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Palacio de la Rumba: Talking in Cuban



Palacio de la Rumba - Talking in Cuban

Palacio-LJNAustralians in Cuba? That may well be so, yet this is a remarkable musical adventure that has resulted in a quite beautiful record and it reportedly began with one itinerant and adopted Cuban music aficionado, the late Arwyn Bryant. That it is told triggered off a chain of events which in turn led his classical ethnomusicologist sister, Gai to become a lover of all things Cuban as well. And look where that has landed us: with an outstanding record, Palacio de la Rumba: Talking in Cuban featuring Justo Pelladito. This is not merely a Cuban record, it is a deep dive into Cuban musical topography, into rumba, danzón and son, and into the very heart of Cuban culture.

Palacio de la Rumba LJNThere have been many recordings like this one, but none, in my memory, stand out as this album does; something so wonderful because it has Cuban alma, not simply percussionists playing in clave. That too would be difficult as it has been said by the great Israel “Cachao” López, who once rather precociously complained jazz musicians found it hard to play in clave. Not so, it seems and not only Dizzy Gillespie con Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie y Machito, but the Dutchman Nils Fischer and now Gai Bryant and Palacio de la Rumba: Talking in Cuban featuring Justo Pelladito.

Everything seems right in these sincere and poised accounts of Cuba because they are played con alma. There is a wild celebration here and only those who have been let in on the secrets of the Orishas and on Clave can decipher. There is a riot of tone colour in the ensemble passages. Certainly Gai Bryant knows more than many about tones and the colour palette from which she paints her musical portraits. All of this comes also from a deep feeling for the timbre of the instruments of the big band that she conducts with rare distinction. And speaking of alma and colour, you only have to listen to “The Girl With The Moon in Her Eyes” to experience what soul means to Ms. Bryant and her ensemble.

And so we have a recording of the works of an almost obsessive perfectionist and a performing band who are perfectionists as well. No wonder these works sound as polished as gleaming gems. As a composer who also plays reeds and woodwinds, she understands and writes for the instruments idiomatically – is never flashy, unlike some other more flamboyant younger contemporaries. This is a distinction that Ms. Bryant ought to be proud of for there is music here that you can’t help admire its many facets. Again the analogy of the gem comes to mind, not the least because of the visceral excitement that this music engenders in the listener.

I have listened to every one of the pieces of music on this disc many times over and I have to say it more than lives up to every expectation. The eighteen members of this ensemble parley with the familiarity of old friends, yet their playing always retains that sense of gracious etiquette associated with the Cuban comparsa (listen to “Columbia Cubanos”) and you will know what I am referring to. Nothing is forced or exaggerated or overly mannered; tempos, ensemble and balance – all seem effortless and intuitively right. These are in sum tributes to the music and culture of Cuba that are flawless in character – both of the composer and the performing musicians as well.

Track List: Pollo por Pescado; El Castillo de la Sirena; Palacio de la Rumba; The Girl With The Moon in Her Eyes; Columbia Cubanos; Luminoso; Talking in Cuban.

Personnel: Warwick Alder: trumpet; Eamon Dilworth: trumpet; Darryl Carthew: trumpet; Ray Cassar: trumpet; Danny Carmichael: trombone; Paul Weber: trombone; Colin Philpott: trombone; Martin Taylor: trombone; Craig Walters: tenor saxophone, clarinet and flute; Peter Farrar: alto and soprano saxophones; Mark Ginsburg: tenor saxophone; Paul Cutlan: baritone saxophone and bass clarinet; Gai Bryant: soprano and alto saxophones and flute; Alister Spence: piano; Lloyd Swanton: double bass; Jeremy Sawkins: guitar; Fabian Hevia: drum set; Justo Pelladito: congas.

Label: Independent
Release date: April 2015
Running time: 44:00
Buy music on: amazon

About Talking In Cuban Big Band

Talking in Cuban was recorded over two nights in a lovely small church situated in suburban Sydney. Sound engineer, Ross A’Hern designed and built a huge microphone tree inspired by Morton Lindberg to capture the best room sound possible. The music is raw yet true to the character of Cuban rumba, danzon and bolero including a venue piano that refused to play in tune! In keeping with the spirit of rumba the congas rise up above the ensemble. We hope you enjoy this introduction to these styles through Gai’s compositional lens. Read more…

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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