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Tiempo Libre

Austin Post

Muy Caliente! Cuban Group Tiempo Libre and the Austin Symphony

Austin Post

Monday, October 10, 2011

by Anonymous

The three-time Grammy nominated Cuban music group Tiempo Libre and the Austin Symphony, conducted by Peter Bay will celebrate Cuba’s musical heritage with a joyous symphonic concert on Friday, Oct. 21 at 8:00 pm at Dell Hall at The Long Center for Performing Arts, 701 W. Riverside Dr. The concert is part of the Sarah & Ernest Butler Pops Series.

Tiempo Libre and the Austin Symphony will perform a medley of traditional cha-cha-chás, traditional sones (including “El Manicero”, “Son de la Loma” and “Guantanamera”) arranged by Tiempo Libre’s Jorge Gómez in collaboration with Raul Murciano, as well as selections from Tiempo Libre’s Grammy-nominated Bach in Havana, which uniquely fuses Cuban music and Bach and was featured on Dancing with the Stars.

Tiempo Libre will also play some of its Grammy-nominated timba  music without the orchestra, featuring songs from recently released "My Secret Radio" as well as selections from the group’s three Grammy-nominated albums "Bach in Havana," "Lo Que Esperabas" and "Arroz Con Mango."

Ten years after forming the first all-Cuban timba group in the U.S., having earned three Grammy nominations, and having performed on NPR, at The Hollywood Bowl, at Jazz at Lincoln Center, as well as TV's "The Tonight Show" and "Dancing with the Stars," Tiempo Libre's musicians are truly living the American dream. They have become known around the world for their joyous dance-inducing concerts of timba music – a high-energy, sophisticated combination of Latin jazz and traditional Cuban "son." There hasn't been a concert yet where people haven't gotten out of their seats to dance in the aisles. The band was thrilled to see this held true at a concert in Malaysia, when they spotted burka clad women dancing to their infectious music at the back of the theater.

It’s fitting that they should come full circle back to classical music.  The members of the Miami-based group were all classically trained in Cuba’s premiere Russian-style conservatories.  It is that rigorous classical background which has allowed the group to perform with classical superstars and leading orchestras around the world, including the National Arts Centre, Dallas Symphony and Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestras and the DuPage, Syracuse, Portland (ME), San Antonio, North Carolina and Hartford Symphonies.

Tiempo Libre was invited to collaborate on the duet “Para Tí” with violinist Joshua Bell, which was featured on Bell’s September album "At Home with Friends." The group also performed the track with Bell on the Live From Lincoln Center: Joshua Bell @ Home with Friends PBS Special and on WNYC radio’s popular program "Soundcheck." In the fall of 2008, Tiempo Libre brought its dynamic Afro-Cuban beat to leading flautist Sir James Galway’s album, "O’Reilly Street," released by the RCA Red Seal label.

The Cuban government forbade its citizens to listen to American radio when the members of Tiempo Libre were growing up in Cuba.  But, like teenagers everywhere, that which was forbidden was what the members of Tiempo Libre most desired. The Cuban teenagers fashioned antennas out of salvaged aluminum foil and clothes hangers and climbed up on their rooftops secretly at night to tune into the music which pulsated from Miami airwaves. This music of the night fueled their dreams of living in America and ultimately gave them the strength to leave it all behind – families, friends, a country, a life – to pursue those dreams.

Released May 3 on SonyMasterworks, Tiempo Libre's new album "My Secret Radio" is an Afro-Cuban love letter to the music heard on American radio stations. Through the album, the seven musicians express the thrill they received from their secret rooftop radio sessions as well as the difficulties they faced having to start from scratch in America, a culture so foreign and different from Cuba.

Their previous album, "Bach in Havana," also draws on their classical upbringing.   The Latin jazz album takes Bach as a starting point from which to explore a wide range of Cuban music forms and rhythms and features guest tracks with Yosvany Terry and Paquito D’Rivera.  The album is a true reflection of the two worlds of Tiempo Libre’s Cuban musical upbringing: studying classical by day and by night meeting up to play timba and Latin jazz.  

In Spring 2009, the group earned another high-octane accolade: The Cuban family behind Café Bustelo decided for the first time in 80 years to change the Café Bustelo can design to feature the group a long with a free download from "Bach in Havana."

Childhood friends, Tiempo Libre’s members individually fled from Cuba and eventually reunited in Miami where they enjoyed thriving careers performing, touring and recording with such artists as Albita, Cachao and Arturo Sandoval. In their “free time,” (or Tiempo Libre in Spanish) the seven musicians would come together to realize their collective musical dream of forming the first all-Cuban timba group in the U.S. Moving against a tide of predictions that a broad musical audience would not embrace the timba music native to their homeland, they formed their group in 2001. Ten years later, they are universally recognized as leading creators and performers of timba music outside of Cuba.  

And they know who they are. On the title track of the Grammy-nominated "Arroz Con Mango" – the band’s members ask themselves, as immigrants, “who am I?” when the details which define a life are no longer at hand.    And the joyful response is: “No matter where I am, I am Cuban by birth, I am the rhythm I carry inside me.”

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