Grammy nominated pianist Roberto Fonseca has been exploring and celebrating the music of his native Cuba for some time as a composer, producer, solo artist and collaborator with other Latin American music luminaries, bringing forth richly melodic compositions and recordings that capture the irrepressible Cuban sound and its rich musical history. His latest effort "ABUC" continues, and as the title is Cuba spelled backwards, this present effort might be said to "look backward at the evolution of Cuban jazz," with Fonseca writing or co-writing nearly all 14 of the tracks. "I wanted to review the Cuban music history - not only the styles that have influenced me most, but in a broader sense, so people could have a better idea of how the orchestras used to sound in those times." Its a wonderful mix of material with also Fonseca attempting to capture sound of music when audio technology was not so advanced.
Things start on a very hot note with Ray Bryant's "Cubano Chant" with the heat of the performance including a fiery solo from guest Trombone Shorty. "Afro Mambo" is just as raucous, with spirited vocal performances by Daymé Arocena and Carlos Calunga amid the orchestration. "The challenge was to make it sound like the orchestras from the 1940s and 1950s. We invited to EGREM one of the studio's oldest technicians, who really taught us how they recorded back in the day. ...It was really sonic time traveling!" Listening to this one might be forgiven for thinking that Fonseca spliced an older recording onto this performance. "Tumbao de la Unidad," with Eliades Ochoa on guitar and vocal, is Fonseca's call for unity among all cultures set at a much more relaxed tempo, and followed by "Contradanza del Espiritu," which opens with some morose violin before horns set a more stately feeling here with this listener be reminded of Dr. John's performance of "Litanie Des Saints" that was inspired by 18th century composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Fonseca's piano playing, and use of delay, reverb and other enhancements engenders an unusual feel here.
"Tierra Santa" tells the story of a musician from Santiago de Cuba who's invited to play in New Orleans, where he discovers an amazing wind ensemble playing in the streets. "He's awestruck, and he rapidly imagines home these melodies would sound with the Santiago conga rhythm." With the insistent, distinctive congas beat, it comes off almost as a blend Afro-Cuban jazz with Fela Kuti's funk and horns, and a highlight on this exceptional recording. "Family," inspired by memories of listening to the radio at home with his mother when he was a boy in the 1970s and the performance displays a fusion of musical styles with hot trumpet in the accompaniment.
Other noteworthy performances include "Soul Guardians," a melodious performance with an incorporation of a variety of influences, including rap, hip-hop and reggae-ton. The spirited "Asere Monina Bonco" has brilliant flute work from Policarpo "Polo" Tamayo, who passed away shortly after the album was finished along with some very impressive bass playing. The lovely bolero, "Después," has Mercedes Cortés Alfaro, Fonseca's mother, on vocals along with the brilliant Manuel "Guajiro" Mirabal on trumpet. Fonseca's brief solo piano reprise of "Cubano Chant," is the coda for the superb "ABUC." which is highly recommended to lovers of Afro-Cuban music and Latin jazz.
I received a download from a publicist for review purposes. Enjoy this a video for "Afro Mambo."