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Tiempo Libre

Vancouver Observer

Tiempo Libre dare you to stay in your seats at the Chan Centre

Vancouver Observer

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

by Andrea Rabinovitch

When the seven members of Tiempo Libre were growing up in Cuba, the Cuban government forbade its citizens from listening to American radio. The thrice Grammy-nominated musicians rebelled, as is the way of all teens, and created old fashioned antennas out of salvaged aluminum foil.

In a phone interview from Miami, where the band members relocated, pianist and musical director Jorge Gómez suggested that it was the start of “following a dream.“ Their infectious Timba-based music will woo Vancouverites at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on Friday, March 9 at 8 p.m.

Their album, produced by Sony Masterworks last May, entitled My Secret Radio, is a Cuban African love letter to the music of people like Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan, Herbie Hancock, musicians that gave them such a thrill on their rooftop radio sessions. “We consider ourselves Cuban ambassadors in America, “ Gomez explained. “But we don’t do just Cuban rhythms. We incorporate hip hop, pop, jazz.”

That musical curiosity even extended to classical with their album Bach in Havana, mashing up Bach’s minuets, gigues, and gavottes with Cuban rumba, danzón  and guaguancó. Gomez grew up with classical music -- his father is a respected classical pianist and, like all the members of Tiempo Libre, studied at Havana’s prestigious music conservatories, so a hybrid seemed natural.

Leaving Cuba at the time was an enormous decision for Gomez.

“It was very painful, but I had to look ahead instead of looking back.”

First travelling to Guatemala in 1995, and eventually to Miami in 2001, Tiempo Libre was formed in 2001 when he connected with other Cuban musicians who shared his fearlessness in mixing it up.

Rooted in Timba music, Tiempo Libre is equally at home in concert halls, night clubs and dance venues. So what’s the difference between Timba and Salsa?

“If you mix the music of a social club and Chick Corea, you have Timba –jazz and Cuban rhythms all mixed together.” And a horn section to die for.

Tiempo Libre means “free time” or “time off” -- not exactly accurate for a band that tours the world constantly including prestigious places like the Hollywood Bowl and New York City’s Lincoln Centre and performing on the Tonight Show and Dancing with the Stars, but certainly could describe their writing schedule.

Gomez’s approach to writing is more casual: “I’ll ask the singer, “Hey are you free this weekend? Let’s get some songs going’"

When you experience a Tiempo Libre concert, that joie de vivre is in the forefront. “Even when we play along with a symphony, that energy that you can be silly and party is there, “ suggested Gomez.

“In Cuban culture, there is a crazy energy, a love for everyone. Every day, it’s like a party. When you’re moving your body to the music, you’re not going to have any problems anymore.”

Sounds like just the thing for Vancouverites fed up with a long winter who are yearning for the heat of summer.

read the full article: Vancouver Observer