skip navigation

Tiempo Libre


Tiempo Libre: Bach in Havana


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tiempo Libre’s Bach in Havana will be released on May 5th. The band reimagines classic works by composer Johann Sebastian Bach as vivid Afro-Cuban jazz and salsa numbers. The Grammy-nominated, seven-piece ensemble studied classical music at Havana’s La ENA conservatory. At night they played timba, Latin jazz, rumba, and tambores, all styles forbidden at the conservatory due to their Afro-Cuban roots. This merging of classical, African, and Latin styles is flawlessly reflected in the songs on Bach In Havana.

Often when an album’s press release begins with the band’s “compelling story”, it means the music isn’t interesting enough to capture attention on its own. That is far from the case here. The fact that members of Tiempo Libre grew up secretly listening to and playing music that was under ban in Cuba, fled to Miami to form their band, and served as inspiration for a musical about immigrants are minor points compared to the innovative and captivating music they create.

The pristine opening notes of “Tu Conga Bach” (inspired by Bach’s “C Minor Fugue”) quickly jump tempo with the introduction of Conga rhythms and percussion. “Fuga” then places elements of “Sonata in D Minor” into a brassy cha-cha-chá setting. Both tracks feature a menagerie of instruments, including the tinny clang of a cowbell.

“Air on a G String” is perhaps the most recognizable piece by Bach, reinterpreted here as a serene yet rhythmic bolero ballad featuring Paquito d’Rivera (who guests on several tracks) on alto saxophone. The buoyant son style of “Gavotte” disguises “French Suite No. 5 in G Major, BWV 1068:IV” – yes, I’m pulling the titles from the liner notes. I love classical music, but my knowledge of the genre isn’t that detailed.

The hushed shuffle-tap start of “Mi Orisha” melts into a beautiful, intricate piano melody before a burst of horns fleshes out the arrangement. “Minuet in G” is the other Bach song most familiar to me, here blooming from a saucy rumba instrumental into a robust, echoing vocal. The haunting finale “Kyrie” soars with a choir of voices before gliding into another elegant blend of classical piano and Latin rhythms.

I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples at the links below.

read the full article: Muruch