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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

Mayra Casales

By Doug Merlino
Published January 24, 2008

Woman on Fire
Afrasia Productions

Cuban-born percussionist Mayra Casales—perhaps most well-known for her work with jazz violinist Regina Carter—here ably leads her own band through an impressive Latin jazz set that’s steeped in Cuban rhythms. She propels most of the songs with her congas and timbales, but two of the most affecting are the ballads “Si Tu Me Vieras Hoy” and “For All We Know,” which pairs Casales's vocals with only piano accompaniment. Regina Carter guests on “Pipo” and delivers a standout violin solo, while Jon Lucien (on one of his last recorded performances before he passed away in August) layers guitar and rumbling vocals over the swaying rhythm of “Xiomara.” Further on, Carmen Lundy guests in fine voice on “Take The Time” (cowritten with Casales)—a well-crafted counterpoint to the more up-tempo songs such as “Rush Hour,” “La Vida” and the blistering title track, all of which allow Casales to display her formidable chops. With this solid debut, Casales has established herself as a leader to watch for in Latin jazz.