Ry Cooder must have had little idea about the friendly monster he was about to create a few years ago when he hopped on a plane to Cuba. All he knew was that, at the behest of British world music champion Nick Gold, and through circuitous circumstances, Cooder wound up recording a group of long-dormant and long-unheard greats from the Cuban son tradition. He knew that the resulting project, the Buena Vista Social Club, was one of the most meaningful encounters in his long, varied musical life. Before long, it was also an album and a phenom of global proportions.
If Cooder was an important catalyst of the son revival, the scene has quickly grown wings of its own volition by now. One of the principle finds of the first Cooder visit was the veteran pianist Ruben Gonzalez, whose style weaves Cuban musical heritage, jazz flourishes, and other elements into a steamy brew all his own. On Chanchullo, Gonzalez continues doing what he knows best, pulling out tunes from his generous repertoire and showing more of the organically potent stuff heard on that initial album. It was recorded in the humble, historic confines of the Egrem studios in Havana, and the palpable room sound contributes to the recording's earthy ambiance. As with his earlier Introducing... Ruben Gonzalez, you can't help but fall under its seductive sway and unspoiled energy.