Juan de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All Stars: Live Last Night
After the Afro-Cuban All Stars performed an introductory number last night, leader Juan de Marcos Gonzalez offered his standard greeting: "Welcome to Cuba!" Actually, the audience was at the Music Center at Strathmore, and the 14-piece group onstage was, technically, not from Cuba. Although Gonzalez and his latest lineup of All Stars are rooted on the island, all are expatriates. The percolating conga, rhumba and danzon rhythms evoked a Cuba that neither the musicians nor the audience can easily visit.
(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)
That could change soon, and the band's jaunty "Reconcilacion'' sounded especially timely. Whatever Gonzalez's political hopes, however, the group didn't spend much time looking toward the future. Dressed in natty suits and playing music with only a few contemporary touches, the All Stars evoked the supper clubs of pre-Castro Havana.
Originally founded to unite veteran and younger musicians, the All Stars currently don't include any of the most venerable Cuban players. But the ensemble paid elaborate tribute to those predecessors and their golden era.
Like a seasoned nightclub big band, the All Stars played vibrant dance tunes, but punctuated with solos and asides, as well as some stage business, both romantic and humorous. Midway through a danzon he wrote for his wife, Gonzalez brought her out for a brief dance; later, drummer Calixto Oviedo Mulens pretended to be oblivious as he banged into a trumpet solo.
The principal limitation on such fun was that the group was in a concert hall. When Gonzalez insisted that everyone get on their feet, the cantering music finally made perfect sense. But that didn't happen until the last two songs of a nearly two-hour show.
-- MARK JENKINS
By J. Freedom du Lac |
April 1, 2009; 10:48 AM ET
Live Last Night
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