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Tiempo Libre

Bach In Havana

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

by Matt Rowe

Johann Sebastian Bach shows off his resiliency and his flexibility in this latest album by Miami's Afro/Cuban band, Tiempo Libre.  Having created a wealth of material during his life, Bach expressed a sense of profound greatness that carries his name today and into the future.  When Jorge Gomez remembered the nights of his father playing Bach on the piano, he found a way to merge those classics with the Afro/Cuban Jazz that he was so versed in.  With the help of six other like-minded professionals, Gomez reimagines the glories of Bach, especially noted in his wonderful “Kyrie” from Mass in B Minor.  In Tiempo Libre's hands, it slides from  heavenly choir sounds to its soft piano melodies, eventually being merged into the Latin Jazz it eventually becomes.  The transition is respectful and well handled.

The other Bach works here often start out with Latin sounds and African percussions, as witnessed on the lead-off track, “Tu Conga Bach” from Bach's Fugue in C Minor.  With Spanish lyrics that bring a Havana culture of the joys of dancing into full swing, this marriage of Bach and the richness of cultures make for a delightful album of uniqueness.  “Air on a G String,” which features the intoxicating alto sax of Paquito D'Rivera, is a romantically disguised  and effective version of Bach's Orchestral Suite in D Major.  All works here are well arranged regardless of how impossible one might think this project to  have been.  Challenging it was, I'm sure, but the band pulls it off fantastically.

The included booklet provides a wealth of song notes by the band in both English and Spanish.  There are included lyrics, credits, and a one-page note by Jorge Gomez, again in English and Spanish.  The CD and booklet are tucked into a three-panel CD digipak wallet.

Tiempo Libre succeeds in not only bringing Bach to a new audience with a new face, but in creating an album of Latin flavours that re-design Bach into something more contemporary.

Bach for a new age.  If you love Latin jazz underscored with African rhythms, then this album is a solid work that crosses many borders.

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