Abrazo: The Havana Sessions

Various Artists

Ansonica Records, 2016

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/28/2016

Now here's something really unique: a double disc collection of songs by Timothy Lee Miller, Don Bowyer, Roger Bourland, John A. Carollo, Margaret Brandman, Bunny Beck, Mel Mobley, and Michael Murray that has been reworked by current and former members of the National Symphony Orchestra Of Cuba, the Buena Vista Social Club, and Irakere, among others. Not so surprisingly, a Cuban influence is brought into the equation, and much like the reconciliation of Cuba and America in 2014, the sounds here unite the previously separated countries in song. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Timothy Lee Miller's work starts the double disc off with “Hot Miami Nights” and “On An Autumn Day,” where guests from Irakere help arm the songs with a big band feel, which flows into Don Bowyer's “Bugs & Gas.” Bowyer, mostly known as being a trombonist, has that portion of his craft intact with plenty of large rhythms from the contributors.

Most of disc one is dominated by the songs of Bunny Beck, which are arranged by Juan Manuel Ceruto and highlight the elegant piano skills of Rolando Luna. Heavy on the Cuban traditions on several songs, the disc unfolds with a unique Latin jazz feel.

The second disc contains twice as many songs, many of which don't surpass even two minutes. It starts off with a five part a cappella of music by Roger Bourland, handled by Vocal Luna, a Cuban female choir. This is then followed by John A. Carollo's Burlesque,” which consists of five songs with trumpets from Sanjudo Rodriguez and guitars from Merlyn de la Caridad Corona Perez. The horn theme is then continued with “Warm Winds In Havana,” where saxophones dominate against Cuban percussion, and the French horn, trumpets, and trombones of “Coloring With Water” by Mel Mobley, which solidifies these versions as some of the best included.

The collection exits on Michael Murray's “After The Fall,” which includes poetry by Jode Kanter that pays tribute to the survivors and victims of 9/11. This eloquently illustrates how the tragedy of that day can be parlayed into the sublime and therapeutic, despite its horrific origin.

This must have been a giant project. Apparently the players all convened in Havana to record over several very long days, and producer Bob Lord clearly succeeded in highlighting the wealth of talent in Cuba as they rework American originals. Consider this a various artists album like no other you'll hear.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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