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Tiempo Libre

The Jerusalem Post

Bach a la cha-cha-cha

The Jerusalem Post

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Pianist Jorge Gomez appears to be the ultimate entertainer, with no artistic compromises made along the way. The 39-year-old Cuban-born resident of Miami is one of the driving forces behind the fast-flowing music of feted seven-man Cuban music troupe Tiempo Libre (free time) which are here this week for a two-date visit, playing at the Tel Aviv Opera House tonight (8 p.m.) and at the Rebecca Crown hall of the Jerusalem Theater on Wednesday (also 8 p.m.).

On both occasions the jolly septet will share some of the program with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra (JSO), and there will be a salsa party after tonight’s Tel Aviv concert.

As far as Gomes is concerned it’s all about playing the music and putting a smile on the faces of the audience.

“We play cha-cha-cha, son, bolero and timba, all sorts of Cuban rhythms, but it’s all just music,” he says. “As long as we play well, with our hearts, and make people happy.”

But it’s not just about Cuban rhythms. All the members of Tiempo Libre have paid their classical dues too.

“We all trained in classical music,” explains Gomez. “I started studying at the age of five. For all of us the music of Mozart, Liszt, Chopin and Bach is just as important as Cuban music.” The latter is especially important for the band members, and the group’s Bach in Havana album, released last year, secured a Grammy nomination.

“Bach was a genius,” Gomez states simply. “He is like the DNA of music of all time and he was a 100 years ahead of his time, in terms of his music. Bach is the story of my life. For 15 years we [Tiempo Libre] would play Bach during the day and at night we’d play playing rumba and other Cuban music in bars and clubs all over Cuba. Bach has rhythms and structures and melodies that are perfect for Cuban music. When we play JS Bach and cha-cha-cha everyone gets up and starts dancing.” The pianist believes the eighteenth-century composer would have dug Tiempo Libre’s gigs today. “I think he would say: ‘Oh my God’ and get up and dance like everyone else in the audience.”

TIEMPO LIBRE is not, of course, the first Cuban music outfit to find its way into the hearts and ears of music fans across the western world, and Gomez acknowledges a debt of gratitude to possibly the most celebrated band to come from the island. “Yes, of course, like all Cuban bands we benefit from the legacy of the Buena Vista Social Band.”

Many of that venerated troupe also had a good grounding in Western classical music, particularly pianist Ruben Gonzalez, who died in 2003 at the age of 84. “Gonzalez was a wonderful musician but he was educated in the Russian classical style, not like us. But we owe a lot to those great guys.”

Gomez says that Tiempo Libre has taken on the role of torchbearer for a lot of other Cuban bands. “Our goal is to serve as ambassadors for Cuba’s musical heritage, while celebrating the American experience. We are opening a door for Cuban music.”

The band is also hoping to go back to Cuba in the near future to show the folks back home just how much they have progressed. “I haven’t been there for 15 years,” says Gomez. “I spent five years in Guatemala and I’ve been living in Miami for the last 10 years. It is one of my dreams to go back and to perform in Cuba. We are working on that.”

The repertoire for the two concerts this week will be divided between the band’s material, and some more orchestrally-oriented works, including a symphonic work written by celebrated Venezuelan composer Ricardo Lorenz called “Rumba Sinfónica”. Mind you the JSO might have its work cut to keep pace.

“I hope the amplification is good for the orchestra because we play fast and we play loud,” says Gomez adding that the band is used to tailoring its output to the occasion. “We play with classical ensembles and klezmer musicians,” he says. “It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as the music is good and the audience is happy.

Prepare to smile.

read the full article: The Jerusalem Post