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Abrazo: The Havana Sessions


Artists: Various
Label: Ansonica Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 10 June 2016

For nearly 60 years, cultural and economic exchange between the United States and Cuba has been hindered and hobbled as a result of the U.S. embargo on trade and travel. Influence from each has seeped through to both sides, but only with the restoration of diplomatic connections between the two countries in December 2014 did it become possible for real cooperation to occur? In November 2015, less than one year after these initial steps toward fully opening relations, Parma Recordings produced the first of its recording projects in Havana. The resulting album, Abrazo: The Havana Sessions on the newly-minted Ansonica Records label, presents works for big band, small jazz combo, choir, and chamber ensembles by composers Bunny Beck, Roger Bourland, Don Bowyer, Margaret Brandman, John Carollo, Timothy Miller, Mel Mobley, and Michael Murray performed by current or former members of the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, the Buena Vista Social Club, Irakere, and many more...

What we have here is a 2 disc, 27 track (1 hr, 24 min, 52 sec) collection of Cuban based tracks that show off some of the highlights of the jazz and big band scene. The resulting recording is nothing short of incredible. And while it's doubtful that you'll enjoy every single track (it's so diverse that you'd have to have an incredibly wide appreciation of the genres represented) there's plenty here that you'll instantly love and many that you'll grow to love. In fact there was only one track that I didn't really warm to. Bunny Beck's 'Jazz Vocal Suite: III. It's In The Stars' grated on me, mainly because everyone, from the singer to the drummer, was doing their own thing with little regard for the other members of the band. While I'm fully aware of what this was trying to achieve, it just made me wince at some of the clashing sounds. However, Beck provides quite a few tracks on this album and the others are enjoyable.

There's a section of choral tracks here too, which sound incredible, especially when contrasted with the earlier jazz segments. Roger Bourland's 'Alarcon Madrigals' suite opens up disc two and, on balance, I have to admit that this was my favourite part of the album. In places it's what I imagine is the closest thing to having a religious experience.

Overall an interesting and entertaining album that gives us a peek behind the curtain into Cuban musicians take on the jazz and choral scene.

Track Listing:

Disc 1

Timothy Lee Miller
01 - Hot Miami Nights
2 - On An Autumn Day

Don Bowyer
03 - Bugs & Gas

Bunny Beck
Jazz Instrumental Suite  (arr. Juan Manuel Ceruto)
04 - I. Impressions
05 - II. Smooth Cruisin'
6 - III. Obligations
Jazz Vocal Suite  (arr. Juan Manuel Ceruto)
07 - I. Why Do I?
8 - II. So Easy to Say
9 - III. It's in the Stars

Disc 2

Roger Bourland
Alarcon Madrigals, Book 3
01 - Cuerpo en llamas
2 - Lamentario
3 - Como loca flor
4 - In Ixtli In Yollotl / Face and Heart
5 - Polvo Estelar

John A. Carollo
06 - I. Honolulu Stomp
7 - II. Baile, Baile, Me Hermosa Rosa
8 - III. Luca Has a Cadenza
9 - IV. Life is a Strange Instrument
10 - V. Rosa Discovers a Strange Instrument

Margaret Brandman
Warm Winds in Havana
11  - Prelude - Havana Promenade
12 - Salida del Sol  (Sunrise)
13 - Danza del Día  (Dance of the Day)
14 - Ritmo de la Noche  (Rhythm of the Night)

Mel Mobley
15 - Coloring with Water

Michael Murray
After the Fall
16 - I. After the Fall
17 - II. We
18 - III. Changing Home


Darren Rea

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