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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Mr. Jenkins,

Had you done your homework you would have found that all of the musicians easily return to Cuba whenver the wish - so they are all current on trends Cuban and travel frequently to see family and frinds. So I freally don't get your uninformed comment about visits to the Island. Also the reason that the old guys from Buena Vista were not there is that they have nearly all passed save Amadito Valdes, Eliades Ochoa and Barbarito Torres and of course Juan de Marcos. The fact that you may not have liked the music is one thing but I do wonder what you may know about Cuban music - what was played (and this is a hallmark of JDM) is a mix of old with new. In Cuba today there are many many sounds, this is one of them - curent, up-to-date. Maybe you should go sometime and get updated on whatever you may think you know about Cuban music.

Posted by: ceviche | April 2, 2009 4:07 PM

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