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Tiempo Libre

Gotham Magazine

Cuban group Tiempo Libre gets ready to play the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Gotham Magazine

Thursday, May 12, 2011

by Allison Polster

The members of Grammy-nominated Tiempo Libre grew up in Cuba, but they were never far from the United States when it came to music. Kool and the Gang, Chaka Khan, Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson and Earth, Wind & Fire made their marks on the musicians, who snuck listens of the American beats through secret radios. (It was illegal to listen to American music in Cuba at the time.)

Today, Tiempo Libre’s new album, My Secret Radio—which will factor into the group’s performance on May 20 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (tickets, $45)—tells this story as well as a newer one from the Miami-based group. “Now we are trying to listen to Cuban music from the United States,” says Jorge Gomez, Tiempo Libre’s musical director and keyboardist.

While the seven-member band grew up together in Cuba, each found his own path to the U.S. after leaving their homeland. Leandro Gonzalez (congas) lived in Argentina, Luis Beltran Castillo (saxophone and flute) settled in Italy, Raul Rodriguez (trumpet) landed in Spain and Gomez ended up in Guatemala. The men reconnected in the U.S. through word of mouth in Miami’s tight Cuban community.

New York’s own large Cuban population and huge fan base have made it an ideal stop for the group. Traveling to NYC a few times a month, the members know almost all of the city’s clubs (Gomez favors Fat Cat) and concert halls and have played many of them—including Lincoln Center (twice).

The new album is a clear result of—and homage to—a journey to America that changed everything and the American radio music that started it all. “Sometimes it’s not the music [that is influenced by American culture],” explains Gomez. “Sometimes it’s the lyrics. Sometimes it’s the feeling.” Whatever it is, we like it. Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave., 212-570-3949

read the full article: Gotham Magazine