Orquestra America: The Legends of Cuban Music

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You get box sets with everything these days and most of them just gather dust, or seem designed to please dusty-eared archivists with rampant completist's syndrome. However this superb collection is designed to capture - before they fade away forever - the creators of a style that swept the world around the Second World War. Putting this line-up together is a little like making a couple of calls and being able to record Glenn Miller's original band today.

Latin music specialists Tumi have assembled the very best of "roots" Cuban musicians (backed by the Forties-formed Orquestra) to revive the ace Cuban rhythms: the bolero, chachacha, danzon, and guaracha. Major stars like Celina Gonzalez, Chucho Valdez, and Felix Reina join the current generation of Orquestra America players - no Cuban chickens themselves - to recreate the sound of the hottest dancefloors ever: the forties Havana ballrooms. If you enjoyed World Circuit's recent releases centred on the equally legendary octogenarian pianist Ruben Gonzalez, you'll enjoy these 49 tracks as well.

But don't expect slick, big band sophistication. Cuban music has always revolved around natural feel, and call and response playing from musicians who watch the crowd to spot what works best. Tumi's mixture of cost-effective recording and the band's decades of familiarity with the base rhythms lets a single flute sound like a wind section, and a couple of fiddles outline string lines with confidence.

Divided by rhythms, each disc acts as a kind of primer for a style, each with its history and character comprehensively annotated in the accompanying 20 page booklet. And unlike so much modern salsoul-derived latin music, this is music for lovers as well as dancers - sultry, romantic and seductive.

Record Label: Tumi Music

Style: Latin/World


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