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Tiempo Libre

All About Jazz

Tiempo Libre

All About Jazz

Thursday, June 11, 2009

by All About Jazz

Two-time Grammy-nominated Tiempo Libre is one the hottest young Latin bands today. Equally at home in concert halls, jazz clubs and dance venues, the members of the Miami-based band are true modern heirs to the rich tradition of the music of their native Cuba.

Tiempo Libre's members were all classically trained at La ENA, Cuba's premiere conservatory during a time when it was illegal to listen to American songs on the radio. Now, the group is a hit in the U.S. and abroad, celebrated for its incendiary, joyful performances of timba, an irresistible, dance-

inducing mix of high-voltage Latin jazz and the seductive rhythms of son.
Recently signed to Sony, the group will release a new album Bach in Havana--a fusion of Bach with Afro-Cuban rhythms featuring guest tracks by Paquito d'Rivera and Yosvany Terry--on May 5, 2009. The music of Bach has been an inspiration to the members of Tiempo Libre since their early school days studying in Havana, and many of Bach’s masterpieces make appearances on the album, including the C Major and C Minor Preludes & Fugues from the 1st book of the Well-Tempered Clavier, with the C Major opening onto a sonic world of the interplay of Batá (African percussion); the C Minor propelling an intense ride over the rhythms of guaguanco, a Latinyouthful courtship dance.

In fall, 2008, Tiempo Libre brought its dynamic Afro-Cuban beat to leading flutist Sir James Galway’s album, O’Reilly Street, released by the RCA Red Seal label. The album features an exciting new Latin jazz arrangement of music from the Claude Bolling Jazz Suites including “Baroque and Blue”, as well as a timba take on Bach's “Badinerie” and a number of vibrant new compositions all by Tiempo Libre’s musical director and pianist Jorge Gomez. The result is rich in the traditions of multiple genres, authentic yet emotionally seductive, transcending the borders between classical, jazz and Cuban music.

Following up being named “Best Latin Band 2008” by the Miami New Times, Tiempo Libre brought a true Cuban experience to its American home-town of Miami, with the interactive musical production Miami Libre, which premiered at The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in July, 2008, featuring a cast of 25, including Tiempo Libre’s seven members. Miami Libre, based on the band’s collective immigrant experience, is told through English and Spanish narrative, sizzling music and explosive dance.

Tiempo Libre’s members were all enjoying thriving careers in Latin music performing, touring and recording with such artists as Albita, Cachao, Arturo Sandoval, NG La Banda, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Isaac Delgado, when the seven extraordinary musicians came together to realize their collective musical dream: to create the first authentic all-Cuban timba band in the United States. Their eagerness to share their music with others led these multi-talented individuals to come together between projects to develop their new style together, hence the name Tiempo Libre (Free Time).

Since their formation in 2001, the members of Tiempo Libre have been on a mission: to share the musical heritage in which they grew up with as wide an audience as possible, reinterpreting and reinvigorating traditional Cuban music with a youthful, modern sound and forging a new style born from the meeting of their Cuban roots and their new American experience. In Summer 2002, at their Ravinia Festival debut opening for Celia Cruz, Tiempo Libre dazzled a crowd of more than 12,000 people. They were quickly reengaged by Ravinia for Summer 2003, where they shared a bill with Aretha Franklin, performing before an enthusiastic crowd of 20,000. Summer 2003 also included performances at the new Heineken Jazz Festival in Hua Hin, Thailand where Tiempo Libre were the undeniable sensation of the Festival. Return trips to Asia have included sold out shows at Hong Kong’s Kwai Tsing Theatre and the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas, the glorious concert hall at the foot of the famous twin towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and at the 2005 Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia. Since that time, the group’s busy touring schedule in the United States has included performances at Miami’s JVC Jazz Festival, Yoshi’s in Oakland, CA, SOB’s in New York City, Lincoln Center, Celebrate Brooklyn, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Festival International de Louisiane, Rochester International Jazz Festival, Society of the Performing Arts in Houston, Kimmel Center, Orange County Performing Arts Center, California Center for the Arts, New Haven Jazz Festival, California World Fest, Lotus Music Festival, New York’s River-to-River Festival at the South Street Seaport, as well as the Colorado, Interlochen, Green and Eastern music festivals. August, 2005 brought Tiempo Libre’s European debut. Among the highlights of that tour, was Tiempo Libre’s performance at the closing concert of the new Tuscan Sun Festival in Cortona, Italy where the band wowed a sold-out house. Subsequent tours have brought sold-out houses in Italy, Greece and Turkey.

In January 2005, Tiempo Libre made their debut album on the Shanachie label--Arroz con Mango--which was both a tribute to the deep Cuban roots of Tiempo Libre’s members and a celebration of their new life in the US. Released to universally glowing reviews, Arroz con Mango received tremendous attention in the press and was featured in numerous national publications including Latin Beat, Hispanic Magazine, Jazziz and American Airlines’ American Way Magazine. They performed songs from the new album on many of the highest-rated Spanish-language shows and were featured on NPR’s Latino USA. Fulfilling the meaning of its title (“arroz con mango” is a Cuban slang expression meaning something completely out of the ordinary), the album was nominated for a 2006 Grammy Award in the category of Best Salsa/Meringue Album. One year later, the band released Lo Que Esperabas--What You’ve Been Waiting For. And, once again, its title proved prophetic when the group was nominated for its second Grammy, this time for Best Latin Tropical album.

In Spring 2007, Tiempo Libre embarked upon another exciting project, the creation of a new work--Rumba Sinfónica-- for symphony orchestra and Cuban band. The composition, a collaboration with the highly-respected Venezuelan classical composer Ricardo Lorenz, was commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, the Ravinia Festival and the Festival of the Arts Boca. Since its premiere in Minneapolis in November, 2007, Tiempo Libre has performed Rumba Sinfónica with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Portland (ME) Symphony and the San Antonio Symphony. Tiempo Libre’s 2008-2009 season includes additional performances of Rumba Sinfónica with the DuPage Symphony and the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, as well as concerts at the Robert Mondavi Winery as part of the Festival del Sole, a return to the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, PA and performances in Princeton, NJ, Atlanta, GA, Malibu, CA, Charlotte, NC, Huntington, NY, Albany, NY, Columbus, GA and Jonesboro, AR, to mention just a handful.

In addition to their performing and recording careers, the members of Tiempo Libre are particularly committed to the sharing of their rich musical traditions through outreach and educational activities. This season, Tiempo Libre will be part of the artist in residence program at Michigan State University and Interlochen Academy. The group has also become known for its inspiring classes on rumba, Latin jazz and traditional Cuban music, designed to reach audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

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