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Puentes Brothers: Morumba Cubana

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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Thanks to a recently concluded distribution deal with Ryko in the United States, the smaller Canadian label, Alma will be releasing some of its wonderful catalogue to discerning American and worldwide listeners. Some of this features relatively older recordings, like Puentes Brothers' Morumba Cubana (Alma, 2000). Listeners will soon see it was well worth the wait. This is a very important Cuban 'son' document, especially for those listeners who push the envelope and refuse to be satisfied with 'safe' records. In a discerning record collector's shelf this record ought to feature along side the much earlier recordings of Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Pinero, Arsenio Rodrigues and Beny More and other musicians who put their stamp on Cuban 'son' and brought this music and its derivative rumba—in all its wondrous forms—to the rest of the world.

The Puentes Brothers: twins, Alexis and Adonis are exquisite singers and play numerous instruments—from tres and a host of traditional Cuban and other South American percussion instruments to nylon string guitar and acoustic bass. But it is as composers and arrangers and of course as masters of Cuban 'son' that they deserve their widest recognition. 'Son' is the authentic Cuban music. It is a blend of the Spanish 'cancion' that became enlivened, once appropriated by Cuba, by the spectacularly primal rhythms of Bantu and Arara percussion from the Oriente province of Cuba and the crepuscular 'Changui,' music from the Guantanamo province—a clear sign that Haitian culture is so embedded in the music of Cuba.

The Puentes are among the most celebrated vocalists in Cuba today. Not many voices come even close to their velvet sophistication. Here they are joined by a group of very accomplished musicians—including Jane Bunnett (flute), Hilario Duran (piano), the legendary 'bata' drummer Pancho Quinto and Horacio 'El Negro' Hernandez on drums as well as a rare appearance by the record's producer, Peter Cardinali on accordion. There is not a bad track among the dozen songs documented here. Morumba Cubana is a master-class on Cuban 'son' and its many-splendored derivative rumba. There is much 'duende' in the renditions of the mostly new music. The rhythmic intensity drives one to ecstasy. It is not difficult to see why the Puentes are celebrated in Cuba and elsewhere.

"Oye Rumberito" and "Love Crazy" classic rumba 'guaguanco' are outrageously flirtatious, sensuous and exquisitely executed like at steamy carnival in Santiago. Just as unforgettable is the gorgeous and balladic "Desatino" and "A Mi Melancolia" stir the deepest emotions and touch the very soul. "La Rumba Primero" features a masterful tres solo by Alexis Puentes and has memorable, inner rhythmic shifts. "El Loco Bailarin (Crazy Dancer)" has a terrific pure jazz moment when Hilario Duran dazzles with his virtuosity before the music is returned to its 'son' form. On "Esta Noche," Duran is outstanding again. And this is just some of the fare.

Extras such as the video track featuring "Oye Rumberito" make this a truly valuable record for the connoisseur's collection.

Track Listing: Asegurate; Oye Rumberito; Desatino; La Rumba Primero; Love Crazy; Timba En Trampa; A Mi Melancolia; Corazon En Fuga (Samba); El Loco Bailarin (Crazy Dancer; Son Para Nuestros Hijos; Encomienda; Esta Noche.

Personnel: Alexis Puentes: acoustic and electric bass, nylon string guitar, tres, maracas, clave, chequere, bombo, leguero, guiro, egg and all arrangements; Adonis Puentes: bongos and maracas; Leon Torres Quintero: congas and cowbell; Humberto Mendonza: congas (on Esta Noche); Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez: drums; Peter Cardinali; accordion and producer; Pancho Quinto: bata drums; Professor W. Andrew Schloss: surdo and agogo; Jane Bunnett: flute; Javier Zalba: flute solos; Armando Delfin: trumpet; Hilario Duran: piano; Lead Vocals: Adonis Puentes and Alexis Puentes; Background Vocals: Humberto Mendonza, Adonis Puentes and Alexis Puentes; Marie Berard, Annalee Patipatanakoon and Erika Raum: violins; Douglas Perry: viola; Roman Borys: cello; String Arrangements: Rick Wilkins (except Timba En Trampa: Rick Wilkins and Peter Cardinali); Jamie Hopkings: copyist.

Title: Morumba Cubana | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Alma Records

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