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William Cepeda
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El Curi
El Caballero de La Habana
Nubenegra

Familia Valera Miranda, Antoine "Tato" García & Sabrina Romero
Cantos de Ida y Vuelta
Planete Aurora

Javier Colina
Si Te Contara
Resistencia

In the post-Buena Vista Social Club era, the potted history of the musical kinship between Spain and Cuba may well have exhausted superficial listeners and world-weary aficionados alike. It's worth remembering, however, that Marcelino Guerra "Rapindey," Francisco Repilado "Compay Segundo" and their compadres were touring Spain with adoring audiences well before Ry Cooder came along, and Spanish immigration to Cuba continued to carry musical ideas west well into the twentieth century. Indeed, contrary to the profit-seeking rash of bandwagon "Cuban music" releases that flooded the market for years after BVSC, the mutual fascination and creative engagement between musicians of these two lands continues today.

From Cuba's Oriente, singer, tres player and percussionist Félix Valera Miranda heads the Traditional Music Department of the Santiago Provincial Music Center, and fronts the family band of his name, performing a traditional repertoire of son and bolero. With family roots in Spain and the Canary Islands, and a long association with Compay Segundo, Familia Valera Miranda makes a natural pairing with Perpignan gypsy singer Antoine "Tato" García (formerly of Tekameli) and flamenco singer Sabrina Romero. The gypsy repertoire embraces Cuban and Puerto Rican chestnuts including "Sarandonga" (Compay Segundo), "Bilongo" (Guillermo Rodríguez Fiffe), "Felicidad" (Tito Rodríguez) "Lágrimas Negras" (Miguel Matamoros), "Santa Barbara" (Celina González), "Sobre una tumba una rumba" and "Bardo" (Ignacio Piñeiro), all rendered anew here. The direct connection comes via son Kike (Enrique) Valera who, unusually, plays cuatro (its Puerto Rican origin makes it an instrument not often played in Cuba; he's also the band's arranger and recording engineer). Kike and Tato connected at the 2003 Lyon world music festival, which in turn brought Tato to perform at Santiago's celebrated Casa de la Trova. On Cantos de Ida y Vuelta ("round trip," an apt expression of the international character of this project), the rumba "Tremendo sabor" and the street festival sound of "Conga" assume particular freshness, blending Afro-Cuban percussion and carnival music with the plaintive Gypsy vocals of Tato and Romero.

Paired with El Sexteto Maguey, Valladolid native El Curi (Antonio Curiel), the former Basque rocker (known in Spain for his 1979 LP La respuesta ya no está en el viento, i.e., "the answer is no longer blowing in the wind"), puckish tenor and international vagabond presents another of his autobiographical expatriate readings of Cuban tradition, sparked by a 1994 trip to the island that still animates his music. El Curi's is the wry, knowing gaze of an aging anti-imperialist hipster, wounded romantic and Santería convert, reflecting upon desperate love and the inexorable contradictions of daily life in his beloved Havana. El Curi is at home with the island and its music, and (unlike many come-lately musical tourists) has the good sense to allow his collaborators to do what they do best as he tells his own story. As "the gentleman of Havana" relates on the title track, "One day I arrived in this island, the result of a shipwreck, and I realized where I'd landed when I heard the drums, the dances, the sounds. The tale I tell here is neither false nor true. It's the saga of a gallego [native of Galicia] and his effort to become a habanero [Havana habitué], who went a bit crazy from loving and desiring you so much." The music is in this vein, relaxed, slightly down at the heels, with a sincere intensity that retains the capacity to step back and acknowledge the quirky, untidy character of one man's passionate illusions, lived to the full.

A Pamplona native, Javier Colina is a leading bassist and arranger on the European jazz scene. He's worked with Gary Bartz, Louis Bellson, Frank Lacy, Tete Montoliú, Idris Muhammad and Jimmy Owens, while crossing genres with Carmen Linares, Dieguito and Enrique Morente, Tomatito, Radio Tarifa, Jerry González and the Fort Apache Band, Compay Segundo and, most recently, Bebo Valdés and Diego "El Cigala." Self-taught on the double bass, Colina has a consummate tone and impeccable sense of timing, the rhythmic and creative anchor to this enchanting project, a re-envisioned music that in lesser hands exceeded its shelf life before leaving the sound factory.

