|CD||Everton Paul W/ Ruy López-Nussa & La Academia||
Remembrance -(Side Door Records) - Released 2012
I'm told that this very Cuban treatment of the music of Bob Marley drew a mixed reception from Reggae purists, but hey, it's not supposed to be an album of exact covers - it is a fusion of Cuban music and Reggae from a band that has the chops and arrangements to make it worthwhile. Get into Mr. Marley's frame of mind first, then listen - the band, Ruy López-Nussa and La Academia, and Everton "Pablo" Paul, the Jamaican lead singer, have put together a very intriguing album.
Ruy López-Nussa presenta La Academia -(Colibrí) 2015
This is not a revival of the music of the original Grupo Afrocuba, but fans of that group should go to the ends of the earth if necessary to find this music anyway. In many ways the sound is similar (not a big surprise since some of the same musicians are involved) , but La Academia is a step forward with deeper Afrocuban percussion fused with modern Cuban Jazz, Funk, Reggae and other music. The project is also designed to be educational for young people about percussion and rhythm in Cuban music. You probably can't buy this yet, but keep your eyes peeled. When this hits, it will turn heads. That shouldn't be too long since it was just nominated for a Cubadisco in the Jazz Cubano category.
|CD||José Luís Cortés & NG La Banda||
En la calle una vez más - (Bis Music)- Released 2014
A hard-hitting new release by NG La Banda. Excellent arrangements, funny when it wants to be, Los Metales del Terror are in action, some solid Timba with a dash of Cuban Jazz, Conga/Merengue, Rumba and Bachata in the album.
|CD||Elito Revé y su Charangón||
La Aplanadora de Cuba - (Bis Music) Released 2014
Another exciting Changüi released by Revé. An aplanadora is a steamroller, and this is one, in a good way, for good dancers. Drink plenty of fluids before starting to listen to this.
En el mismo lugar - (Colibrí) - Released 2012
This eclectic album, like the body of Moncada's work, incorporates a wide array of the different genres that have contributed to the evolution of Nueva Trova. Moncada, a multiple award winner in Cuba, is receiving an increased amount of attention in the United States after its recent appearance on Conan and an article in Rolling Stone. This review takes you a little deeper into their music.
I Feel Good (Independent) - Released 2014
A new and eclectic independent recording by Julio Valdés, one of Cuba's most interesting Jazz and Fusion violinists. This will especially appeal to fans of groups like Grupo Afrocuba and Weather Report.
ilé (Otá Records) Released March 10, 2015
ilé brings Omar Sosa closer to his Afro Cuban roots including guest appearances by Pedrito Martínez, Yosvany Terry and "Don Pancho" Terry, but there is also a heady mix of Flamenco elements, Jazz and West African ingredients.
|CD||Septeto Santiaguero & José Alberto El Canario||
No Quíero Llanto -Tributo a Los Compadres
An exciting 2-CD release by Septeto Santiaguero, José Alberto "El Canario" and an impressive supporting cast - practically an extravaganza of Son. The final result is quite distinctive while respecting the traditions and remaining authentic.
|CD||Los Van Van||
La Fantasia (EGREM) Released December 2014
Its founder, Juan Formell, only performs (posthumously) on one track, but a resurgent Los Van Van captures the best of his spirit and comes roaring back in this new release on EGREM that is one of their best albums from any decade.
|CD||Emilio Frías "El Niño" y La Verdad||
Llegó La Verdad - (EGREM) Released September 2014
"Llegó la Verdad", the debut album by Elio Frias "El Niño" y La Verdad has proved their ability to deliver hit after hit and solidified their position as one of the top young bands in Havana.
|CD||Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra||
The Offense of the Drum (Motema) - Released May 2014
If one had to pick one album that captures the diversity of Latin Jazz in a way that will make you want to explore all of it, this would be it. A singular achievement.
Eliel Lazo & The Cuban Funk Machine (STUNT) - Released December 2014)
Some of the best elements of the Cuban dance music of the 70s return with a vengeance, but with new compositions and fresh blood. The album's title is quite accurate: it is VERY funky, Cuban, and relentless.
Eleven (Big Label Records) Released August 2014
Rising percussionist Daniel Peña's debut solo album, Eleven, a Latin Jazz project, includes cameo appearances from the likes of Tito Puente Jr. Richie Ray and Marlow Rosado along with very well-crafted arrangements and considerable drive.
In Motion (Criss Cross) - Released September 2014
In Motion, the third album by New Cuban Express, continues the forward momentum of NCX with the addition of a trumpet to half of the songs, a more acoustic feel, and all of the excitement of the first two recordings.
Havana d'Primera at Logan Square Auditorium
This is a great band, and it should have been a great show, but the apparent indifference to production values on the part of the presenter led to an epic battle between the band and a hostile acoustic setting and sound system. The band fought bravely to the very end, but only moments of clear music emerged from the muddled audio, and were it not for the fact that the audience was composed almost completely of hard core fans who were happy to even see their faces, the evening could easily have been a disaster.
