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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

Bola De Nieve

By Michael Stone
Published March 16, 2007

Música Original de Cuba
Empire/Universal 818


Cuban popular music history resonates with the enveloping influence of singer/pianist/composer Bola de Nieve (“Snowball,” a.k.a. Ignacio Villa, 1911-1971), whose poignant interpretations of Cuban folk and mambo classics, including his own creations, know no parallel. Villa has enjoyed something of a revival of late, due in part to eminent Cuban director Fernando Pérez’s inspired decision to rely entirely on Villa’s work for the soundtrack of his celebrated 1998 film, La vida es silbar, a whimsical yet critical take on the revolution. An articulate, classically inflected keyboard style, an intensely dramatic vocal signature and a suave, thoroughly cosmopolitan perspective made Villa the toast of the Americas, Europe and the Soviet Union. Presenting 17 tracks from his definitive 1959 Havana session with Sonotone (Villa’s inaugural label), this title confirms the impeccable solo work, incisive sense of musical dynamics, songwriting talents and forthright humanity of a consummate artist in his idiosyncratic prime.