As part of the Royal Conservatory 2012-2013 Season, ¡Qué Rica Cuba! Series, “Tiempo Libre” makes an appearance at Koerner Hall in Toronto on Saturday, November 17 at 8:00 pm.
By Danilo Navas
On the first part of the show, “Alfredo Rodríguez” also returns to Koerner Hall (this time with his trio) for an amazing and unforgettable double bill.
Recently, I had the chance of talking to Jorge Gómez (musical director of Tiempo Libre) about their upcoming concert in Toronto, about their music and some other topics of interest for our visitors.
Classically trained at Cuba’s premier conservatories, the members of three-time Grammy Award nominated Tiempo Libre are true modern heirs to the rich musical tradition of their native Cuba. The Miami-based group is celebrated for its sophisticated performances of timba music, an irresistible, dance-inducing mix of Cuban son, rock and jazz. Tiempo Libre has introduced Cuban music to new audiences through appearances on shows such as the Tonight Show, Live from Lincoln Center, and Dancing With the Stars, and concerts worldwide, including performances at Tanglewood, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, The Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Hong Kong’s Kwai Tsing Theatre, and Istanbul’s ?? Arts and Culture Center. Tiempo Libre collaborated on “Para ti” with violinist Joshua Bell for his At Home with Friends album and frequently plays with leading orchestras, including concerts this season with the Cleveland Orchestra and the San Francisco and Houston Symphonies. The band recently released My Secret Radio on Sony Masterworks; previous albums Bach in Havana (Sony Masterworks), Arroz Con Mango (Shanachie), and Lo Que Esperabas (Shanachie) were nominated for Grammys.
DN: Hello Jorge, on behalf of Latin Jazz Network congratulations for your achievements, I know you’re working very hard and now you’re coming to Toronto…
JG: Thanks to you and Latin Jazz Network for the great work you’re doing promoting the music in Canada and around the world. We’re gonna be in Toronto next Saturday, November 17. We’re gonna be performing Cuban music, a variety of rhythms and genres, from traditional music (songs like “Guantanamera, “Son de la loma,” “El Manicero”) to timba, which is a fusion of the traditional with rock, jazz and Afro-Cuban elements. We will also be doing Latin jazz and something that not too many bands do, which is fusing classical music and Cuban music. From the beginning, when we created Tiempo Libre, our musical concept has been to cover a wide range of different rhythms, so that we appeal to a larger audience. We attract listeners who have a variety of musical tastes and who are also eager to learn more about Cuban music, we showcase through our concerts the richness of Cuban music. And it is our mission to educate the audience about our culture, our heritage and our music. I know in Canada there’s more appreciation for our music, more knowledge about it. You can travel freely to Cuba, you have the opportunity of experiencing first hand our music. It’s not the same in United States, where has been for decades forbidden to travel to Cuba.
DN: Besides your busy performing schedule, you’ve been doing a great educational labour…
JG: The educational aspect in our careers is very important. When we formed the band and started performing, the people who hired us wanted us to talk to the public first about what we were going to do in our shows. Performing in Kentucky for example, not too many people in the audience had an idea what Cuban music was, so we had to educate them somehow. And then later on we were imparting workshops in universities, teaching the students about not only music, but about Latino culture in general, the instruments we played, the dances, the food (how to eat rice and beans, fried cassava, what fried plantain represents), the language. Little by little, this educational aspect was becoming a very important part of our performances. And sometimes we were hired for educational purposes and not exactly to perform our music. We have also participated in theatre, in musicals with Jencarlos Canela from Telemundo TV Network. We have created music for movies, for documentaries. We’ve been growing at such an incredible fast pace. We do perform with symphony orchestras. After Toronto, we have to return in December to Ottawa (capital city of Canada) to perform with Malena Burke (one of the most prestigious Cuban singers in Miami) and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. In January 2013 we perform in Winnipeg, with the Winnipeg Symphony.
DN: After more than 10 years in existence, Tiempo Libre is still going, and it seems that stronger than ever. How can you manage to do that?
JG: We keep renewing our personnel, some of them go and others come. Circumstances change for some of our members, but my commitment to the band is something that never changes. It’s been my dream and perhaps one day I could be eating just bread and butter but the project Tiempo Libre will always survive. That’s my goal.
DN: are you working on a new recording project right now?
JG: As a matter of fact, we’re working on several projects. Our record label, Sony Music, is always coming up with new project ideas. One of them is to do an album with the great classical violinist Joshua Bell. Because we did one song with him on his album “At Home With Friends” and we have colaborated with him in various projects, Sony is contemplating the possibility of working on an entire album now. We have in mind also a project of recording the music of Beny Moré, whose music we have performed here in Miami. We have several options open at this moment, but still don’t know for sure which one is gonna be coming first. What is certain is that being signed with Sony, a new album has to come soon.
DN: Tiempo Libre has been nominated three times for the Grammy Awards…
JG: Those nominations gave us the respect of the music industry and opened doors for us throughout the world. Like us there are many timba and salsa groups in United States, working hard to make a name for themselves, but we’ve been very fortunate that our hard work and dedication was recognized and had the chance of signing a contract with Sony, which in itself is a great opportunity for the development of our musical project. It doesn’t mean is easy, on the contrary, is more challenging, you have to work even harder, but the rewards are also greater.
DN: Anything else you would like to add…
JG: The most important message I would like to transmit to the public in Toronto is that our concerts are not exactly like dancing parties. You can expect a whole variety representing the rich and wide spectrum of Cuban music. We are proud ambassadors of Cuban music and culture and take the Cuban flag up there on behalf of all Cubans, wherever they are. We represent Cubans from Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Santiago de Cuba, La Habana, and we spread a message of joy and happiness through our music around the globe. Thanks to you and Latin Jazz Network for the opportunity of reaching out to your visitors and readership.
DN: Thank you Jorge. Hope to see you at the concert next Saturday, November 17.
Related links: www.tiempolibremusic.com | http://performance.rcmusic.ca/event/alfredo-rodríguez-trio-and-tiempo-libre