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Tiempo Libre

Tiempo Libre: Back (with a k) to Havana  Also: Miguel Zenón in Chicago This Week

Sunday, June 21, 2015

by Bill Tilford

Tiempo Libre burst on the US scene in the new millenium as a pretty hard-hitting Timba band before recording the Cuban/Classical fusion project Bach in Havana. Bach was a wonderful album, and it was  justifiably acclaimed for that, but it also frightened away some of its Timbero fan base in the process at the same time that it gained entry into some really excellent concert halls and media appearances.  Its 2011 album, My Secret Radio (also a wonderful album) was a giant step towards the general direction of its origins, and Panamericano  fully commits to getting bach, er, back to something pretty close to what the early version of the band was all about. I must confess that when I saw that this was also their first recording for Universal, I opened the disc with just a twinge of trepidation, with visions of possible obligatory Bachata fillers and whatnot dancing in my head.  But no, it appears that the label let them be themselves (KUDOS, Universal!); Jorge Gómez, the leader, not only produced, he also recorded the album.  Even the non-Timba choices are interesting picks.

Panamericano  comes charging out of the gate with Monta Que Te Quedas, a Timba track that brings you back to the feel of the original group. Yo Estoy Aquí is what might have been called Bolero-Canción or Rock-Canción in Cuba a few decades back complete with vocal stylings that will be a matter of  taste (just like back in the day; the girls will probably love it, we middle-aged trombonists, maybe not so much).. Somebody To Love (yes, the lyrics are in English too) brings to mind the Latin Rock groups (Malo for example) in California in the 70s including a nice quickie California-style keyboard break.  Callejero, featuring rapper Mr. Haka,  is similar to what some of the best  Fusion bands are doing these days in both Cuba and Miami.   I'll let others argue in the chat rooms about whether to label El Loco Cuban Salsa or Timba, but it's a solid track either way. There's no room for doubt in Rema,  Dime Que No and Quién Soy Yo, though - this is that romping band that first caught our ear a decade ago.   Quién Soy Yo features special guest Descemer Bueno in a nice Conga Fusion piece. Grandpa closes the album with a very pretty Danzón including  a nice flute solo by guest Fabian Álvarez.

Now, before we get judgmental about the non-Timba material in the album, let's try a taste, and remember that almost no bands are doing all-Timba recordings anymore.  

I don't know about you, but in a mostly-Timba album,  I'll take this over a Bachata or some ballady thing  (ESPECIALLY in English) any day, thank you very much. Bachata should be left to the full-time Bachateros who genuinely love what they do.  I forgive TL for Yo Estoy Aquí because I remember some of Van Van's early (and occasionally strange) experiments with canciones, and, as I said, some of the girls may really dig it. If this is the track that really takes off, TL will have the last laugh, and if it isn't, at least it's authentic in its own way.  

If you like Dime Que No,  I should tell you that there are a couple of the other Timba tracks that I like even more.  What that tells you is that Panamericano deserves your serious attention as an album.

Songs (all are compositions of various band members):

  1. Monta Que Te Quedas
  2. Yo Estoy Aquí
  3. Somebody To Love
  4. Callejero
  5. El Loco
  6. Remo
  7. Gallo Fino
  8. Dime Que No
  9. Grandpa

Personnel in Panamericano

Role - InstrumentName
Musical Director, Piano, Sequencers, CorosJorge Gómez
Congas, Bongo, Percussion, CorosLeandro González
Lead Vocal, CorosXavier Milli
TimbalesIsrael Morales
BassWilber Rodríguez
Tenor SaxLuís Beltrán
TrumpetRaúl Rodriguez
Guest ArtistsLuís Fernando Borjas (vocal, 1); Armando Arce (drums, 1); Yunel Cruz (vocal, 3); Frankie J (vocal, 3); Sergio Chaple (sax, 2); Mr. Haka (rap, 4); Descemer Bueno (vocal, 7); Fabián Álvarez (flute, 10); Armano García (coros, 10); Jean Rodríguez (vocal, 8); Michel Peraza (vocal, guitar 6)
Musical Producer, RecordingJorge Gómez, Mi Casa Records, Miami Beach, FL
Vocal RecordingJean Rodríguez, Jeanius Vox Lab Studios, Miami, FL
Mixing and MasteringJuan Cristobal Loada, Alfonso Ordoñez, Sonic Projects, Miami, FL