skip navigation

Tiempo Libre

Grand Traverse Insider

Joyful Timba

Grand Traverse Insider

Monday, April 15, 2013


Cuban band planning dance party at Milliken

TRAVERSE CITY – Look up timba online, and this is what you’ll find: A Cuban genre of music based on popular Cuban music along with salsa, American funk/R&B, and the strong influence of Afro-Cuban folkloric music.

If that definition seems a little stuffy, well, no worries. Attend the concert at Milliken Auditorium April 20 by Tiempo Libre, and you’ll see and hear what the definition really is.

Just bring your dancing shoes, because the band promises listeners will want to get on their feet and become one with the music.

The group’s press material says “There hasn't been a concert yet where people haven't gotten out of their seats to dance in the aisles.” A bit much? Then think on the fact the group prides itself on getting crowds dancing when performing with symphony orchestras, as it did four years ago at Interlochen.

Jorge Gómez, the group’s pianist and founder, said then, “I’m looking forward to seeing the crowd dancing. They’re going to sing with us and dance with us. It’s like a Cuban party.”

Gene Jenneman, executive director of Dennos Museum, echoed those thoughts when mentioning the group’s upcoming show prior to Carolyn Leonhart’s performance at Milliken April 6, calling it “a show you won’t want to miss.”

Tiempo Libre is now entering its second decade with a raft of honors. The group has received three Grammy nominations. It recorded the duet “Para Tí” with virtuoso violin player Joshua Bell for Bell’s album, At Home With Friends, and performed with Bell on The Tonight Show and the Live From Lincoln Center PBS broadcast.

It has also performed on NPR, at The Hollywood Bowl, at Jazz at Lincoln Center, as well as on Dancing with the Stars.

In fact, it even made history when the Cuban family behind the popular coffee Café Bustelo decided for the first time in 80 years to change the Café Bustelo can design to feature the group along with a free download of Tiempo Libre’s music.

The seven-piece group has become known around the world for its joyous, sophisticated, dance-inducing concerts of timba music, which the band defines as a high-energy combination of Latin jazz and traditional Cuban son.

However you define their music, Tiempo Libre has won fans across the world. Gómez founded the group in 2001, enlisting the aid of other Cuban-born, -bred and -trained musicians. The band’s first CD was recorded in a friend’s garage; four years later, it was recording with renowned flutist James Galway for the classical label RCA Red Seal in collaboration with Sony BMG.

All told, Tiempo Libre has recorded a half-dozen albums, from O’Reilly Street with Galway to Bach in Havana, reimagining the baroque strains of the celebrated composer. The album reflects the two worlds of Tiempo Libre’s Cuban musical upbringing: studying classical music at Cuba’s premiere Russian-style conservatories by day, and by night meeting up to play timba, Latin jazz, rumbas and tambores.

Its most recent recording is My Secret Radio, which recalls the members’ teenage years in Cuba, when they improvised antennas out of items like aluminum foil and wire hangers in order to catch broadcasts of American radio coming in from Miami.

Tiempo Libre will offer a performance for schools on Tuesday, April 16, at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. in the Milliken Auditorium of the Dennos Museum Center. Teachers may call Jason Dake at 231-995-1029 or email for information or to reserve tickets for the school performances.

Tickets for the April 20 concert are $25 in advance, $28 at the door or $22 for Museum Members, plus fees. With the purchase of a ticket to this performance, concert goers are invited to visit the museum’s galleries one hour before the concert and attend a post-concert reception with the performers.

Tickets may be purchased by calling the Museum Box office at 231-995-1553, 800-836-0717, or by visiting

For more information about the group, visit

read the full article: Grand Traverse Insider