Reviews

Type Artist Product Date Author
CD Jorge Luis Torres Ancestral 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.

01/06/2014 Bill Tilford
CD Chucho Valdés Border-freecoversmall Border-Free - (Jazz Village) Released 2013.07.09

The back story to the cover art started some interesting conversations within the Latin Jazz community, but nobody can reasonably deny that Chucho's new release is musically intense. Released in Cuba under Colibrí label with the title Sin Fronteras, this was nominated for a GRAMMY (Latin Jazz) and a Cubadisco (Jazz Cubano)

05/27/2013 Bill Tilford
CD Chuchito Valdés Grandpianolivethumb 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.

10/16/2013 Bill Tilford
CD Chucho Valdés Cantoadios 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.

05/12/2014 Bill Tilford
CD Chuchito Valdés Reflectionschuchitosmall 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.

06/08/2014 Bill Tilford
CD Julio Valdés Pentajazzsmall 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.

08/04/2014 Bill Tilford
CD Julio Valdés Ifeelgoodsmall 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.

03/29/2015 Bill Tilford
CD Chucho Valdés Chuchoirakereportadasmall 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.
UPDATE: Winner of the 2016 GRAMMY for Latin Jazz

11/03/2015 Bill Tilford
DVD Chuchito Valdes Chuchitovaldes15small 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.

07/03/2014 Bill Tilford
CD Manuel Valera Nce_coversmall New Cuban Express - (Mavo Records) Released 2012

This album was nominated for a GRAMMY in the Latin Jazz category in 2012 and is one of the most exciting and inventive recordings of Latin Jazz in many years.

06/03/2012 Bill Tilford
CD Manuel Valera Mv_ncx_expectativassmall 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)

08/25/2013 Bill Tilford
CD Manuel Valera Manuelvalera_selfportrait 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.

05/30/2014 Bill Tilford
CD Manuel Valera Ccj_1372_covers_manuel-valera-rgb 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.

09/26/2014 Bill TIlford
CD Kiki Valera Kiki_valera_vivencias_en_clave_cubanasmall Vivencias en clave cubana (featuring Coco Freeman)

ENGLISH: VIVENCIAS EN CLAVE CUBANA is the exciting debut solo album of Kiki Valera, cuatrista of one of Cuba's most distinguished families of soneros, the Familia Valera Miranda. The album also features Coco Freeman whose resume includes lead vocalist for NG La Banda and Adalberto Álvarez y su Son."

ESPAÑOL: VIVENCIAS EN CLAVE CUBANA es el emocionante álbum debut en solitario de Kiki Valera, cuatrista de una de las familias de soneros más distinguidas de Cuba, la Familia Valera Miranda. El álbum también presenta a Coco Freeman, cuyo currículum incluye voz líder con NG La Banda y Adalberto Álvarez y su Son.

10/18/2019 Tom Ehrlich
CD Orlando Valle "Maraca" Suspendansmall ¡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.

01/06/2014 Bill Tilford
CD Orlando Valle "Maraca" Todoonadasmaller 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.

01/06/2014 Bill Tilford
CD Los Van Van La_maquinaria___los_van_van La Maquinaria - (EGREM) Released 2011

A combination of new takes on older Los Van Van songs and some new material, this recording was nominated for a Latin GRAMMY in 2012.

11/19/2012 Bill Tilford
CD/DVD Varios Artists Mirandosmall Mirando al futuro from Havana jazz

ENGLISH: Mirando al futuro from Havana Jazz is an eloquent musical defense both of the quality of Cuban jazz generally and its rightful place of honor Cuba's musical culture specifically. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the right album is worth ten thousand where music is concerned. This is one of those albums.
ESPAÑOL: Mirando al futuro from Havana jazz es una elocuente defensa musical tanto de la calidad del jazz cubano en general como de su legítimo lugar de honor en la cultura musical cubana específicamente. Si una imagen vale más de mil palabras, el álbum correcto vale diez mil respecta a la música. Este álbum uno de ellos.

06/15/2020 Bill Tilford
Concert Various Artists Fcblogmainweb1small Third Annual Festival Cubano in Chicago Illinois August 4-5 2012

The third edition of Chicago's new Cuban cultural festival shows continued progress and improvement, and there are opportunities for even more.

08/08/2012 Bill Tilford
CD/DVD Various Artists Veinte-pianossmall 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.

01/19/2014 Bill Tilford
CD Various Artists 45-de-lujocoversmall 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.

03/23/2014 Bill Tilford
CD Various Artists Small938_coleccion_aÑejo_carta_de_oropeque 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.

03/30/2014 Bill Tilford
CD Various Artists Small5leyendasdecuba 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.

03/30/2014 Bill Tilford
CD Various Artists 15anossmall 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.

