewis||
Ayer y Hoy - (Cezanne Producciones) Released 2014
Nominated in both Cubadisco (Cuban Jazz) and the Latin GRAMMY awards (Latin Jazz, Best New Artist), Ayer y Hoy puts Ivan "Melon" Lewis, who already solid credentials in the genre of Timba and other parts of the Jazz and Cuban music spectrum, firmly in the ranks of important current Cuban Jazz recording artists and composers. Rich and complex while remaining emotional.
Feeling Marta - (GC Music LLC) - Released 2015.10.05
Gema Corredera's second solo project is a powerful tribute to Marta Valdés.
Sólo se vive una vez - (Planet Records) Released 2014
The songs have the simplicity of merengue with the intensity of electronica, making it tempting and easy for even the most left-footed to dance along. It will appeal to the younger crowd and fans of that illusive Tropical genre.
TRIO ON - (Big Music Jazz) Released 2014
This intense trio recording was nominated for a Cubadisco 2015 award in the Jazz category. The liner notes shout out to Miles and Trane, Woody Shaw and Wayne Shorter, and they are undoubtedly important influences, but some of Dave Holland's small combo work might be a better example of the part of the spectrum this inhabits.
|CD/DVD||Estado de ánimo||
Estado de ánimo - (Cinquillo/Colibrí) Released 2014
This is like finding buried treasure - the best of an extraordinary Jazz/Fusion concert from the 1990s comes back to life. If you live outside of Cuba, you may not know about Estado de ánimo, but its members - Ruy López-Nussa, Roberto Carcassés, Elmer Ferrer and Descemer Bueno - made some of the best Cuban music of the decade together. Nominated for Cubadisco 2015 awards in Jazz and Musical Documentary.
First Class to Havana - (Worldwide Entertainment) Released 2014
Nominated for a Latin GRAMMY (Salsa), a GRAMMY (Best Tropical Latin) and a Cubadisco (Música Popular Bailable - Maestros), this is an extremely solid dance album, and if that was its mission, then "mission accomplished". One does look at the guest artists and wonder what might have been...
Hablando con Juana - (Bis Music) Released 2014
Alain Pérez's 4th album (and his first for a Cuban label) is a very well put together special project - a solid dance album, part TImba, part Salsa Cubana, part ballad, all quite good. It was nominated for a Cubadisco 2015 in the category Música Popular Bailable - Novedades, "novedades" being relative here. Some of it has an early NG La Banda vibe.
|CD||David Álvarez y Juego de Manos||
Somos Cuba - (EGREM) Released 2014
Like the group's name, this album is deceptively basic. A good solid dance album, but while you think you are dancing guaguancó, for example, it sneaks up on you with Vallenato stylings and other odds and ends. Which won't stop you from dancing. This was nominated for a Cubadisco 2015 in the Música Popular Bailable -Maestros category.
|CD||Papo Vazquez Mighty Pirates Troubadours||
Spirit Warrior - (Picaro Records) Released 2015
Trombonist/Composer/Bandleader Papo Vazquez has been experimenting with Bomba Jazz, which incorporates Puerto Rican Bomba and Plena with Hard Bop, since the 1980s. The mature results are VERY impressive.
Amnios 1407 - (Colibri) Released 2009
Better late than never dept: This came out long before we had a reviews section, but this Cubadisco 2010 winner for Jazz and Recording (and part of Colibrí's The Jazz Young Spirit Collection) is Mr. Manzano's first recording as sole leader and quite simply one of the best recordings of Jazz in Cuba ever made, so it would be a sin not to write about it here.
Planeta Planetario - (EGREM) Released 2014
Planeta Planetario features Diana Fuentes, an excellent vocalist, in a few different Pop music styles. It should be noted that the term "Pop" (as opposed to Nueva Trova) applies to music more or less similar to the rest of the world's use of the term.
Eterno Formell - (Bis Music) Released 2014
Eterno Formell, which won an Extraordinary Prize in Cubadisco 2015, is a very imaginative reworking of several classic Juan Formell compositions. Like Juan's personal musical experiments in life, some of these new versions stand out more than others, but the best of this project shows pure genius on the part of the arrangers, and the artists are superb.
Identities are Changeable - (Miel Music) Released 2014
No, it's not about the Dolezal case, although it is based on a diffaerent identities question, specifically how New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent identify themselves. Instead of talking heads screaming at each other though, you get some really wonderful Latin Jazz.
