Cuban music: albums for the summer

A new documentary on Cuban group Buena Vista Social Club is yet another testament to the timeless appeal of classical Cuban music. To capitalize on the renewed interest that the film could generate, World Circuit, the label which released the original Buena Vista album in 1997, is reissuing Presentation by… Ruben González, the international solo debut of the pianist Buena Vista. It will be released on vinyl and CD on June 16.

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González, who starred with cha-cha-cha creator Enrique Jorrín and Afro-Cuban pioneer Arsenio Rodríguez in his early days, made a comeback with the Afro Cuban All Stars before being cast by Ry Cooder for Buena Vista. The All Stars, led by man from Buena Vista A&R and musical director Juan de Marcos González, also have a notable new album. Absolutely Live II – Viva Mexico finds the band in fantastic form, layering timeless big band threads with the sound of contemporary Havana jazz.

It’s not just the veterans of Buena Vista who can be heard doing something new. Here are five more Cuban albums ready for the summer to listen to right now.

Voice sampling, Sampling Así

Vocal Sampling has wowed crowds for a while with its incredible ability to mimic instruments with their vocals and what they call their “visual parody” of playing musicians, in performances that are sheer fun to experience. The group’s latest album just won the Cubadisco 2017 award for vocal and choral music. As always, Sampling has included some Cuban classics; “El Carretero”, “Dos Gardenias” and “Veinte Años”, all recorded by the Buena Vista Social Club, are among the 14 tracks. And if you’ve always wanted to hear “Blowin ‘in the Wind” sung in English with a Cuban accent, now you can.

Dayme Arocena, Cubafonia

The infinite power of the Afro-Cuban ritual animates the latest addition to the remarkable young Cuban singer Dayme Arocena, Cubafonia. On this succulent recording produced by Gilles Peterson, Arocena not only represents rumba, she continues Cuba’s long-standing love story with jazz and funk.

Luis Bofill, Arsenio Essential

Singer Luis Bofill has the kind of voice that calls for a good time. The Cuban native is a Miami nightlife institution known for his classic bolero styles, vigorous laughter, and all-night enthusiasm. It covers songs made famous by Arsenio Rodríguez on his latest dance-ready solo album.

San Miguel, A Poquito de Amor every day

32-year-old Cuban player San Miguel brings the infectious spirit and everyday lyrics of traditional Cuban sound to music with a pop appeal. On the title track of his solo debut, he performs a bilingual duet with Colin Hay of Men at Work, who co-produced the new album.

Guillaume Borrego, Acerca del Oido

Handsome Cuban crooner William Borrego won the Cuban Traditional Music category at Cubadisco 2017 with his album of beautifully orchestrated old-fashioned romantic tunes. The track list includes “Tu Me Sabes Comprender”, “Vida Consentida” and the iconic “Hoy Como Ayer” (“Today like yesterday”).