Cooder & Manuel Galbán
label: Nonesuch Records
our score: 5.0 out of 5.0
Master of the
slide guitar, Ry Cooder has tackled genres from blues, tex-mex,
Hawaiian, Dixieland, folk, R&B, and in the past few years, he
opened the gates of Cuba's rich musical history with the Buena Vista
In 1996, Cooder
traveled to Havana to assemble some of the best musicians Cuba had
to offer. Since the rise of Fidel Castro, many of these artists
had been pushed out of their prominent positions in cultural Cuba,
but with the release of the recording in America, the musicians
of Buena Vista gained across-the-board critical acclaim and out-sold
all of Cooder's previous project to date.
Sinuendo, Cooder brings us back to the 1950s - when popular
Cuban music began to show hints of American jazz and pop while
the cha-cha and mambo-jazz sounds spread like wildfire among artists
like Perez Prado, Stan Kenton and Henry Mancini.
with Havana doo-wop guitarist and arranger Manuel Galbán
of the famed Los Zafiros (and two of the Buena Vista side-projects),
the two set out to recreate the 50s atmosphere with a Cuban electric-guitar
band comprised of two guitars, two drum sets, a bass, and congas.
are a familiar fare for Cooder, the Buena Vista Social Club's Orlando
"Cachaíto" López plays the upright, Miguel
"Angá" Díaz plays the congas, and Cooder's
son Joachim, joins in on percussion.
When working with Buena Vista, Cooder saw an imaginative spark in
Dalban that most Cuban traditional musicians steered clear of saying,
"If you asked [most Cuban traditionalists], 'How would Lenny
Tristano play Danzon,' most anyone would tell you that Lenny died
so they have no idea, and so on. But Galban enjoys this kind of
thinking, and it's how we were able to invent a context for this
The result is
clearly shown in the introduction of the album with "Drume
Negrita," a track that pulls you in with a simple conga beat,
then slowly adds the layers of upright bass and the themed space-aged
50s guitar to place you on the sun-soaked beaches of Havana while
classic tail-finned Chevy's drive by in the summer heat.
rhythm "Los Twangueros" gets your hips to shake side to
side upon the first beat as a surf guitar floats over altering rhythms
that bounce between the wall of congas and vibraphone.
intro played by Cooder on "Caballo Viejo" blends into
a cut-up of blues meets traditional styling while Galbán
tip-toes around the melody adding accents hidden below the traditional
Simon Diaz song.
A newly composed track for the sessions, the title cut "Mambo
Sinuendo" shuffles around a customary beginning then blends
into a more up-to-date musical pop sense that wouldn't have been
explored by earlier Mambo-jazz trendsetters like Perez Prado (whose
song "Patricia" is also on the album) and Henry Mancini.
simplistic guitar work between both artists is accentuated by the
lonesome and wistful playing on Fain and Webster's "Secret
Love" (the only American written song on the album). With slight
accents by López on bass, the two circle around one another's
sound hinting at chords and trading off solos until drifting off
"Bolero Sonámbulo," a piano player (not mentioned
in the liner notes) moves elegantly across the keys while the signature
slide guitar of the album grunts in moving slyly across the song
until both intertwine and agree to meet somewhere in the middle.
Finishing off the album, "Mar?a La O" sums up the album
perfectly with a somewhat surf-guitar beginning and stems off into
the mellow visions and beats of the island once again. With frequent
beat stops and a slew of rhythm accents, Cooder's guitar work effortlessly
winds around while he and Galbán switch off lead and complement
each other's work flawlessly.
work with Buena Vista spotlighted the traditional sound of the island,
Cooder kept hearing sounds that brought him back to Havana. Beside
Galbán, Cooder has found a rich tradition in Cuban music
that had faded away with the Bay of Pigs in the 60s only to revitalize
the sound and make it their own with such a wonderful nostalgic
11-Feb-2003 12:00 PM
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