Colina congregates some of Cuba's top instrumentalists - tres master Pancho Amat, trumpeter Julito Padrón, José Luis Quintana "Changuito" on timbales, Federico Arístides Soto "Tata Güines" on tumbadoras and Valencia saxophonist Perico Sambeat. Colina fills out the overall sound with diva Osdalgia (Cuba) and, on the flamenco side, Spanish singers Santiago Auserón (who recorded with Compay Segundo in the early 1990s) and Juan Rafael Cortés Santiago "Duquende," whose staggering talent marks him, for many, as the heir to Camarón.

Logged in Havana's EGREM Studios, and engineered in Madrid and Barcelona by Luis Auserón (Santiago's brother), Si te contara ("if I were to tell you") is one of those rare, brilliant efforts whose all-star lineup transcends repertoire and artistic reputation alike, precipitating in a new sonic terrain where jazz meets flamenco meets the Cuban standards. If you pick up one "jazz" or "Spanish" or "Cuban" title this year, here's your contender. - Michael Stone

Some of these CDs are available from cdRoots


Paying the bills


Ozomatli
Ozomatli
Almo (www.almosounds.com)

Combining disparate elements in a fashion that reveals an unexpected, mutual enrichment is a time-honored formula for music that is at least interesting, sometimes innovative, and often ear-poppingly enjoyable. From its roots in reggae toasting, through its mid-eighties conjunction with funk and soul, to its contemporary dalliances with pop sampling and dumbed-down rhythmic brutality, the rap vocal style has prospered or stagnated artistically to the extent that it has been able to exploit such stylistic reciprocity. On their debut recording, the ten-piece Los Angeles based Ozomatli flawlessly integrates the raps of Chali 2na into a lively mix of musical influences, Mexican cumbia, African highlife, flamenco, funk, hip-hop, rumba, tablas, anything within reach and hearing in the broader cultural maelstrom. The result is a characteristically North American version of the crazed diversity of such Brazilian acts as Karnak, a fitting tribute to the Aztec god of the dance for whom the band is named.

"Como Ves" starts in a party atmosphere with whistles and rhythmic shouts of "go, go, go!", then breaks into a quick, tripping beat featuring tight lively brass, soukous-style electric guitar, and call-response vocals. "Cumbia de los Muertos" has the slight percussive hesitation of classic Colombian cumbia, rich harmony vocals accentuated by saxophones, a traditional performance which suddenly accelerates into hyperspace with Cut Chemist's turntable scratch, loopy dub reverb, and a brief, spirited rap by Chali 2na, all carefully coordinated. "¿Dónde De Fueron?" initially adheres to the law of Cuban rumba, with calm, complex percussion with tuned claves behind a tight male vocal duet, then segues into a strutting salsa featuring Ozomatli's precision brass section.

The stylistic mixing pushes into high gear with "Eva," a flamenco guitar and a quick, shuffling beat, part castanets, part hip-hop scratch, driven by bass, enlivened by the brass, supporting rich multi-part male vocals. And just when you think it can't get any better, Ozomatli pitches "Chango" at you, quick percussion, lively galloping brass, a lead vocal that seems to wink conspiratorially as a feline chorus chants "meow, meow," slowing into a teasing reggae beat before finally speeding into a demented swirl. Naturally, Ozomatli follows this with the tabla and sitar-like fretless guitar introduction of "Super Bowl Sundae," which evolves into swinging reggae-inflected rock behind a Chali rap. David Hidalgo of Los Lobos joins on accordion and requinto doble on " Aquí No Será," a traditional-style tune featuring sinuous violin and harmony vocals, leading seamlessly into "Chota," with more traditional sounds meandering in and out of another rap by Chali, who seems at home in the low-riding funk context of "Coming War."

