Nelson Brill

October 2004

There is nothing like good music to break down the artificial borders of this planet. With American and Cuban artists struggling to overcome the immigration laws making cultural exchange between our two countries most difficult, the music afforded us by these two treasured recordings is a bright and hopeful light of what is possible when human emotion and artistic spirit (which know no borders or boundaries) take center stage.

In Inolvidable, (‘Unforgettable”), the Chesky Brothers have brought listeners another sonic gem uniting Candido Camera and Graciela, two leaders of the “Cubop“ movement of the late 40’s, which fused Cuban rhythms with big band jazz. What sets this disc apart is not only the pristine soundstaging and sense of recording place that we have come to expect from the Chesky label, but also the unique artistry and emotional companionship brought to this stage by Candido, Graciela and their accomplished bandmates, with whom they share a special chemistry here. The set begins with a sweet, slow driving number, “Si Tu Supieras,” which affords Graciela the chance to punctuate her soulful delivery with calls to her compatriots, Eddie Perales, (interweaving flute solos), Frederico Ruiz (sinuous soulful violin), and Candido on his pulsing congas. The recording is so good that you should be able to discern Candido’s rapid movement of his hands from the quick firm outer rim of the conga to the inside section, which provides a deeper, mellower pulse. I particularly love the up-tempo numbers on this recording. Included is a rousing “Cachita,” which sends percussion spinning in all form of colors while spirited solos are taken by Perales on flute, with Ruiz delicately plucking his violin to a background of striking wood blocks and solid bass work by Andrew Gonzalez. The whole stage is set out beautifully before you and image dimensionality is perfectly rendered to great effect. You should be able to close your eyes and feel the warmth of your dance partner’s arm around your waist on this tune! Graciela takes several soulful ballads home here with heartfelt vocal passion. On “Amor Ciego,” her deep calls of “No, Pero NO!” are so heartfelt and forceful (especially with Candido’s congas and the lithe violin cascading behind her) that we wish to reach out and take her hand to console her. The accuracy and detail of Chesky’s recording makes this a visceral possibility. Candido is again showcased in a “Conga Jam” with Gonzalez on bass, a free flowing number with the two great performers bringing their call-and -response interplay to perfection. The recording ends with “Inolvidable II,” with all players swirling with joy to a Cuban-Afro beat taking it out of the recording venue and into the streets. “Si, Si, Bonito Candida, Graciela y todo – Arriva!” 

Turning from the artistry of Cuban Cubop to the modern experimentation provided by bassist extraordinaire Orlando Cachaito Lopez, his self-titled disc is a wondrous sonic stew with a multitude of musical themes to be explored in countless listening sessions. The band that Cachaito Lopez leads on this recording is a phenomenal collection of Cuban artists, all of whom succeed brilliantly in pushing the envelope of their respective instruments. Cachaito Lopez is an amazing bass player, and this recording will test your system’s ability to capture his deep, sonorous bass lines, as well as the quickness of his delivery. His bass is presented prominently in the soundstage, but always with sheer power and quickness. Listen to the beginning of “Tumbo No. 5 (Para Charlie Mingus)”, as Lopez launches into a deep, rhythmic bass line, (punctuated by hands on wood and strings) which is picked up by Miguel Diaz’s congas and Raphael Jenks on tenor sax. Everything is powerful bebop strutting and dynamics until a soulful swing rhythm cuts in mid-stream, throwing the work in a completely new musical direction which challenges the listener to keep pace with this evolving creation. The artistry of the performances here are on such a high plane that every listen brings out a new sonic discovery, whether it is the wonderful heights scaled by the flute of Policarpo Tamayo (on “Conversacion”) or the complex, intricate chords of Manuel Galban on guitar. Watch out for the brilliant flugelhorn of guest Hugh Masekela on “Tumbanga,” (again prefaced by the amazingly deep bass lines of Lopez), laced over a reggae Hammond organ beat. The music swirls around reggae, ska, Dee Nasty scratching and the achingly beautiful vocals of Ibrahim Ferrer, all within the confines of Cuban rhythms and pace. The recording quality is first rate, placing the listener right in the thick of the sonic experiment. Particular attention is to the Cuban studio space where many of these tunes were created, and again, image dimensionality and placement of the large ensemble of players is accurate and fully realized on this recording. A magnificent achievement, both in terms of artistic brilliance and sonic qualities, this recording is testament to the creativity of the Cuban artist, fashioning a whole new artistic statement from a foundation of what has come before and breaking all boundaries in the musical experiment. 

We welcome any reader’s comments or suggestions for other audiophile CD favorites for upcoming Stereo Times reviews. Please contact Nelson


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