Grecolandia: Homenaje a José Miguel Crego “El Greco”

The name of José Miguel Crego “El Greco” is a familiar one to those who view the long line of radiant Cuban trumpeters that includes several celebrated names as Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros, Félix Chappottín, Arturo Sandoval and others who streaked across the island’s musical firmament and burned bright until they passed – some, like Mr Sandoval, of course, leaving the island for good, for a career in New York City. “El Greco” fell in with the flavour of Afro-American Jazz and fused that swinging imagery and rhythms into the Afro-Cuban idioms of the day, making glistening, liquid pronouncements from the front-line of such groups as NG La Banda, Los Van Van, Irakere, the Afro-Cuban All Stars, and later, his own ensemble, Jose Miguel Crego “El Greco” y su Quinteto Top Secret.

On Grecolandia, the celebrated trumpeter gets his long overdue homage from ten of the most well-known Cuban trumpeter players who are active today. The repertoire runs the gamut of feelings and expressions associated with the chameleonic “El Greco”, who was equally at home swinging, speaking in the language of bebop and shuffling and gliding in the timba tempo – the latter he excelled at in various settings and ensembles during his heyday. The tribute-paying solo horn men take on the lineage of “El Greco’s” cool, spacey trumpet sound often summoning – as Thomy Lowry García does on “Swing en Las Tunas” to open the set, and Alejandro Delgado does on “Lady of my life” to suggest the breadth of “El Greco’s” musical footprint – from the traditional idioms of Afro-Cuban music to more contemporary music of Michael Jackson.

The stellar case of trumpeters includes Reynaldo Melián, Yasek Manzano, Alexander Abreu and Maykel González among others. The textural musical palette also varies from brassy features to more lush arrangements that feature reeds exemplified by the inimitable Alfred Thompson of the Afro-Cuban Saxophone Sextet; and – on occasion – even the singular, rumble of the trombone. The piano chair also reveals the presence of the incomparable Emilio Morales. All of this makes for music that is varied, but holds together in exemplary manner to pay homage to a star Cuban trumpeter.

Each of the trumpet players featured on this disc has a discernible, singular sound. This makes for a considerable embarrassment of riches in terms of the musical cornucopia presented on this disc. The overall musical canvas is created by a heavyweight rhythmic wall of sound that makes for a sensational backdrop for the trumpet players to shine brightly. Rippling jazzy grooves gently build under the trumpeters’ solo runs that dapple the music throughout. An almost cinematic feel ensues making for a kind of musical portrait of “El Greco” to emerge, as if painted by an adoring tribe of trumpeters who have come after him. This is a worthy homage to a Cuban trumpeter who refused to be constrained by artificial boundaries that seem to separate music today. The recorded sound balances exquisite detail and extraordinary warmth.

Track list – 1: Swing en Las Tunas; 2: Amor a primera vista; 3: A gozar; 4: Mi mecánica; 5: Ese sentimiento; 6: La lucha del Greco; 7: Mi amor a Galicia; 8: Lady of my life; 9: Calienta pero no quema; 10; El Greco y el mar.

Personnel – Featured Guests – Thomy Lowry García: trumpet [1]; Yasek Manzano: trumpet [solo 2]; Robin Martínez: trumpet [2, 4; solo on 3]; Julito Padrón: trumpet [4]; Roberto Garcia: trumpet [5]; Reinaldo Melian “Molote” [2, 4; solo on 6]; Alexander Abreu: trumpet [7]; Alejandro Delgado: trumpet [8]; Maykel González: trumpet [9]; Dayron Ohey Peña: trumpet [10]; Miguel Ángel García “Wiwi”: piano [1, 3, 7, 8, 10] and keyboards [3]; Emilio Vega: keyboards [2, 4]; Emilio Morales: piano [5, 9]; Raúl Verdicia: guitar [2, 4 – 9]; Alfred Thompson: tenor saxophone [1, 3, 8, 10] and alto saxophone [1, 10]; José Luis Hernández “Chewy”: tenor saxophone [2, 4]; Pablo Cruz Placer: soprano saxophone [9]; Carlos Alvarez: trombone [1, 3, 8, 10]; Heikel Fabián Trimiño: trombone [2, 4]; Loides Taboarda: flutes [5]; Lazaro Rivero “El Fino”: electric bass  and contrabass; Yosvany Betancourt “Pipi”: drums [3, 7] and percussion [1, 7, 8, 10]; Rey Ponce: drums [2, 6]; Juan Carlos Rojas “El Peje”: drums [4, 9]; Jorge Coayo Molina: percussion [2, 6, 9]; Rolando Michel Yalon: congas and percussion [3, 7].

Released – 2020
Label – BisMusic [CD 1303]
Runtime – 49:02

Raul Da Gama
Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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