The band's high spirits and musical virtuosity will keep you listening and dancing to the record, rendering the wait for their next recording not only tolerable, but positively enjoyable. - Jim Foley


Wayne Gorbea's Salsa Picante
Cógele el Gusto
Shanachie (www.shanachie.com)

Salsa Picante, a solid nine-piece working dance band, taps the Bronx legacy of such Cuban and Puerto Rican notables as Machito, Noro Morales, Tito Puente, Arsenio Rodríguez, Tito Rodríguez, Ray Barretto, Jerry Gonzalez, Manny Oquendo, Charlie Palmieri and Eddie Palmieri. The band's contemporary arrangements reflect the enduring convergence of jazz, Afro-Cuban rhythms and Latin dance influences in New York. Salsa Picante's sonorous brass bones and tight polyrhythmic sound articulate seamlessly with Frank Otero's consummate vocal lead and Wayne Gorbea's pulsing piano montuno, with no concession to "salsa romantica," the industry's latest denatured global marketing category. By contrast, and as manifest here, traditional salsa's crossover resurgence confirms the vitality of a genre true to its cardinal mission: To power the dance floor through the midnight hour. Short of a club crawl through Brooklyn and the Bronx, where Salsa Picante's most passionate fans reside, this CD will propel the most sedate gathering into the dancing groove. - Michael Stone


Holding Up Half The Sky: Voices Of Latin Women
Shanachie (www.shanachie.com)

Since World War Two, the changing status of women worldwide has registered in popular music as in every other sphere of social life. This release is part of a series focusing on female artists from around the globe. Compilations lend themselves to second-guessing: Why this artist and not that one? Adequate coverage of an entire region on a single disc is an impossible task, certainly. Indeed, individual treatment is warranted for each highlighted locale: Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico and the United States. Nor is the anthology universally representative - it overlooks Argentina, Chile, Brazil (the largest nation in Latin America) and the non-Spanish-speaking Caribbean (e.g., Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad). But on its own terms, this is a practical introduction to thirteen female singers of indisputable influence (e.g., Albita, Lola Beltrán, Celia Cruz, La India, La Lupe, Lydia Mendoza, Omara Portuondo, María Teresa Vera) and a variety of traditional and popular genres (Afro-Peruvian, bolero, bomba, cumbia, guajira, merengue, ranchera, salsa, son, Tex-Mex and vallenato). The superb choice of tracks is strictly uptempo, with informative bios for each artist (but a discography would aid those wishing to hear more). In any case, the new listener could do worse than begin with this primer on women's manifest contributions to Latin American and Caribbean music. - Michael Stone


Johnny Polanco y su Conjunto Amistad
L.A. Amistad
Tonga

Someone asked me, "Is it from Amistad?" To set things straight, L.A. Amistad has nothing to do with the movie. L.A. Amistad is the new album from one of the flagship dance bands of the growing Los Angeles salsa movement. Johnny Polanco's group Amistad is a regular feature at El Flordita, a Cuban restaurant and salsa nightclub on Vine Sreet in Hollywood, California, playing there every Monday night since 1993. He has also been featured at many venues along the West Pacific coast.

His first album on Tonga is a business card, produced to establish name recognition and, perhaps land some big label contract. But unlike any basement demo tape, Polanco's group puts out a well-crafted salsa album that aims far beyond the novelty market. Here are original compositions by Ray Ramos, Jesus Perez, as well Polanco himself. Flashy arrangements are highlighted with funky brass and Afro-centric rhythms. It's contemporary music that clings to the Latin roots, but not buried in tradition. Most distinctive are the bantering solos of Karen Brigg's violin and Artie Webb's flute, especially on "Que Lio" and "Karina." Polanco provides the finishing touches as arranger and producer, assembling a product that's full of energized syncopation. For those who want their salsa music more on the kitsch side, look elsewhere. This is the real stuff, no matter that it comes from California. - Wayne Whitwam


Gustavo Santaolalla
Ronroco
(Soluna/Island/Europe; Nonesuch/US)

Gustavo Santaolalla is best known as the producer of such raucous Rock en Espanol groups as Cafe Tacuba, Caifanes and Maldita Vecindad, but on Ronroco he veers in a different direction. Here he explores the quiet, shimmering sounds of Andean instruments such as the charango, panpipes and the ronroco. The result is unique, a quiet album of lightly plucked strings elegantly interwoven -- think of the delicate sounds of harps and mandolins and you're on your way to understanding what is going on here.

