Jane Bunnett and the Spirits of Havana
In 1982, long before the Buena Vista rush flooded Havana with musical prospectors, Canadian flautist and tenor saxist Jane Bunnett fled winter in Toronto and discovered the riotous music of Cuban carnaval. The revelation would transform the way she thinks about music, taking her back many times to work some of Cuba's most distinguished musicians. Outstanding recordings include Bunnett's Spirits of Havana (Messidor, 1993), which combined the Lucumí invocations of Grupo Yoruba Andabo with the collective piano genius of Frank Emilio Flynn, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Hilario Durán, the talents of singer Merceditas Valdés, and the inspiration of legendary timbalero and co-producer Guillermo Barretto. Chamalongo (Blue Note, 1997) reunited Flynn, Durán and Valdés, adding Tata Güines (conga, vocals), Yosvany Terry (tenor sax), Carlitos del Puerto (acoustic bass), Raultio Hernandez (timbales) and the rumba group, Cuban Folkloric All-Stars.
Ritmo+Soul, Bunnett's sixth Cuban-inspired recording, offers six original compositions by her and trumpeter Larry Cramer, her spouse, and discerning variations on three island classics. Cuban standouts include Durán (piano, voice, musical direction), Francisco Mora "Pancho Quinto" (percussion), Michael "Lucumí" Herrera (percussion), Dafnis Prieto (drums), Roberto Occhipinti (acoustic bass), and Ernesto "El Gato" Gatell (voice), with Cameroon native Njacko Backo (kalimba, voice) and New Yorker Dean Bowman's expressive, gospel-inspired singing. This is an original and erudite musical expedition into the spirited domain where North American jazz flows seamlessly into Afro-Cuban rumba and sacred Lucumí music. Bunnett and company conjure up a transcendent artistic vision that reveals a subtle, insistent cultural convergence among the many musical strands of the New World African diaspora. - Michael Stone
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