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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

Juan-Carlos Formell

By Michael Stone
Published April 24, 2007

Son Radical
Narada

Juan-Carlos Formell was born of Cuban musical royalty; his father Juan founded Los Van Van, arguably Cuba’s most popular combo, while his grandfather Francisco conducted the Havana Philharmonic and arranged for the legendary Ernesto Lecuona. The younger Formell expatriated in 1993, and since his Grammy-nominated Songs From A Little Blue House (1999), Formell’s idiosyncratic interpretation of the Cuban nueva trova tradition has always looked beyond the limited musical horizons of his upbringing. Rounding out the trio are drummer Jimmy Branly and bassist Carlitos del Puerto. Recorded at Branly’s home studio, Son Radical offers an engaging meld of Cuban trova, son and Afro-Cuban roots (“Papa Karo,” “Congo É” and “Elegía,” with text by Nicolás Guillén), rock en clave (“Yanbando,” “Penetración del viento,” and “Insurreción”) and minimalist Latin influences, often with a critical political edge (“Control, Control” and “Testamento,” with lyrics by José Martí). More than anything, however, this is music of a Cuba yet to come.