A ronroco is a large charango, itself a ukelele-like instrument originally made of an armadillo shell. Though it is a traditional instrument, Santaolalla takes a non-traditioinal approach to the music on the album, creating spare, elegant tunes that are neither new-age spacey nor rustic.

An Argentine native now based in Los Angeles, Santaolalla has created an album that has the delicacy of chamber music, the open-heartedness of traditional music, and the sophistication of contemporary music. Here's hoping it finds its audience. --Marty Lipp


Los Pleneros de la 21/ El Quinteto Criollo
Puerto Rico Tropical
Music of the World/ Latitudes CD LAT 50608 (www.musicoftheworld.com)

Throughout Latin America, the region's diverse folk music traditions have given way to such popular and increasingly international idioms as salsa, merengue and hip-hop, and Puerto Rico is certainly no exception. Yet island performers have also found inspiration in the daunting musical legacy of nearby Cuba in forging several uniquely Puerto Rican styles, most notably the percussive, African-derived bomba and plena, and the country or jíbaro genres known as seis and aguinaldo. This recording is a rare recorded introduction to these cardinal Puerto Rican folk traditions.

Los Pleneros de la 21, formed in a San Juan neighborhood in 1983, carried the bomba and plena to New York. There these forms (and the competitive dance tradition associated with them) have undergone a renaissance as signifiers of Puerto Rican cultural identity. Indeed, these energetic and picaresque styles - sprung from the African experience in the sugar plantations and refineries of coastal Puerto Rico - have inspired a new generation of enthusiastic street-corner ensembles that today can be heard in virtually every nuyorqueño neighborhood.

Jíbaro music shows more pronounced Spanish influences, characterized by a solo vocal line based on the décima lyric structure, and accompanied by guitar, cuatro, and sundry hand percussion. The urbanizing, emigrating population of postwar Puerto Rico largely dismissed the seis and aguinaldo as unsophisticated and overly sentimental "hick" music. But El Quinteto Criollo, founded in the early 1950s by standout Puerto Rican guitarist Israel Berrios, has played a key role in reviving this music on the island and in New York alike, where jíbaro tunes (alongside the more popular international forms that once threatened to displace the seis and aguinaldo) are now obligatory markers of Puerto Rican heritage at weddings, baptisms, and holiday celebrations. - Michael Stone


Big Noise 2
Hannibal

The doors may have permanently closed on the Mambo Inn (a Brixton, UK nightclub known for innovative dance floor DJ mixing of world-beat) but the ecstasy lives on. Featuring exclusive remixes from Carlinhos Brown & Timbalada, Gal Costa, Caetano Veloso, Baaba Maal and Africando, "Big Noise 2" exuberantly welds funky tropicalismo, samba, rumba, salsa, and even a ska rendition of Duke Ellington's "Caravan" to boot. - WTD


Cafe Tacuba
Avalancha De Exitos (Avalanche of Hits)
Warner Latino

It's hard to imagine a popular rock band putting out their third full length album made up entirely of covers. But that's what Mexico's Cafe Tacuba has done with Avalanche of Hits. While unable to decide what material of their own to put on their new album, they concluded that they should revisit songs they felt deserved more and wider recognition than the songs received the first time around. It makes Avalancha their best and oddest album yet.

Their renditions of the hits are as good as their own material and even more diverse in sound. From the moving, traditional sones Huastecos version of Juan Luis Guerra's "I wish it would rain coffee", to silly straight pop to the strident "No Controles", Cafe Tacuba demonstrates how divergent Mexican rock can be.

