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This disc of traditional Cuban music is another of the stellar releases coming in the wake of the excellent Buena Vista Social Club documentary. While the music on this disc might not qualify as “jazz” in some listener’s minds, Cuban music has a powerful pedigree in jazz circles; it had an inarguable influence on the development of Latin jazz from Dizzy Gillespie onwards. The magnificent songs onHavana Caféillustrate just how vital this music was to the evolution of Latin jazz, not to mention they are guaranteed to make you want to get up and rumba.
Barbarito Torres is the Buena Vista Social Club’s laudista: a player of the laud, a 12-stringed instrument related to the Arabic oud but with the bright, ringing tones of a mandolin or 12-string guitar. The sound of the laud is a key part of the deep buoyancy found in Cuban music, pushing songs along with repetitive melodic motifs or resonant lead lines. Torres is a master of the craft with an acute sense of musical tradition and restraint. His usual ensemble is magnificent, their richness of sound evoking tropical beaches, good cigars and, yes, Havana cafes. And when the band is augmented by guests like Buena Vista vocalists Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo and Pio Leyva, the party gets bumped up a few notches. Torres’ music is fun, sentimental, simply wondrous, a worthwhile extension of the Buena Vista spirit of alégria.
Track Listing: Hijo del Siboney; La calabaza; Sarandonga; Corazon de chivo; El amor de mi bohio; Lagrimas negras; Pensando en ti; Yo no se; Sublime ilusion; Camina pa
Personnel: Barbarito Torres, laud, acoustic guitar; Victor Villa, vocals, bass; Conchita Torres, vocals; Sonia Perez Cassola, background vocals; Nilso Arias, vocals, guitar; Onelio Arias, tres; Pedro Vargas Oliva, percussion; Pio Leyva (#4, 11), Ibrahim Ferrer (#5, 7), Omara Portuondo (#6), guest vocals; Frank Emilio Flynn, piano (#6, 8); Luis