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Tiempo Libre

DownBeat

Cuban–American Tiempo Libre Fires Up Bach-Fused Timba

DownBeat

Monday, June 01, 2009

by Frank-John Hadley

When Miami-based Tiempo Libre signed to Sony Masterworks last December, it would have been expected for the band to bring solid AfroCuban timba to wider audiences. But the seven Cuban émigrés, together since 2001, took a surprising turn toward the baroque on the new disc Bach In Havana. “We mix everything,” said bandleader/keyboardist Jorge Gomez. Tiempo Libre’s fiery conflation of Johann Sebastian Bach works with traditional Cuban sounds, Latin jazz and pop. It isn’t a huge stretch. Cuba has a long tradition of embracing European classical music and the members of Tiempo Libre studied at Havana’s prestigious
National School of the Arts, where Bach’s music is respected. Bach was heard at Gomez’s home, too, as his father, Jorge Gomez Labrana, is a respected classical pianist. Evenings found the students caught up in Afro-Cuban music at dances and religious ceremonies. “It was inevitable that the two would eventually merge creatively,” Gomez said. “We revere Bach for his musical genius. He was composing works for his contemporaries as a popular artist, while also creating deeply religious compositions. He was fascinated with dance rhythms, which makes him an even more powerful inspiration.” Tiempo Libre’s take on “Minuet In G” and
“Mass In B Minor” fuse Bach with Cuban dances, including bata, bolero, danzón, guaguanco, son and timba. Guest saxophonists Yosvany Terry and Paquito D’Rivera also add to Bach In Havana’s improvisational direction. The group, whose name translates as “free time,” was one of the first bands to specialize in timba. Gomez called timba “a combination of the Buena Vista Social Club and Chick Corea.” He drew a distinction between timba and betterknown salsa: “We have different instruments. We play electronic keyboards, and the bass has five or six strings, looking for a big sound. We’re more energetic and more jazzy. We have
a lot of solos.”


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