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Nachito Herrera: Bemb

Chris May By

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Nachito Herrera conceived this recording as an exposition of eleven different Cuban song forms—from bolero and cha-cha-cha through guaracha and guanguanco, with a strong admixture of jazz throughout—but any danger of Bembé En Mi Casa coming on like a college lecture disappears with track one, note one. A campus riot would be a more accurate description. Like the title track says, "Party at mine!" The music starts out hot and passionate and stays that way, with only brief pauses for reflection throughout (eg. the ballad "Nostalgia" and the piano-plus-string quartet danzon "Llegaron Los Millonarios").

Herrera's a big man of ebullient appearance, and his music sounds like he looks: broad, brassy, vigorous, and extroverted. His piano style evokes something of the early jazz barrelhouse players: two fists on fire, romping all over the keyboard. His arrangements are similarly hard-hitting—even without overdubbing, the six instrumentalists in the lineup sound like a band twice that size. He has superb chops and he knows the rivers and tributaries of Cuban music with equal intimacy.

Born in Santa Clara in '66, Herrera took a Masters in Music at Havana's Instituto Superior De Arte and worked with the Tropicana and Valentin orchestras before moving to the US, where he's based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is his first solo shot in the international spotlight in the wake of his involvement with ¡Cubanismo!—and as noted above, he uses the opportunity to celebrate a broad sweep of Cuban music.

Featured styles include Afro-Cuban jazz, pilon, bembe, guaracha, danzon, guaguanco, cha-cha-cha, and bolero. Most of the tunes are originals, but on half of them Herrera modestly takes arranging rather than composing credits, preferring to pay "in the style of" homages to Rafael Hernandez (the guaracha "Capullito De Aleli"), Antonio Arcano (the danzon "Llegaron Los Millonarios"), Richard Egues and Enrique Jorrin ("Potpourri De Cha-Cha-Cha"), and Ernesto Lecuona (the bolero "Estas En Mi Corazon"). They're all superb, in-the-tradition, party-hard workouts. Drummer Jesus Diaz's deep African groove "Guanguanco Para Ochun" is another standout track, as is the album's ferociously hot jazz opener, "Song In F," and pan-Caribbean closer, "Ritmo Caliente."

From Havana to Minnesota, Herrera's international trajectory is only just beginning, and Bembé En Mi Casa is a Class A blast off.


Track Listing: Song In F; Nacho's Pilon; Big News; Nostalgia; Bembe En Mi Casa; Capullito De Aleli; Llegaron Los Millonarios; Guaguanco Para Ochun; Potpourri De Cha-Cha-Cha; Estas En Mi Corazon; Ritmo Caliente.

Personnel: Ignacio "Nachito" Herrera: piano, arrangements; Raul Pineda: drums, timbales; Jesus Diaz: congas, vocals, percussion; Nardy Castellini: saxophone; Adalberto Lara: trumpet; Victor Rodriguez: electric bass; Mirdalys Herrera: vocals; Rigoberto Lopoez: acoustic bass (7); Bruce Allard: violin (7); Johanna Shelton: violin (7); Tamas Strasser: viola (7); Diane Tremaine-Kogle: cello (7).

Title: Bemb | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: FS Music

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