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Tiempo Libre

Oregon Live

Tiempo Libre and the Oregon Symphony: When timba, classical collide

Oregon Live

Thursday, April 28, 2011

by James McQuillen

The name means "free time," but there's nothing leisurely about Tiempo Libre. The Cuban septet, who come to Portland this weekend to close the Oregon Symphony's pops season, play high-voltage, infectiously danceable Afro-Cuban rhythms with conservatory-bred classical chops.
As teenagers in Havana during the "Special Period" of economic crisis following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the seven divided their time between rigorous classical training and secret nighttime sessions listening to officially forbidden American radio broadcasts with improvised antennas.

One by one, they left Cuba and variously picked up high-profile gigs playing and touring with the likes of star singer Albita, trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and NG La Banda, pioneers of the jazz-rumba-son hybrid known as timba. They eventually regrouped in Miami, where in 2001 they formed Tiempo Libre, one of the leading timba bands outside of Cuba.

Meanwhile, they've kept a foot in classical music, collaborating with Venezuelan composer Ricardo Lorenz on Rumba Sinfónica for orchestra and Cuban band -- the Minnesota Orchestra gave the first of many performances in 2007 -- and giving a timba twist to groundbreaking jazz-classical collaborations of the past. Their 2009 disc "Bach in Havana" offered a Cuban take on a variety of pieces by J.S. Bach, covering some of the same territory French jazzman Jacques Loussier did in the 1960s and '70s, including a couple of irresistibly snappy preludes from "The Well-Tempered Clavier." With flutist James Galway on "O'Reilly Street," they revisited Claude Bolling's landmark "Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano" with fresh picante energy.
This weekend's concerts feature the band both on its own and with the Oregon Symphony under the direction of Jeff Tyzik, who is winding up his third season as the orchestra's dynamic principal pops conductor. They'll do music from all three of their Grammy-nominated discs -- "Bach in Havana," "Lo Que Esperabas" and "Arroz con Mango" -- as well as from their new "My Secret Radio," the title of which recalls the Miami sounds they caught as kids those long-ago nights in Havana.

read the full article: Oregon Live