Afro-Cuban All Stars | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Afro-Cuban All Stars


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Years before Ry Cooder's marketable name sparked the current American craze for Cuban music, producer Nick Gold of World Circuit Records was laying the groundwork, releasing great records like the 1994 album ÁDundunbanza! by the wonderful son revival group Sierra Maestra. That band's musical director at the time, tres player Juan de Marcos Gonzalez, would later do Cooder's grunt work, tracking down the musicians who'd record Buena Vista Social Club under the name Afro-Cuban All Stars--and happily the All Stars' second album, Distinto, Diferente (World Circuit/Nonesuch), bears his name prominently. Unlike Buena Vista Social Club or its Cooderless corelease A toda Cuba le gusta, the new album pulls in excellent contemporary players--like flutist Orlando "Maracas" Valle, a bandleader in his own right who's played with Jesus Alema–y's Cubanismo!, and singer Pedrito Calvo of Los Van Van--in addition to faves like Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez, Barbarito Torres, and Omara Portuondo. Likewise, it reaches beyond the revivalism of the previous effort to more accurately reflect the diversity of modern Cuban music. There's a classic son montuno by the great Arsenio Rodriguez, "Tumba palo cocuye," but "Reconciliacion," by Gonzalez and Lazaro Villa, incorporates sections of timba, the hot current dance style. There's also the instrumental Afro-Cuban jazz ("Gandinga, mondongo y sandunga"), European-flavored danzon ("Variaciones sobre un tema desconocido"), folksy guajira ("Al vaiven de me carreta"), and voice-and-percussion-dominated canto abakua, or ritual music for the abakua religion ("Warariansa"). The 17-piece group Gonzalez is touring with lacks the marquee names but features most of the core musicians on the record. Thursday, April 6, 8 PM, Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State; 312-443-1130 or 312-559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Cristina Piza.

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