Of course in the US, few of us are familiar with the original hits that make up this avalanche, so Cafe Tacuba gets their wish to make these songs more well known. - Paul Harding



EL CALEFÓN: Latin jazz meets the bossa nova and rock in Brazil and Argentina. My first inclination was to blow this one off as a reverb-soaked, keyboard enhanced pop toss off, but it does have some bright moments and charms that make it worth wading through the over-saturated production. Bon Bon (Cross Currents, 730 East Elm St, Conshohocken PA 19428 610.825.4213) is an apt title, because you know all that sugar is bad for you, but it does taste good.


Pedro Padilla y Su Conjunto Vuelva en Alas del Placer (Return on Wings of Pleasure)
Rounder

This collection was recorded over 20 years ago in Puerto Rico by ethnomusicologist Lisa Kliger -- half in a radio station with a single recorder and half in a recording studio. While the fidelity is less than perfect, the charm, joy and heart of the players still comes through. The small acoustic group plays the two major forms of Puerto Rican peasant, or jibaro, music: the seis and the aguinaldo. There are two contrasting singers: one husky voiced, the other a smooth crooner. The songs are played on a cuatro and guitars, accompanied by the light raspy percussion of a guiro; they alternate between dramatic ballads and easy-going, bouncy tunes. Certainly a listener needs to have a taste for the folkloric to enjoy this, but the music is meant to be accessible and has a simple, country charm. - Marty Lipp


Sol Y Canto
Sendero del Sol
Rounder
Sol y Canto know how to mine the richness of a song. On their latest release, Sol y Canto are produced by Latin jazz's hottest star, Danilo Perez, who brings out the dynamism of this group. The album brilliantly charts the roots of Latin American music with its African and Iberian flavours. Brian Amador's song "Tambor y guitarra" sets the tone of the proceedings. Amador, the guitar player and musical director of the band, has penned a song which recounts the flight of Gypsies from Spain and the rise of Rumba as the Gypsies mixed with the Yoruba; indeed, Amador's guitar playing itself serves to anchor the band's Spanish links.

What is really striking about Sol y Canto's music, however, is not only their percussive drive but the profound literate quality of their songs. Rosi Amador's gorgeous voice wraps itself around the words; on Violeta Parra's "Gracias a la vida," she sings (translated): "Thanks to life, which has given me so much:/ it's given me my hearing, that in all its breadth/ records night and day, crickets and canaries,/ hammers, turbines, barks, thunderstorms, / and the tender voice of the one I love." The emotion cuts right to your heart.

It's intoxicating, this blend of Renato Thoms' percussion work, combined with soulful depictions of the human condition and the worth of the individual. On the album's one song sung in English, "Alejandro's Ghost," Sol y Canto insightfully capture the weight of our modern experience: "Alejandro's ghost thought he was dead,/ but he was only lost and wandering inside his head./ Didn't think that death amounted to much,/ he could still see and hear, he could even laugh,/ he just couldn't touch." The remedy lies in Sol y Canto's music, in bringing us back home to centre, and that is its essential beauty. - Lee Blackstone


LOS STRAITJACKETS
¡Viva! Los Straitjackets
Upstart Records

It's the first day of 90 degree heat for the summer today in New Haven, so what's more appropriate than to set some guitars to ten on the twang meter and surf over to the bar for a glass with an umbrella in it. No surprises, just guitars, bass and drums make Los Straitjackets unfettered summertime guests bearing cliched riffs, tongue firmly in cheek, a six pack of good vibes under their arm. A welcome relief.


GEORGE COLEMAN
Bongo Joe
Arhoolie

"I wish I knew just how to sing, I thought I'd make a record, and it'd be the best of everything." Well, he DOES sing, in a sort of musical rapping that he calls "fundamental beat music." Sixty year old George Coleman, known as Bongo Joe, pounds on a steel drum he formed into a multi-toned "kit" and sings along with. He's played the streets of Florida's Gulf coast, Galveston, TX and eventually set himself up on the plaza by the Alamo in San Antonio. He tells weird stories of a "Transistor Radio," comments on the foibles of humans in "Science Fiction" and "Listen At That Bull." It has a boogie beat one minute, and rattles like the mbira of Africa the next, but there are few tags to hang on this music. These are highly original, elemental, sometimes risque folk blues songs from and about the streets. He can swing fiercely, and he can sing soulfully, if sometimes a little strained or off-key. Passion is everything, and Bongo Joe's got it.


