Afro-Cuban, Alt-Rock, Bossa Nova, Cumbia, Forró, Hip-Hop, Latin, Merengue, Pop, Record Reviews, Rock, Samba, Tropicalismo/Tropicália, World Music
On his most diverse release to date, Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler—best known Stateside for being the sole composer to date to win an Oscar for a non-English song—goes into various musical styles to convey his message. The title song mixes electronic and folk elements with a syncopated beat and a catchy chorus, while “Bolivia” blends forró and cumbia. A berimbau (a Brazilian instrument commonly used in capoeira meets) leads the beat.
Legendary Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso makes a cameo appearance toward two verses in Spanish with a melody that goes against the song’s entire form. “La Luna de Rasquí” is an upbeat tune with Afro-Caribbean elements that is sure to get you moving. “Universos Paralelos” is arguably the most inventive track–it begins with an easygoing samba-like feel and the vocals of Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux (who seems to be all over Latin pop lately) comes almost out of nowhere to give her bit on the topic of star-crossed lovers. Read the rest of this entry »
Cuban jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca is one of those talents you cannot put in a specific corner. Sure, his groove has a lot of his Latin roots (especially in the percussive manner in which he plays the keyboards), but he surprises you at every turn, as heard on his 2013 album “Yo” (Concord), where he showcases influences from American jazz and Afro-Cuban polyrhythms, to African music and samba.
For instance, the gentle ballad “Así Es La Vida” is reminiscent of the work of Herbie Hancock, but “Rachel” has elements of electronic music taken up a notch. “Quien Soy Yo” blends a lot of sounds, and even features a cavaquinho (a Brazilian instrument that could be considered a cousin of the ukulele), while elements of African music (with the participation of singer Fatoumata Diawara, Baba Sissoko on n’goni and Sekou Kouyate on kora) are peppered throughout. Read the rest of this entry »
Sun Ra Orchestra alum Francisco Mora Catlett is a highly talented drummer and composer, and his AfroHorn project is where he explores his creativity, painting a musical canvas that turns listeners into thinkers. Every track brings a surprise, and even after repeated listens sounds still pop up at you unexpectedly. The tunes on “Rare Metal” are permeated with Yoruba chants which not only frame the music but seem to be a source of inspiration for each composition. This should not be considered a simple contemporary jazz disc, as the music is too adventurous to be cleanly labeled. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Sven Creutzmann
The descendants of Haitian immigrants that settled in Cuba until the late fifties, The Creole Choir of Cuba is a ten-piece ensemble of voices and percussion who sing the music of their ancestors in a highly personal manner. Singing in Creole (Haiti’s second language), their lyrics speak about their history and heritage. Some songs were written centuries ago, while others, like “Tande,” were composed to talk about the cruel years of the Duvalier regime. Read the rest of this entry »
Master percussionist, maestro and drummer Bobby Sanabria might come from a classic Latin jazz background (he played with both Dizzy Gillespie and Tito Puente and was a featured musician on the soundtrack for the 1992 film “Mambo Kings”), but that doesn’t stop him from innovating within the format. A clear example of this is “Multiverse,” which takes the music into unexpected directions starting from a very interesting take on Don Ellis’ “The French Connection,” which was the main theme for the Gene Hackman movie of the same name. Read the rest of this entry »
Sound Culture Center for Global Arts is a bit of a misnomer; the center, in fact, is mostly just one guy, David Chavez, working tirelessly to keep Chicago’s international music scene flourishing with high-quality performances.
“For the most part, it’s my blood, sweat and tears,” says Chavez, along with “contributions of a lot of people that have helped me along the way.” About three years ago, Chavez says he saw a void in the city’s music scene. The HotHouse, where he had been a program director for years, had closed down, and Chicago was missing an active agent for promoting both international touring artists and Chicago-based international music artists. So Chavez, a longtime DJ, started Sound Culture, which brings artists to town, books local artists, and organizes acoustic series and music festivals. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Liberto Peiro
For bandleader Bruno Garcia (who is better known as Sergent Garcia—a nickname taken from Zorro’s clueless foe), music is one of the few mediums that has the power of erasing national borders. Through his career, the French-born guitarist has collaborated with musicians from Cuba, Jamaica and other countries that have influenced his sound. Read the rest of this entry »
When vibrationist Stefon Harris, trumpeter Christian Scott and saxophonist David Sanchez traveled to Cuba for a music festival, they met up with several local musicians, including pianists Rember Duharte and Harold Lopez-Nussa, and began rehearsals. The chemistry was so great that they wound up recording nine songs in a tiny Havana studio, and “Ninety Miles” is the result of that encounter. Not surprisingly given the nature of the project, improvisation permeates the record. Read the rest of this entry »