On her album Havana Nocturne, the singer Aymée Nuviola has certainly masterfully and deeply interiorized the classic Cuban music [and dance] forms of canción and the bolero, and made the music of what is – in purest terms – referred to as *filin, or el filin singularly her own [*The term filin is a Spanishized version of the English word feeling]. Much of the repertoire comes from the two decades between 1940 and 1960 when the music of el filin rose to eminence in Havana. Clearly the form, rooted in trova, which evolved into later song-incarnations [such as the bolero] owes much to jazz songs drenched in romantic themes; gleaming gems delivered by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Nat “King” Cole.
In Cuba, when this osmosis occurred the [resultant] musical import found natural expression in canción and the bolero, the music of which was immortalised by composers: Frank Domínguez and Frank Emilio Flynn, Bebo Valdés, César Portillo de la Luz and others, and by great vocalists: Elena Burke, Omara Portuondo, of the classic ensemble such as Cuarteto d’Aida and Los Zafiros, and by the legendary Pablo Milanés. To this great [el filin] tradition comes the contemporary stylist Miss Nuviola, who seems to be leaving a mark on that tradition not only by making it her own but – in a sense – attempting to revolutionise it, rather successfully, one might add.
Miss Nuviola has a gleaming contralto voice and she plumbs great depth of the register, surfacing at the end of lyrical phrases in a wave of elegance, sweeping – sometimes smashing ashore – with enthrallingly dramatic expression. This makes for vivid narratives. Her gliding vocal glissandi are eminently suited to evoking the romantic allure of music. She gives notice of this in a dramatic solfeggio sequence that she performs on Imágenes with the [featured] pianist Kemuel Roig.
Mr Roig is the key to this recording, leading [the vocalist] gently, and shining on his soli – on which, one who, one must mention, plays with uncommon restraint, eschewing gratuitous virtuosity, something that informs his pianism throughout the recording. Mr Roig is inspirational – inhabiting the limelight and receding into the relative shadows to let others – especially guitarist Julián Ávila, bassist, Lowell Ringel, drummer Hilario Bell and percussionist José “Majito” Aguilera. The biggest benefit of the fine performances of the instrumentalists accrues to Miss Nuviola.
Though she has a profound and powerful voice, Miss Nuviola does not overpower gently eloquent contributions of the ensemble, but simply inspires it to rise to great heights. The first two charts, with the straight-down-the-middle, jazzy-style flair may lead you to believe that this music is about to turn into something unexpected – especially if you read the liner and publicity notes that unveil the filin-intention of the repertoire.
Of course, you would not be disappointed – but not for obvious reasons; because what Miss Nuviola sets out to do – and does in her inimitable style – rewrite the filin script of [and for] this entire album and it is this: Miss Nuviola has, in the grand manner, set filin free from its custodial of tradition. In fact, one may never listen to el filin of Cuban canción and bolero. Just listen to what she does with Niño Rivera’s El Jamaiquino, Alberto Domínguez’s Perfidia or, for that matter her own composition Quédate and in the heartrending duet with Mr Roig, of Marta Valdés’ breathtaking Tú no sospechas, easily the apogee of this album.
YouTube Playlist – Aymée Nuviola feat. Kemuel Roig: Havana Nocturne
Music – 1: Imágenes; 2: Novia mía; 3: Me faltabas tú; 4: Obsesión; 5: Realidad y Fantasía; 6: Rosa mustia; 7: El Jamaiquino; 8: Quédate; 9: Tú no sospechas; 10: Perfidia; 11: De la misma forma; 12: Me contaron de tí; 13: Vete de mí
Musicians – Aymée Nuviola: vocals; Kemuel Roig: piano; Lowell Ringel: bass; Hilario Bell: drums; José “Majito” Aguilera: percussion; Julián Ávila: guitar
Released – 2023
Label – Worldwide Entertainment & Productions
Runtime – 1:00:36
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