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Tiempo Libre

A Cuban in London

Tiempo Libre's "Secret Radio" (Review)

A Cuban In London

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Like catching the last train home after a night out on the town. That’s how you’re left feeling after listening to three-time Grammy-nominated Cuban music combo Tiempo Libre’s latest album “Secret Radio”. A warm and pleasant sensation, as if you’ve just had the best ball ever.

Coming hot on the heels of their experimental and ground-breaking “Bach in Havana”, a series of compositions by the late German musician given a Latin makeover, Tiempo Libre returns to their familiar timba sound. Theirs is a powerful mix of foot-tapping Afro-Cuban rhythms with layers of intense and sophisticated jazz. The album’s leitmotif is memory as the band members reminisce upon their adolescent years in ‘special period’ Cuba when US radio stations were still frowned upon by the Cuban government. In its eleven tracks “My Secret Radio” tells the immigrant’s story – from the homemade aluminium aerials with which youngsters tried to catch bits and pieces of music from Miami-based radio stations to the shock of starting life in a new country.

There are a few distinguished guests in the record, too. This proves Tiempo Libre’s mass appeal. The band has appeared at prestigious venues such as the Hollywood Bowl, Jazz at Lincoln Centre, the Ravinia Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. No wonder the likes of Albita Rodriguez and Rachelle Fleming had no second thoughts about collaborating with the seven musicians. The former turns up on “Como Hace Años” (Just Like Years Ago), a mellow, soft little number which is a departure from the band’s emblematic, hard-hitting timba. Rachelle guests on “After the Love is Gone”, a cha-cha-cha version of the chart-topper by Earth, Wind & Fire.

Another outstanding song is the instrumental “Aceite” (Oil). This is a tribute to Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie, two of the key figures in the development of Latin jazz. Like its predecessors, “Arroz con Mango”, “Lo Que Esperabas” and the aforementioned “Bach in Havana”, “Secret Radio” boasts excellent arrangements, solid musicianship and great artistic direction. Enough to leave you with that tingling sensation you get when you come back from a concert late at night and you can’t stop humming the closing number.

© 2011

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