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Heritage - (Independent Release) Released 2012.03.28
CD Review: Heritage by Angel d'Cuba (Self-released, March 2012)
Review by Bill Tilford, All rights reserved
Personnel: Angel d'Cuba, leader, vocals and percussion; Victor Garcia, trumpet, flugelhorn and valve trombone; Steve Eisen, tenor, alto and baritone sax, flute; Johnny Rodriguez, trombone; Darwin Noguera, keyboards; Edwin Sanchez, keyboards; Diana Mosquera, background vocals; Diego Mosquera, percussion; Heitor Garcia, percussion; Nestor Rodriguez, tenor sax; Octavio Rodriguez, bata; Osvaldo (Ogie) Merced, congas; Jean-Christophe Leroy, drums/percussion; Brett Benteler, bass; James Cornolo, guitar and tres; Children of the YOURS Project Chicago REACH Orchestra, background vocals
I have always said - and written - that music writers should be upfront about their prejudices, good and bad, when writing about the music, and I try to practice what I preach. So, I need to start here by putting mine on the table. I know this band, I've been following its progress closely for a while, and I liked what I was hearing during the production process well enough to endorse the project. If this were a legal case instead of a new CD, I would be forced to recuse myself from the matter. So why trust this review then? Quite simply, if this recording didn't measure up, the smart play for me would be to look the other way and leave it to others to comment. Fortunately, this recording delivers.
Angel has an interesting musical resume and life story, some of which you can read more about here. Heritage, his debut US recording project under his own name, has been a long time coming and finally gets his original compositions on disc with a group of musicians of the caliber needed to play them properly. Much of it will be a revelation to those who have only heard him play with smaller ensembles and/or in settings where more traditional fare was wanted by those who were writing the checks. In keeping with his experience with several genres, it's a very eclectic set- the opening track Herencia and Muchacha de Escuela are tasty Songo tracks with a sort of mid-80s vibe. A third track, Colorvision (one of the English-language selections on a recording with both English and Spanish-language songs) is something that they labeled Soul-songo, but I personally think that the label "Cuban soul" would be equally descriptive of the song even though the lyrics are in English. One of my personal favorite selections is Can't Hide Love, a Funk-Mozambique fusion, which showcases a dimension of the band that hasn't been fully unwrapped on stage before. There are also some beuatiful ballads, a Vallenato-style Cumbia, and Samba, Soca and Reggaeton tracks. But - and this is important - this isn't one of those world music exercises that we sometimes hear from musicians that were putting more work than soul into attempts to be 'diverse'. The musicians in this group have backgrounds in several different worlds , all of which shine through in different parts of this recording. However, the project has a Cuban heart, as you'll hear thoughout the CD.
You don't hear this much variety done this well by the same band very often. Angel has one of the best voices for this music in the US, and the instrumentalists working with him are first tier, as you can see from the personnel roster. The band's website is angeldcuba.com