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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

JUAN DE MARCOS AFRO-CUBAN ALL STARS

By Robert Kaye
Published September 13, 2005

En Vivo Live In Japan
GlobeStar

The Next Generation
GlobeStar

Having already made his auspicious mark with the celebrated Buena Vista Social Club, Cuban producer and guitarist Juan de Marcos Gonzalez is well ensconced in Cuba's near-mythical music scene. The Afro-Cuban All Stars is a 17-piece Latin Jazz ensemble, well respected for its superlative performances of this dynamic genre. American audiences, due to current reactionary immigration restrictions, are unable to witness this group in concert; making En Vivo an even more important documentation of the caliber of talent percolating below the Keys. En Vivo is a double album guaranteed to satiate even the most voracious of appetites for stellar Latin Jazz performances. Standout tracks include "Tanga" by Maurio Bauza and Chico O'Farrill and the two encore numbers, "Maria Caracoles" and "Chan Chan." The Next Generation shows off Cuba?Js gifted young musicians who are now in their teens and 20s?Imany honed their chops while listening to icons Ruben Gonzalez and Ibrahim Ferrer. There is an obvious nod to modern influences -- "On The Road Again" is a mid-tempo ballad sung in French and English. "Elube Chango," an absolute masterpiece, is a kicking, predominately funk-flavored arrangement of a folkloric Orisha ode. Still, most of the songs are anchored to producer Juan de Marcos' deep understanding and utilization of the traditional Cuban son. Fans of newer genres, like timba, may find both albums periodically provincial. That notwithstanding, both albums are imported masterpieces of authentic Afro-Cubano jazz, worthy of celebration.