Pancho Amat y El Cabildo del Son
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Pancho Amat y El Cabildo del Son
De San Antonio a Maisí
Resistencia RESCD104

cd cover Francisco "Pancho" Amat, an acknowledged master of the Cuban tres, invariably provokes comparison with such tres legends as El Niño Rivera and Arsenio Rodriguéz. Born in Havana province in 1950, Amat studied music formally, founded the group Manguaré in 1971 and led it for 17 years, during which time he and his compatriots served as international cultural ambassadors. In Manguaré's early days Amat studied in Chile and collaborated with nueva canción stalwarts Víctor Jara, Inti-Illimani, Isabel Parra and Quilapayún. He went on to study arrangement with Orquesta Aragón leader Rafael Lay, and elevated tres playing to a new level by applying theory and technique gleaned from his mastery of classical, jazz and trova forms. Amat is also a record and television producer, and he has played with a diverse list of musical luminaries at home and abroad, including Adalberto Álvarez, the Chieftains, Ry Cooder, Cubanísmo, Alfredo de la Fé, Oscar D'Leon, Cesaria Evora, Giovanni Hidalgo, Mongo Santamaria, Yomo Toro, Barbarito Torres and Dave Valentín.

The album title aspires to encompass the sweep of traditional Cuban music, from Cabo San Antonio (at the western end of the island) to Punta Maisí (the furthest point east), and the recording delivers on its promise, serving up a tasteful array of contemporary reworkings of Cuban classics, plus three Amat originals. Among the high notes are two Miguel Matamoros compositions, "Reclamo Místico" (the writer's first recorded bolero-son, a classic that Amat transforms into a descarga vehicle for guest singer Alejandro Sequeda), and "La Cocainómana" (wherein trovador Silvio Rodríguez revives an obscure son). The bolero "Anda Y Dime" fronts Dúo Evocación, a first-rate female vocal duo (recently heard on Compay Segundo's Calle Salud) whose crystal-clear tonalities mark them as coming artists in their own right. El Vaivén De Mi Carreta features the lead of Spanish singer Santiago Auserón, with a freshly expressive interpretation of Ñico Saquito's classic guajira-son. At the recording's heart is the Afro-son, Fanía, featuring Candito Zayas, Ballet Folklórico Nacional singer, whose rock-solid Abakuá vocals power the album's most compelling guest spot. Ringing throughout is Amat's tres and cuatro artistry, and the arranger's finely honed sense for creating a vibrant ensemble effect in which no single artist stands apart. To palpate the contemporary pulse of traditional Cuban music today, start here. - Michael Stone

CD available from cdRoots

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