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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

JUAN-CARLOS FORMELL

By Tom Pryor
Published September 22, 2005

Cemeteries And Desire
Narada

For those who don’t yet know Juan-Carlos Formell, allow me to introduce you. The Cuban-born singer/songwriter is a fourth-generation musician with an impressive pedigree: he’s the son of Los Van Van founder Juan Formell, and the grandson of Francisco Formell, the arranger for the
great Ernesto Lucuona, and the great-grandson of a bandleader in Santiago de Cuba. But he’s also an impressive talent in his own right, who made quite a splash with his gorgeous and visionary 2002 release Las Calles Del Paraiso. But while most of his compatriots stick to the flash of timba or the rumble of rumba, Formell isn’t afraid to follow a quieter muse, reviving the bossa-nova like filin (or “feeling”) sound. On his latest release, Cemeteries And Desire, Formell takes on the myth and romance of New Orleans with just a lone guitar and his impressionistic lyrics. The result is a moody, reflective take on the Big Easy. Filled with an exile’s longing (Formell escaped Cuba in 1993) and a romantic’s heartbreak, Cemeteries And Desire reconnects New Orleans to her Caribbean roots, all without banging a single drum.