Luis Mario Ochoa: Forever Lecuona

This recording – Forever Lecuona – is a glorious tribute to the great 19th century Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona – glorious because of the performance of its principal artist – Luis Mario Ochoa, a Cuban-Canadian steeped in the nuanced emotions and magic of Mr Lecuona’s music, which ranges from the bravura of the contradanza and criolla;  the gilded elegance of every son, danzón and Sevillana from the composer’s mighty pen. Luis Mario is an exceptionally brilliant guitarist and a singer possessed not only of an incredible vocal range, but the gift of using it to dig into the very emotion and meaning of words and phrases.

Album cover - Luis Mario Ochoa: Forever Lecuona
Album cover – Luis Mario Ochoa: Forever Lecuona – Photo credit: Manuel Buznego

Moreover, the vocalist has a golden vibrato that when employed twists nuanced feelings hidden in the lyric of son and danzón. In doing just so to perfection, Luis Mario makes the joys of a word or two bounce with effervescence, or ‘cry’ tremulously with elemental sadness – a perfect way to describe the words of Mr Lecuona and the great Cuban poet José Martí [on “Una Rosa Blanca”].

Luis Mario is also a magnificent guitarist – up in the rarefied realm with other great guitarists from South America and the Caribbean. This is a rather uncommon phenomenon – coming as it does from Cuba, a country better known for its pianists and percussionists. In fact  – listening to the marvelous manner in which Luis Mario plays throughout [but mainly on] Mr Lecuona’s “Three Afro Cuban Dances” one might suggest that Luis Mario is not really that far from achieving what the legendary Cuban guitarist Leo Brouwer has achieved on the instrument. Put that together with the outstanding vocals on the repertoire of Forever Lecuona and you have an album to die for.

The album also features a treasure-trove of Canadian musicians – originating from Cuba, Perú, El Salvador. The genius of pianist Hilario Durán is omnipresent – both in the almost impetuous virtuosity of his pianism, but also in his fine arrangements [he shares arranging duties with Luis Mario, who is responsible for the other half of the songs]. The prodigious gifts of percussion colourist, arranger and vocalist Luis “Luisito” Orbegoso are another reason why these songs are aglow with gem-like brilliance. The three bassists, Louis Simão, Roberto Riverón, as well as Jonathan Amador all caress each harmonic variation with the deep velvet of every one of their luscious rhythmic forays into the songs.

Thus these musicians enhance the melodic and harmonic sheen  for the proverbial rhythmic wall, scaled only by the drummer Amhed Mitchel and percussionists-extraordinaire Rosendo “Chendy” León, Jorge Luis Torres “Papiosco” and Raimundo Sosa, who play congas and bàtá respectively, and caressing the skin of their drums as if seducing a dancing partner to wax eloquent on the dance-floor. There will, no doubt, be many other tributes to Mr Lecuona – including in his beloved homeland, Cuba. But Forever Lecuona by the incomparable Luis Mario Ochoa will be remembered for its exceptional interpretations of [Mr Lecuona’s] music in a performance equal to the stature of its honoree.

Track list – 1: La Mulata Chancletera; 2: Como Arrullo de Palma; 3: María La O; 4: Siempre En Mi Corazón; 5: Para Vigo Me Voy; 6: Una Rosa Blanca; 7: Three Afro Cuban Dances – i- Y la negra bailaba; ii – la comparsa; iii – danza lucumi; 8: Damisela Encantadora.

Musicians – Luis Mario Ochoa: vocals, guitar, bandleader, and arranger [3, 5, 9, 10]; Hilario Durán: piano, and arranger 1, 2, 4, 6, 7{ i, ii}]; Luis “Luisito” Orbegoso: percussion [1, 2, 4, 7 {i}], chorus [1 – 8], and cajón [8]; Louis Simão: bass [2 – 4, 8], and chorus [10]; Roberto Riverón: bass [1, 7 {i, ii}], and chorus [1]; Jonathan Amador: bass [5]; Rosendo “Chendy” León: timbale [1, 2, 5, 7{i}]; drums [5] and castanets [8]; Amhed Mitchel: drums [1, 3, 4, 7 {ii}, 8], and chorus [1]; Jorge Luis Torres “Papiosco”: congas [1, 5, 7{i}]; Raimundo Sosa: bàtá [2]

Released – 2022
Label – Cuban Music Productions [LMOCD4]
Runtime – 46:18

Featured photo of Luis Mario Ochoa by Manuel Buznego

Raul Da Gama
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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