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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

RY COODER/ MANUEL GALBÁN

By MARIE ELSIE ST. LÉGER
Published April 7, 2006

Mambo Sinuendo
Nonesuch

Hints of cigar-smoke-filled clubs and roulette wheels forecasting gamblers’ dooms color Mambo Sinuendo, Cooder’s latest dive into the Afro-Cuban rhythms that haunt him. He enlists the aid of Buena Vista Social Club veteran Manuel Galbán, the guitarist and arranger for the Cuban doo-wop group Los Zafiros. Make no mistake, though: Mambo Sinuendo is no Buena Vista recast. Using electric guitars rather than the traditional three-stringed très to anchor the sextet, Cooder/Galbán and their sextet break away from the recent past, reinterpreting the soundtrack provided by the likes of Perez Prado (the King of Mambo) during the pre-Castro era. “Echale Salsita” (on which Galbán quotes “Guantanamera,” ironically) and “Druu Me Negrita” were typical of the mambo-crazy ’50s. But the pair reaches even further: Cooder introduces Galbán to “Secret Love,” the teenage torch song, which they turn into slow late-night regret; Galbán gives “Patricia,” the Prado standard once covered by Galbán’s hero, pioneering rock guitarist Duane Eddy, a spin even the twanger couldn’t have imagined, surprising his collaborator. And us.