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CD review: La Esquina del Jazz (Various Artists)
EGREM May 5, 2020
Review by Bill Tilford, all rights reserved
La Esquina del Jazz (Jazz Corner) is an iconic radio program that airs late night Mondays-Fridays on CMBF (Radio Musical Nacional) in Havana on 590 AM and 99.1 FM. As these lines are being written, it appears that the CMBF website is being renovated, and I hope that it comes back soon, because for a long time I listened to a livestream of the program from their website myself. (It can still be heard on the Radio Garden website, but that does not include their schedule.) CMBF is one of the treasures of Cuban radio, and La Esquina del Jazz features jazz both from Cuba and other countries. The mastermind of the program for the past quarter-century (the program is over 50 years old) is José dos Santos, a journalist who also does the website D'Cubajazz, the best on-line resource about jazz in Cuba.
Since physical CDs of this music are a rare find outside of Cuba, I have obrained permission to publish and translate Mr. dos Santos' erudite liner notes, which explain the genesis of this recording, an audio memorial of the First Jazz Improvisation Contest created by CMBF. I will let those notes tell that story. You can read my translation of those notes here.
Musically, this is a combination of Cuban and North American jazz standards, and to fully appreciate the significance of that, one needs to remember it has been rare in the past to see this much "non-cubanized" North American jazz in a recording made in Cuba - more commonly one would find one or two selections as novelty items, and usually performed with Cuban rhythms It is also a recording that needs to be taken on its own terms since songs like My Funny Valentine, Tenderly, Lullaby of Birdland and Misty have been interpreted by much of the jazz elite in the USA over the years. However, this is not an "amateur hour" recording - some of Cuba's jazz elite such as Bobby Carcasses, Janio Abreu and Alejandro Falcón and others participate in several tracks. Come for them if you must, but stay for the interpretations by the newcomers, who acquit themselves quite well in those standards without a musical accent.
I recommend this recording, which can be found in the digital platforms, precisely because it is something different when taken in its proper context, and one hopes to hear more of these in the future, something which might happen after future contests.
1. One Wan Blue pa'l Bobby (Comp, arr and musical direction Alejando Falcón)
2. My Funny Valentine (Rodgers and Hart, arr & musical direction Alejandro Falcón)
3. Yo Me Voy Contigo (Jacinto Scull; arr & musical direction Janio Abreu)
4. Tenderly (Walter Gross; arr & musical direction Sergio Jiménez)
5. Lullaby of Birdland (G. Shearing; arr & musical direction Janio Abreu)
6. Tres Palabras (O. Farrés; arr & musical direction Sergio Jiménez)
7. Mentiras Tuyas (M. Fernández Porta, arr & musical direction Janio Abreu)
8. Misty (E. Garner, arr & musical direction Rolando Luna)
9. Manteca (D. Gillespie, C. Pozo & G. Fuller, arr & musical direction Alejandro Falcón)
Since this was the result of a contest, and the participants in the recording a a mixture of the contestants and established artists, we are going to depart from our usual format for the technical credits. The "guests" are all established artists, the others participants in the contest.
Competing artists in the recording:
Vocalist: Carlos Ángel Valdés Carbonell. Tracks: 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8
Drums: Arian Boloi Stivan. Tracks: 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9
Timbal: Arian Boloi Stivan. Track: 3
Congas: Osmell Nápoles Pérez. Track: 1
Alto Saxophone: Alejandro Mendoza Castro. Tracks: 1, 4, 6, 7, 9
Trombone: Armando Salen Sebasco. Tracks: 1, 3, 5, 9
Flute: Claudio González Hernández. Tracks:1, 5, 9.
Piano: Leonardo Sergio Acosta García. Tracks: 4, 7, 9
Bobby Carcasses vocals Track: 1
Rolando Luna, piano Track: 8
Alejandro Falcón, Piano Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6
Janio Abreu, Alto & Tenor Saxophone Tracks: 1, 5, 9
Edgar Martinez. Congas & minor percussion Tracks: 3, 5, 7, 9
Sergio Jiménez, saxophone Track: 6
Lázaro Rivero Alarcón “el fino”. Contrabass Tracks: 1, 3,4, 5, 6, 7, 9
David Faya Córdova. Contrabass Track: 8
Arian Boloi Slivan, drums 1
Osmell Nápoles Pérez congas 1
Alejandro Mendoza Castro alto sax 4, 7
Armando Salen Sebasco trombone 3
Claudio González Hernández flute 9
Rolando Luna piano 8
Alejandro Falcón piano 1, 2, 5, 6
Edgar Martínez congas 3, 9
Lázaro Rivero Alarcón contrabass 1
David Faya contrabass 8
Sergio Jiménez saxophone 6
Musical Production: Gloria Ochoa & Alexis Vázquez
Executive Production: Alexis Vázquez
General Productions: Gloria Ochoa
Design: Juan carlos Viera
Photos: Rodolfo Rodin
Recording, Mix & Mastering Giraldo Gonzalez