03/30/2014 Bill TIlford
Film Various Artists Miamibohemesmall Miami Boheme: An American Musical Journey (Rolling Pin Music) Released 2014

Miami Boheme is an hour-long PBS documentary (also available on DVD) that chronicles Miami's current Latin Fusion music scene. It includes excellent concert footage and video clips by several groups including Palo! and Spam Allstars.

04/13/2014 Bill Tilford
CD/DVD Various Artists Medicencubacovelarge 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.

06/03/2014 Bill Tilford
CD Various Artists Tonadas_campesinassmall 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.

08/05/2014 Bill Tilford
CD Various Artists Eterno-formell-varios-interpretes 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.

06/24/2015 Bill Tilford
DVD Various Artists Bailarcasinofacilsmall 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.

11/29/2015 Bill Tilford
CD Various Artists Jazzeando_jazzeandosmall 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.

01/28/2016 Bill Tilford
CD Various Artists Jazz_young_spirit Jazz Young Spirit (Series) (Colibrí) 2005- ?)

ENGLISH: The Jazz Young Spirit collection, released on Colibrí beginning in 2005, is among the crown jewels of Cuban jazz releases featuring young artists early in their careers. These are often their debut recordings.
ESPAÑOL: La colección Jazz Young Spirit, lanzada en Colibrí a partir de 2005, se encuentra entre las joyas de la corona de los lanzamientos de jazz cubanos con artistas jóvenes al principio de sus carreras. Son a menudo sus grabaciones de debut.

06/21/2020 Bill Tilford
CD Various Artists Esquinasmall La Esquina del Jazz (EGREM) 2019

ENGLISH: La Equina del Jazz is an audio memorial by the winners of the first improvisational jazz contest organized by the iconic radio program of the same name. An interesting collaboration of contest winners and established professionals, noteworthy also for its significant amount of North American style jazz standards.
ESPAÑOL: La Equina del Jazz es un audio memorial de los ganadores del primer concurso de improvisación de jazz organizado por el icónico programa de radio del mismo nombre. Una interesante colaboración de ganadores del concurso y profesionales establecidos, destacable también por su gran cantidad de estándares de jazz de estilo norteamericano.

07/26/2020 William Tilford
CD Ernesto Vega Evega3small 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.

01/08/2014 Bill Tilford
CD Ernesto Vega Tradbeyondsmall Tradition and Beyond

ENGLISH: Tradition and Beyond, the new release by clarinet virtuoso and composer Ernesto Vega with some of Cuba's best young Jazz stars, is a heartfelt Jazz tribute with original compositions to some of the musicians to which Ernesto listened in his youth
ESPAÑOL: Tradition and Beyond, el nuevo lanzamiento del virtuoso de clarinete y compositor Ernesto Vega con unos de las mejores jovenes estrellas de Jazz en Cuba, es un tributo jazzistico sencillo con composiciones originales a algunos de los músicos a que Ernesto escuchaba en su infancia y juventud.

09/22/2019 BIll Tilford
CD Emilio Frías "El Niño" y La Verdad Caratula-icon 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.

01/25/2015 Michelle White
CD/DVD Sergio Vitier 908-sergio-vitier-identidadsmall 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.

08/05/2014 Bill Tillford
CD Vocal Sampling Vocalsamplingsmall Así de Sampling - (Zig Zag/Colibrí) Released 2017

ENGLISH: Así de Sampling by Vocal Sampling is the winner of the Choral and Vocal Music category in Cubadisco 2017. Unique as always and with a wonderful sense of humor as well.

ESPAÑOL: Así de Sampling de Vocal Sampling es ganador de la categoría Música coral y vocal en Cubadisco 2017. Úinco como siempre y con un sentido de humor maravilloso también.

09/03/2017 Bill Tilford
CD Everton Paul W/ Ruy López-Nussa & La Academia Everton-pablo-paul-remembrancesmall 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.

04/20/2015 Bill TIlford
CD Bobby Carcassés y AfroJazz Bobby-carcassés-y-afrojazz_blues-con-montuno_bis-music_2017timbasmall Blues Con Montuno - (Bis Music) - Released 2017

ENGLISH: Blues Con Montuno is the latest release by master showman and Jazz artist Bobby Carcassés. It won a Premio Cubadisco in 2017 for Jazz Soloists. There is indeed some excellent Cuban Blues here, but the album features the styles of Jazz for which Bobby is renowned (some of it danceable, naturally). And, there is, of course, a lot of great scat singing.
ESPAÑOL: Blues Con Montuno es el nuevo lanzamiento de Master Showman y jazzista Bobby Carcassés. El álbum un premio Cubadisco en 2017 en la categoría Jazz Solistas. Hay de verdad un poco de excelente Blues cubano aquí, pero el álbum ofrece los estilos de Jazz para los cuales Bobby es renombrado (incluyendo el Jazz bailable, naturalmente), Y, por supuesto, hay un montón de scateando.

06/17/2017 Bill Tilford
CD Digna Guerra y Coro Entrevoces Oyesportada 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.

06/08/2015 Bill Tilford