LOS FABULOSO CADILLACS
Rey Azucar
(Sony Discos)

Shabba Ranks, Tito Puente's band, The Toasters, Cheb Khaled and Joe Ely get together for a jam? Well, it sure sounds like it as this Argentine band rolls from one piece of madness to another on this wild ride of a recording. They are the self-proclaimed "Sugar Kings," and they reign over a sound full of ska, salsa, post country punk and a touch of Monty Python. Big horns, ripping guitars varied percussion and fat bass are laid down in track after track of latin power pop. There's even some star power to be had: Tina Wemouth and Chris Frantz prduce, Mick Jones of the Clash pops a few chords, and a bizarre toss-off of "Strawberry Fields Forever" with Debbie Harry (lost but none-the-less enthusiastic). For fans of the screwy mix of cultures espoused by bands like Les Negresses Vertes, this will be a hit.


PEREGOYO Y SU COMBO VACANA
Tropicalisimo
World Circuit

If want want horns, check out this burning set from 1972 of salsa from Colombia. This stuff never lets up as it hurls groove after incessant groove at you, sax and trumpet blazing from a path cut by fat, no bloated, bass licks, pervasive percussion and searing solo and group vocals. It's salsa, rumba, jazz and pop from coastal Columbia, Cuba, Puerto Rico and New York with nary a hint as to how they got there. (CF)


Joseph Spence from Bahamas is a guitarist with wide ranging influence. His mixture of black American gospel and blues with Anglo-Caribbean folk music is unique in recorded history. He is an aquired taste, and a hard one to aquire at that, with his growling vocals and idiosycratic view of rhythm. But his charm is unmistakable. Listen to Ry Cooder, one of his staunchest fans; there is evidence of Spence in everything Cooder plays. From his earliest days until his death in 1984 at the age of 73, Joseph Spence made music that defed description, with just his guitar, his voice and an occasional friend or two. Two reissues of his work from Rounder and Smithsonian Folkways give both sides, the soloist of Bahama guitar and "rhyming", and the gospel inspired work he did with the Pinder Family. The Complete Folkways Recordings: 1958 features classic local tunes like "Jump In The Line," an often recorded calypso, but here as rootsy and raw as it gets. The bulk of the tunes are gospel songs from America, but given the same Caribbean undertow that makes Spence's playing such a pleasure to listen to. Joseph Spence and The Pinder Family's In The Spring Of Sixty-Five is a gospel set recorded in Nassau and New York in May of 1965. "Out On The Rolling Sea" is by far one of the best examples of unbridled musical freedom ever, with the singers supplying a multitude of wild rhytmic counterpoints against an even more curious guitar style. It includes Edith Pinder's classic rendition of "I Bid You Goodnight" and the prize track, "Troublesome Water," recorded in the Pinder's backyard, and as uncontrolled and joyous as gospel can get. - CF
(see also:
The Real Bahamas)


Exuma
Rude Boy
ROIR

Take the New Orleans soul of Dr. John and Aaron Neville, mix it up with the beat of Arrow, the social satire of Phil Ochs and the joy of calypso, and you might begin to get the idea. Not that this stuff is derivative of these things; Exuma was there at the start. Bahamian by birth and a New York folkie ('60s style), he moved to New Orleans to confound the Crescent City with his wild blend of junkanoo rhythms and sweet soul music. This is carnival and creole in the best sense: a mixture that comes out as a tasty new dish every time. This cassette is no exception-Rude Boy careens from country soul in "Dream" through the soca romp of "Fishing On The Rock" to the all-out stomp and stamp of "Rude Boy." His social concerns are clear, but still have a positive beat. Check the lyric and the rhythm of "Clean On The Outside, Dirty On The Inside" to see how a calypsonian delivers his news. Add a piquant blend of fine instrumentalists, heavy on the drums and guitars, with just a pinch of keyboards, a healthy dollop of brass and Exuma's sweaty and sometimes sardonic vocal deliveryall in all, a swell stew. This is a cassette-only release in the true international spirit of ROIR-go to the trouble of cueing it up, you won't be disappointed. - CF