Panamericano - (Universal) Released June 30, 2015
Timberos, it appears that Tiempo Libre really, really, really wants you back. That's b-a-c-k, NOT b-a-c-h. They are getting back to their origins at the very moment when some other Timba bands are running away from theirs for the promise of somethingorother. Exhibit A is the first video inside...
Que no me controlen - (Ahí Namá) - Released 2014
JG's second album has has a contemporary, upbeat sound that epitomizes Cuba's youth culture. I highly recommend it for dancers and DJs. Put this on at parties and watch the dance floor fill up!
|CD/DVD||Luis Barberíá feat Sexto Sentido||
A Full - (EGREM) Released 2014
WInner of the Cubadisco 2015 in Fusion and a nominee in the Making Of category, A Full is not at all awful - pleasant, laid back, with some light R & B stylings courtesy Sexto Sentido's angelic voices. I would much rather hear this on the guagua than what many of the drivers are blasting.
70 Americas - (Colibrí) Released 2014
The original Orquesta América was the cradle of the chachachá, and the Cuban version (it's complicated, there are offspring in Mexico and the US) of this fine charanga orchestra celebrated its 70th Anniversary in 2012. 70 Americas won Cubadisco 2015 awards for Miscellaneous Traditional and Liner Notes for this new recording by a younger generation of members.
|DVD||Ernesto Vega & Harold López-Nussa||
Dúo- (Colibrí) Released 2014
Dúo is a wonderful live performance film of a concert in 2012 by Ernesto Vega and Harold López-Nussa. The music and the productions values were both superb, and it is a special accomplishment to perform this well as a Jazz duet. Great chemistry here. Dúo was nominated for Cubadisco 2015 awards for Audiovisual Concert and Live Recording.
|CD||Pablo Menéndez & Mezcla||
Pure Mezcla - (Tilford Productions) Released February 2015
Pure Mezcla is a live recording by Pablo Menéndez and Mezcla, recorded live at Yoshi's Oakland in 2013 and released in February 2015. Several critics and a battallion of Latin Jazz and World Music DJs love it. Since one TIMBA.com member produced it (Bill Tilford) and another mastered it (Michael Lazarus), we'll let those other critics tell you how good it is.
Invención Lekszycki - (Colibrí) 2014
Winner of the Cubadisco 2015 award for Jazz Cubano (and nominated in the Recording category, an engineering award), Invención Lekszycki is a sort of panorama of the multiple roots that inform Ernán's work. Includes some unusual touches like Kelvis Ochoa singing a Jazz ballad and some Fusion elements. It works.
Cuba Now Danzón - (Colibrí) 2015
Cuba Now Danzon updates the Danzon with some modern touches, innovative arrangements (especially with brass) and a first-tier cast of musicians. It won Cubadisco 2015 awards for Instrumental Music and Recording (a technical category)
|CD||Alexander Abreu Havana D'Primera||
La vuelta al mundo (Pafata/Sello Unicornio) - Released 2015
HDP goes after new listeners here - there is still some Timba, but also a lot more Salsa Cubana that will be danceable by non-Cubans. Musically excellent, and it has a Grand Prize in Cubadisco along with the award for Música Popular Bailable - Maestros to show for it. Will it reach the new ears for which it is intended? Time will tell.
Mal Tiempo - (Colibri) Released 2015
This Cubadisco 2015 winner (Jazz and Making of) fits perfectly in the part of the musical spectrum occupied by bands like the Yellowjackets, Weather Report, the Chick Corea Electric Band and some of Herbie Hancock's work. Very electric in more ways than one.
|CD||Manhattan School of Music Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra||
Que Viva Harlem
Bobby Sanabria and the Manhattan School of Music Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra hit it out of the park again with Que Viva Harlem, a relentlessly swinging tribute to New York's Golden Age.
|CD||Digna Guerra y Coro Entrevoces||
Oh Yes! - (Colibrí) Released 2015
This 2015 Cubadisco winner (Grand Prize and Choral Music) is a album of Negro Spirituals in English. Surprised? Don't be. This has been going on for quite a while in Cuba, it just managed to stay off a lot of North American radar screens until now.
Santa Habana -(Bis) Released 2012
Santa Habana is a project that features Melvis Santa's compositions and draws heavily from her colleagues in Interactivo (of which she was a member) and German Velazco, Telmary, Rumberos de Cuba and others. She was also a founding member of Sexto Sentido, and this recording helps reassure us that intelligent new music is still being made in Cuba even after incorporating influences from the US that could have proven unhealthy.