The rise and rise of Daymé Arocena is quite the Cinderella story, sans the proverbial ‘glass slipper’. She performed for some time in Joaquin Betancourt’s big band and went on to create the all-girl band, Alami. In 2013 Arocena and Alami were performing at the Jazz Plaza Festival. Fairy Godmother and Canadian icon, “Havana” Jane Bunnett, and her producer and trumpet-playing husband, Larry Cramer heard her singing and with a wave of an invisible wand, Maqueque came into being with Bunnett fronting the sextet on soprano saxophone and flute, and Daymé Arocena on vocals. The band achieved near mythical status after just two discs and a global tour. Meanwhile, Gilles Peterson already had his eyes on her and snapped her up for his Brownswood Recordings. And the fairytale continues…
The vivacious, go-getting and indefatigable Daymé Arocena, in addition to performing with Jane Bunnett and Maqueque has since developed a burgeoning solo career, toured Europe and the USA with Brownswood Recordings and after a wonderful debut on the label with Nueva Era (Brownswood, 2015) she has released Cubafonía, an ambitious production that sling-shots her star into the world music stratosphere and it seems only a matter of time when she will be one of the most recognised Afro-Cuban singers on the planet. And when that happens, this disc will have had everything to do with it.
Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · Cubafonía
Cubafonía is a lavish production. Gilles Peterson has not spared the horses on this venture. And Daymé Arocena has returned the favour many times over. She comes across at every turn as a veritable force of nature as her vivid illumination of the Afro-Cuban experience – from her happily crowded childhood home, to the ubiquitous Cuban comparsa; from the conservatoire to the infectious power of montuno, changüí, mambo and guaguancó, Daymé Arocena blows past Afro-Cuban horizons to create a sort of musical anthropography of her own. She has a powerful voice, virtually exploding in the lower registers.
But she can also turn on the sensuous charm, which often brings the sheer poetry of her music to life as she free-wheels into a sweet upper range, reaching up for high notes, exquisitely, without sign of strain or wobble. Her phrasing too is magically rich and flexible. In short, her vocal colouring is incredibly fresh and young-sounding. There are eleven examples of this on Cubafonía from the husky invocation of “Eleggua” and “Mambo Na’ Mà’ to the glorious curtain call, “Valentine”. Her English repertoire is pitch-perfect and Latin inflections are barely audible. All told, this is a vocal performance that excels all expectation promised by her 2015 recording.
Not surprisingly the extraordinary group of musicians that support Daymé Arocena respond to her feisty performance with great gusto. The core group of pianist Jorge Luis Lagarza, bassist Gastón Joya and drummer Ruly Herrera are the lead-architects of the album’s sound as is percussionist Yaroldy Abreu. Add to that an incredibly sharp horn section, guitar and tres that together and separately raise the ornamental bar several notches. This album will give continuing pleasure and is sure to turn Jane Bunnett and Larry Cramer’s debutant into the belle of the ball.
Track List: 1 – Eleggua; 2 – La Rumba me llamo yo; 3 – Lo que fue; 4 – Maybe Tomorrow; 5 – Negra Caridad; 6 – Mambo Na’ Mà; 7 – Cómo; 8 – Todo por Amor; 9 – Ángel; 10 – It’s Not Gonna Be Forever; 11 – Valentine.
Personnel: Daymé Arocena: vocals and string recordings; Jorge Luis Lagarza: piano (1 – 7, 9 – 11), backing vocals (1 – 3, 5, 7, 10, 11); Gastón Joya: double bass (1, 2, 5, 8, 9,), electric bass (7), marimbula (11); Rafael Aldama: electric bass (3, 4, 6, 10); Ruly Herrera: drums (1 – 7, 8, 9, 10), güiro (11); Yaroldy Abreu: percussion; Marcos Yosvany Diaz: percussion (1); Mayquel González: trumpet ( 1 – 3, 5 – 7, 10, 11), backing vocals (1 – 3, 5, 7, 10, 11); Emir Santacruz: tenor saxophone (1 – 3, 5 – 7, 10), clarinet (11); Yuniet Lombida: baritone saxophone (11 – 3, 55, 6, 10); Heikel Fabian Trimiño: trombone (1 – 3, 5 – 7, 10); Robert Luis Gómez: guitar (4, 5, 7, 8); Lino Lores: três (11); Barbara Llanes: vocal (1); Dreyser Durruti: vocal (1); Leonel Ernesto Lastres: backing vocals (1 – 3, 5, 7, 10, 11) Daniela J Barreto: backing vocals (1 – 3, 5, 7, 10, 11); Loreta Zerquera: backing vocals (1 – 3, 7); Dexter Story: backing vocals (7, 10); Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: sting arrangement and performance (7); Uncredited: additional percussion probably on (2).
Label: Brownswood Recordings
Release date: March 2017
Running time: 40:35