Cafe Tacuba
Cafe Tacuba
WEA Latina

Mexican ska? Sort of. Tejano rock? Closer. Add a touch of L.A. schmaltz, ZZ Top, Brazilian jazz, and a lot of humor and the stew boils over. Cook it down with a guest shot from Flaco Jimenez. Toss in acoustic guitars, trashy drum programming and upright bass. The residue that's left at the bottom is Cafe Tacuba, a four piece band from Mexico City. Shamelessly quoting from the British ska bands, the worst of "college" rock and pop/punk, they manage to be at once annoying and captivating. Is there an alternate version of funk that was reserved for Mexico? If you get far enough into this album you may find the answer on the melodica. They Might Be Mexicans? Go for it. - CF


"Ti Raoul" Grivalliers
Mi Bèlè-a
Auvidis, France

'Ti Raoul' is a traditional singer from Martinique, a griot of sorts whose role is to sing the songs, tell the stories and perform for the dances of his people, the former slaves who now are the population of the island. With his troupe of drummers and vocalists he weaves the "Bel Air," the old music of Martinique. With a voice like fine ground gravel he sings songs about love, social unrest, sex, day to day life and more sex, backed by the response of a half dozen singers and 4 drummers. Ti Raoul offers a healthy antidote to all of those drum circles and new age syntho-hacks.


Zoop, Zoop, Zoop
New World Records

100% local groove, a collection of some of the funkiest Caribbean grooves on record. Traditional folk and scratch band music from the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John comes together for what I think may be the first time on vinyl or disk. These islands were a melting pot of black African (Manding, Bambara and Ibo among about a dozen others), Dutch, Danish and British influences. The music reflects that confusion in a wondrous mix of sweat and sweetness. Try "Cigar Win The Race" by Jamesey and The Happy Seven, where the Polish-American mazurka is transplanted to something akin to zouk.


Musical Traditions Of St. Lucia, West Indies
Rounder

Musical Traditions Of St. Lucia, West Indies also features some fine scratch band sounds based on the European quadrille. These dances are enjoying a renaissance on the island after years of rejection as "too colonial." They are complex, lively tunes, a bit restrained (maybe elegant would be the better word?) but thoroughly charming. But that's only part of this recording. Much of the set is dedicated to African derived songs for drums, hands and singers, again transformed by the many African and European cultures that clashed and conspired to form the music of the Caribbean.


Bobby Sanabria And Ascención
¡N.Y.C. Ache!
Flying Fish

Sanabria's NYC fame is secure, with stints with great band leaders like Mongo Santamaria. Now, with his own band he will broaden that fame, on an album that is as much an exploration of as a dedication to the music of Bauzá and Puente. Sanabria and his octet of horns, percussion, bass and strings take in all the roots of black American music; jazz, funk, Latin, Afro-Cuban, Chicago blues and a hefty dose of something most "world beat" bands always forget, wit. The results are exciting, diverse, and more often than expected, surprising. "Blue Monk" is a masterpiece, a funny, hip, and ultimately reverential treatment of one of the classics of modern jazz. Here it takes on the swing of the mambo, but with a touch of the grit of old Chicago in the fiddle lines of Lewis Kahn. They display this casual side throughout, whether it's a traditional rumba like "The Saxophone Lesson" with a stern lecture at the end, or the vocal cumbia in "La Cumbiamba." There are also a number of percussion duets between Sanabria and the great Tito Puente himself. ¡N.Y.C. Ache! has it all; master craftsmanship tempered with joy, love, and that essential ingredient to great music (and great living), humor.


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