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Tiempo Libre

Audiophile Audition

Tiempo Libre – Bach In Havana – Sony Classical

Audiophile Audition

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

by John Sunier

Their music mixes the high energy of Latin jazz with the rhythms of Cuban son, plus in this case the melodies of J.S. Bach.

All of Tiempo Libre’s members were trained in the classics at one of the top conservatories in Havana back when they could get into trouble listening to American songs on the radio. Based now in Miami, they are a hot Latin band which has twice had Grammy nominations.  Their music mixes the high energy of Latin jazz with the rhythms of Cuban son, and on their first album for Sony they have brought together their Cuban-Latin musical world and that of J.S. Bach for an irresistible combination. Their septet is rounded out on a few of the 11 tracks by guest artists Paquito D’Rivera and Ysvany Terry on reeds.  The latter – a fellow Cuban exile – is also heard on shekere on one track.

There are translations in the included booklet for two of the vocal numbers. In the notes, leader Jorge Gomez speaks about his childhood in Havana listening to his father – one of Cuba’s most prominent classical pianists – playing the Bach Preludes and Fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier.  He tried to emulate those memories in this album. The Bach themes – four from the WTC, two from the French Suites, one from the Cello Suite No. 1 among them – are combined with Cuban dance forms or music such as the bata drums.  The familiar Air on a G String is combined with a romantic bolero – Paquito D’Rivera playing the melody.  The cha-cha is imposed on a Bach fugue from the Sonata in D minor, and the uptempo timba form is combined with a Prelude in D Major from Book I of the WTC for the vocal number Timbach – which is the band’s love song to Bach. The closing track uses the opening Kyrie from Bach’s Mass in B minor.

Sonics are fine, especially the great variety of colorful percussion. This is an usual and attractive album which should have a wide appeal.

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