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Claudia Acuña: Duo / Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Aymée Nuviola: Viento y Tiempo

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Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Aymee Nuviola, Claudia Acuña
Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Aymee Nuviola, Claudia Acuña

While the whole world was placed on hold during the pandemic, two important recordings were released. Duo by Chilean vocalist Claudia Acuña and Viento y Tiempo by Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba and singer Aymée Nuviola.    

On Duo,  Acuña is accompanied by an array of world class jazz musicians: Kenny Barron, Carolina Calvache, Fred Hersch, and Arturo O’Farrill on pianos, Christian McBride on acoustic bass, Regina Carter on violin and Russell Malone on acoustic guitar. During Media Noche (Midnight), Acuña’s voice and Barron’s piano work together to create a mellow and slow opening.  The bass intro at the outset of Eclipse de Luna announces that Christian McBride will be there supporting Acuña. Júrame (Swear to Me), featuring Fred Hersch’s superb piano, is where the album takes off; Acuña delivers the lyrics with a sensitivity rarely heard these days.  Manifiesto, a song by the famous Chilean folk singer Victor Jara, is a fine vehicle for Acuña and Regina Carter. 

Claudia Acuña: Duo
Claudia Acuña: Duo

Another song that sticks in the memory has to be Verdad Amarga (Bitter Truth). It is a composition by Consuelo Velázquez, composer of the often recorded Bésame Mucho and Acuña sings the sad words with a deep understanding. The acoustic Brazilian- flavored guitar by Malone is the perfect foil for Acuña’s great interpretation.

Tracks – 1: Media Noche; 2: Eclipse de Luna; 3: Razón de Vivir; 4: Júrame; 5: Manifesto; 6: Verdad Amarga; 7: Piensa en Mí; 8: Crystal Silence; 9: Yo

Musicians – Claudia Acuña: vocals; With – Kenny Barron: piano [1]; Christian McBride: bass [2]; Carolina Calvache: piano [3]; Fred Hersch: piano [4]; Regina Carter: violin [5]; Russell Malone: guitar [6]; Arturo O’Farrill: piano [7]

Released – 2022
Label – Ropeadope [RAD 68 8]
Runtime – 41:49

Viento Y Tiempo was recorded live in Tokyo and Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Aymée Nuviola bring all the wonderful flavor of Cuba directly to the audience. It is fortunate that they decided to record this show as the CD boasts 8 songs, half of them very well known Cuban classics. The second tune on the album is El Guararé de Pastora, which has been covered by Ray Barreto and Los Van Van. In fact, there was a group in the 1970’s that took the name Guararé and included former members of Ray Barreto’s band. Without a doubt this arrangement of El Guararé is the most surprising of them all. Nuviola’s singing is brilliant and the twists and turns of the band are breathtaking. The rapport that Nuviola establishes with the crowd, especially during the chorus, is beyond category. The most famous tune that they play is El Manisero, sometimes known as The Peanut Vendor. Rubalcaba slyly plays the melody with the maraca and güiro coming in behind. As Nuviola gets into the middle section the drummer and percussion move the beat faster and then the whole band kicks in. 

Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Aymée Nuviola: Viento y Tiempo
Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Aymée Nuviola: Viento y Tiempo

Did I just mention something about the band? And what a kick ass band it is; featuring Cristobal “El Profe” Verdecia on bass, Reinier Guerra on drums, Neiger “Majito” Aguilera on miscellaneous percussion, Kazuhiko Kondo and Yanier Horta on soprano and alto saxophones, Lourdes Nuviola and Alfredo Lugo on backing vocals and the maestro himself, Gonzalo Rubalcaba on piano, synthesizers and percussion.  El Ciego (The Blind Man) is next, a fine bolero graced by the soprano sax solo of Kondo. One of the most interesting cuts is their version of Bemba Colorá (Red Lip) made famous by the queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz. To attempt this song is daunting, but Nuviola puts her stamp on it with a robust rendition.

A few years back, Bebo Valdés and Diego “El Cigala” came out with a disc with the title song Lágrimas Negras (Black Tears), Rubalcaba and Nuviola take Lágrimas Negras and rework the old Cuban chestnut turning out a fresh new interpretation. In this song of heartbreak, Nuviola sings with deep knowledge of the lyrics. Rubalcaba responds with deft accompaniment, showcasing  his nuanced delicate touch. During his solo Rubalcaba demonstrates his complete mastery of the keyboard while showing off his considerable improvisatory skills.

Viento Y Tiempo is a stunning tribute to Rubalcaba and Nuviola’s mothers and the musical city of La Habana.

YouTube Playlist – Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Aymée Nuviola: Viento y Tiempo

Track list – 1: Rumba Callejera; 2: El Güararey de Pastora; 3: El Manisero; 4: El Ciego; 5: Rompiendo la Rutina; 6: Bemba Colorá; 7: Lágrimas Negras; 8: Viento y Tiempo

Personnel – Aymée Nuviola: lead vocals; Gonzalo Rubalcaba: piano, synthesizers and percussion; Cristobal “El Profe” Verdechia: bass; Reinier Guerra: drums; Neiger “Majito” Aguilera: percussion; Kazuhiko Kondo: soprano saxophone [soli 4, 5], alto saxophone [solo 6]; Yanier Horta: soprano saxophone [ensemble on 1; solo on 8], alto saxophone [soli on 2 and 3; ensemble on 6]; Lourdes Nuviola: lead vocals  [1] and backing vocals; Alfredo Lugo: backing vocals

Released – 2020
Label – Top Stop Music
Runtime – 1:02:49

Brooks Geiken is a retired Spanish teacher, with a lifelong interest in music, specifically Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and Black American music. His wife thinks he should write a book titled "The White Dude's Guide to Afro-Cuban & Jazz Music". Brooks lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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