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Tiempo Libre

Jupiter Index

Blending Jazz and Classical Music Together

Jupiter Index

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The two-time Grammy-nominated Tiempo Libre ("Free Time") is one of the leading proponents of timba music, a jazz-based Afro-Cuban dance form that was birthed in 1980s Cuba. The band, featuring the core members of Jorge Gomez (band leader/arranger/keyboardist), Joaquin "El Kid de la Salsa" Diaz (lead vocals), Leandro Gonzalez (congas), and Tebelio "Tony" Fonte (bass), were classically trained in Havana and also had an ear for their native Cuban music and the American sounds of jazz and rock. Formed in 2001, the Miami-based group quickly became heralded as the first all-Cuban timba group in the U.S. and the new ambassadors of Cuban music.
Tiempo Libre has toured the world over, including South America, Europe, Asia, and North America, winning rave reviews for their rich and intoxicating eclectic stew of Latin and American musical forms and spirited, joyful stage performances. Their albums Arroz con Mango and What You've Been Waiting For/Lo Que Esperabas met with critical respect, and they have also worked with several Latin giants such as Celia Cruz, Arturo Sandoval, Cachao, Albita, NG La Banda, and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. The band's diversity and appreciation of different musical sounds is demonstrated through their covers of the Beatles' "Hey Jude" and Aldalberto Alvarez's classic cha cha cha "A Bayamo en Coche" set next to original compositions such as "Ven a Bailar."

Recently, Tiempo Libre provided Latin jazz backings to classical flutist Sir James Galway's O'Reilly Street and have created an ambitious effort in fusing European classical music with Latin grooves on their new album Bach En Havana.

Along with other US-based timba bands such as Lisandro y su Tratado, Habana NRG, and La Timba Loca, Tiempro Libre are dedicated to spreading the hot-powered timba sound to the masses, the sound of their people and heritage. In a recent interview with Jupiter Index, the leader and musical arranger of the group, Jorge Gomez, shared his insights about their recent release of Bach En Havana and some of his best memories music.

Jupiter Index: What makes this new CD special for you and the band?
Jorge Gomez: This album is a journey back to our childhood. It's remembering the beginning of music in our lives, it is like closing our eyes and walking through our classrooms, dreaming, laughing, living a dream...which has now become reality. With this CD, not only do we want people to hear Bach anew, through Tiempo Libre, we want them to live what we lived during all those years - with Bach in our hearts and Cuba in our souls.
Was there a song that was hard to play or record in the studio?
Each one had it's own interpretive difficulty, but track #4 - clave in c minor, is particularly difficult. You really have to practice it hard before playing it. I love it!!

At this time, what are your ten best memories in music?
I don't know about ten, but some are:
1) Practicing, practicing, 3 or 4 hours a day.

2) Listening to the music of the great composers -- Bartok, Liszt, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Bach -- with my father.

3) Playing with my first group (Kaliz) in the festival jazz plaza in Havana.

4) Going to play at the toques de santo (ceremonies of the orishas), playing cajones (wooden boxes played like drums at the ceremonies) - what intense pain in your hands! But what a lasting joy!

5) When, at age 4, they made me choose between the violin and the piano - I broke the violin - and the piano was so big! Many memories.

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