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
Tonadas Campesinas - (Colibrí) - Released 2013
This imprerssive three-volume set of field recordings of tonadas, a form of campesino music, includes a video documentary and extensive musicological notes. It was awarded the Cubadisco for Folkloric Campesino Music in 2014 and was also nominated in multiple other categories.
Identidad - (Bis Music) - Released 2012
Identidad was awarded a Cubadisco in the Documentary category in 2014. The CD portion of this CD/DVD combination includes reissues of two fascinating recordings (homenajes and Travesía) by Sergio Vitier, who was one of the key members of GES (Grupo de Experimentacion Sonora del ICAIC) before it disbanded. Indeed, these recordings, while all his own compositions, are reminiscent of some of the best work of that group.
Pentajazz - (Independent Release)
Pentajazz is an intriguing independent release by one of the best Jazz violinists in Cuba today, Julio Valdés Fuentes. It includes a few of the heavy hitters in the current Jazz scene in La Habana.
Madre Tierra - (Colibrí) - Released 2013
This extraordinary Jazz recording would be remarkable in any country and represents the best of the youth movement in today's Cuban Jazz. It was nominated for multiple Cubadisco 2014 awards - Jazz, Audiovisual Concert, CD/DVD, Video Clip, Making of, and Liner Notes. It won the Audiovisual Concert category.
|CD/DVD||César López y Habana Ensemible||
César López & Habana Ensemble Live (Bis Music) - Released 2013
One of the very best Jazz combos in Cuba today in a CD/DVD combination package of a live concert in Havana in 2012. The music, audio and video are all superb. This was nominated for a Cubadisco in the Jazz Cubano category in 2014 and received a Cubadisco for best Live Recording.
Mi Voz (Music Roots Records) - Released 2014
This is a nice video single filmed in Havana featuring Mercedes Cortes Alfaro singing a ballad accompanied by two of her sons, Chuchito Valdes and Roberto Fonseca.
|CD||Tico's Mambo Drama||
Follow The Rhythm (Music Roots Records) - Released 2014
This recording by Tico's Mambo Drama captures the feel of both the New York Mambo craze and Cachao's early descarga period in the late 50s-early 60s. A nice mix of retro song styles.
Salsanimal (Big Label Records) Released July 2014
Salsanimal is GRAMMY-winner Marlow Rosado's newest Salsa album. Once again, there is a distinguished supporting cast (including Mayito Rivera on one track and Larry Harlow & Richie Ray on another). Stands above so much of the industrial Salsa product that is coming out this days.
Rolando Morales-Matos and Forward
Vibraphonist/multi-instrumentalist Rolando Morales-Matos is the embodiment of what people would picture of a consummate professional musician. His eponymous solo effort, featuring his own ensemble Forward, is a top notch Latin jazz album with intriguing compositions/arrangements and fiery improvisations by Matos and his superb roster of musicians.
Former NG La Banda vocalist Gerardo Contino brings his band of A-list musicians into the studio to create his first solo album. The result is an explosive Timba paragon with state of the art instrumental work throughout.
|CD||Los Hermanos Colón Los Hermanos Colón||
This 2014 release employs all the tried and true formulas that have made New York salsa great since the beginning, proving once again that one can’t go wrong with concise arrangements and A-list musicians. Each part fits together like a well-designed piece of architecture with every detail accounted for and nothing left out of place.
Reflections - (Music Roots Records) - Released 2014
Reflections, a new release by Chuchito Valdés, represents his most mature work to date as a composer and joins the ranks of some of the best recordings that have been emerging during the current Renaissance of Cuban Jazz, although this should be taken seriously as a Jazz recording with or without labels like "Cuban" or "Latin" attached.
Bueno - (Bis Music) Released 2013
Bueno was one of two winners of the Composers Prize in Cubadisco 2013 and also won the Canción Contemporánea and Videoclip categories. Includes several collaborations with other prominent Cuban artists. This is a popular music album, but several promient Cuban Jazz musicians appear in the roster for the project. .
Me dicen Cuba -(EGREM) Released 2014
You have probably already seen a piece of this due to the Havana D'Primera video clip that is all over the web, but that clip is part of a far larger, more ambitious project with a multitude of artists to be released to the general public in the months to come. This is a sneak preview of that project, which was awarded a Special Prize at Cubadisco 2014.
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.
Sacrilegio - (Colibrí) Released 2014
Winner of 5 Cubadisco Awards (including the Grand Prize) in 2014, Sacrilegio is an extraordinary project by Ernán López-Nussa that may very well be the most ambitious blending of Jazz, Cuban and Classical music ever recorded by any artist to date.
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.
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.
|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.
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.
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.
|CD/DVD||Los Hermanos Arango||
Los Hermanos Arango Y Las Estrellas del Folklor - (Bis Music) - Released 2011
This excellent folkloric fusion project won multiple Cubadisco awards in 2012 and is one of the best projects of its kind.
|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.