Juan-Carlos Formell: La Calles del Paraiso (2002)
If I were forced to categorize the music of Juan-Carlos Fromell I'd have to call it "Cuban-Lite." It has Spanish lyrics and the rhythms are latin-based, but it lacks the emotional intensity that we have come to expect from Cuban music. It is also overly produced, in much the same manner as so-called "smooth jazz." While it is pleasant and inoffensive, there also isn't much meat to the bone. One comes away from listening to this album wanting much more, like a meal in which only the appetizer course was served.
Fromell has a pleasant voice and he is a superb guitarist. While many have compared him to the Brazilian great Joao Gilberto, that comparison is not apt. Gilberto does sing softly and his famous "stuttering" style of guitar playing holds much in reserve, yet there is always in Gilberto's playing and singing an understated intensity that pushes forward as much as it holds back. With Fromell it is just understatement for understatement's sake. There is also very little music on this cd that can be construed as jazz-based. A possible exception is the bolero, "La Extrema Tristeza de la Tarde," in which there is a prominent improvised bass solo.
Fans of Cuban jazz will want to stick with Pachito D'Rivera and Arturo Sandoval. And with a running time of only 46 minutes, Las Calles del Paraiso lacks much more than only rhythmic and musical intensity.
Track Listing: Las Calles del Para
Personnel: Juan-Carlos Formell, vocals, guitar; Tommy Moran, pedal steel guitar; David O'Quendo, coro; Dafnis Prieto, percussion; Yosvany Terry, tenor sax; Rick Faulkner, trombone; Lisandro Arias, piano; Horacio "El Negro" Hern