RECORDED LIVE AT THE GRAND THEATER IN HAVANA, CUBA
(2011, DESCARGA SARL)
Review by: NY Co-Editor, Tomas Peña, October 2011
Flutist, Orlando Valle, known to his followers as, “MARACA,” grew up in a musical environment. He took up the flute at an early age and was invited to join Irakere, one of Cuba’s most popular bands, at the age of twenty-two. During his six years with the band he excelled as a flutist, keyboard player and arranger.
To date Maraca has recorded nine albums as a leader, is the recipient of numerous awards, such as the 1st and 3rd national Composers Competition Adolf Guzman (Havana, 1989) and the National Prize for Best Recordings from Egrem Records (1994) among others. In addition, he is the current leader of the Latin Jazz All Stars, an international all-star band that features some of the most prominent musicians from Cuba, Puerto Rico, France, Japan and Canada.
The genesis of the Latin Jazz All Stars dates back to 2008, when Maraca was invited to create a musical project for the Monterey Jazz Festival in California. According to Maraca, the original idea was to create new material for a string orchestra, but over time the project evolved into a “convention of the minds.” After a triumphant performance at Montery the band toured the United States and Latin America (Colombia). Over the years the band has featured such luminaries as (pianist) Herbie Hancock (pianist), Joshua Redman (saxophone), Cassandra Wilson (vocalist), John Benítez (bassist), Miguel Zenón (saxophonist), Brian Lynch (trumpeter) and Edward Simon (pianist) among others.
Reencuentro was recorded live at El Gran Teatro de La Habana’s García Lorca Concert Hall (in Havana, Cuba) on January 12, 2010. Much like its predecessor (The Monterey Jazz All Stars), the Latin Jazz All Stars features an international lineup: Horacio “El Negro” Hernández (drums), Giovanni Hidalgo (congas, timbal, batá), David Sánchez (saxophone), Hugh Fraser (trombone), Harold López-Nussa (piano), Feliciano Arango (bass), Julio Padrón (trumpet), Yusef Díaz (keyboards), Enrique Lazaga (güiro), and Sayaka (violin), plus the participation of Orquesta de Cámara de La Habana (Havana Chamber Orchestra) under the direction of Iván del Prado.
The recording takes the listener on a musical journey through the history of traditional and contemporary Cuban music. The repertoire includes such classics such as Camerata en Guaguancó (a Guido López-Gavilán composition), Serenata Cubana (an Ignacio Cervantes piece), Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie’s, Manteca and a number of original compositions, including Afro, Danzón Siglo XXI, and Nueva Era.
The production, the repertoire and the high level of musicianship makes this recording a “must have” for aficionados of Latin Jazz and anyone who is interested in the development of Afro Caribbean music. The concert features so many special moments that it is difficult to select one defining moment, however I was particularly impressed with the Japanese violinist, Sayaka, the band’s interpretation of Manteca and the seamless manner in which the Havana Chamber Orchestra and the Latin Jazz All Stars meshed.
Reencuentro is unquestionably Maraca’s most ambitious recording to date and perhaps his finest as well. Look for it on my list of Top Ten recordings of 2011.
For Additional Information on Maraca Visit: www.maraca.cult.cu/