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September 2008

Luis Mario Ochoa
Momentos Cubanos
Cuban Music Productions

Following the previous acclaimed releases by his nonet Cimarrón, Havana-born (and Toronto-based) guitarist, vocalist and composer Luis Mario Ochoa delivers a subtler and more jazz-tinged offering in Momentos Cubanos. With brilliant cohorts including pianist Hilario Durán, bassist Paco Luviano, Jorge “Papiosco” Torres and Luis Orbegoso (percussion) and David Virelles (pianist on the gorgeous bolero “Perla Marina”), Ochoa’s quintet shines through Cuban classics as well as originals, including a beautiful cajón-infused rendition of Peruvian composer and singer Chabuca Granda’s “Flor de la Canela.”

The leader’s emotive voice and delicate touch on nylon-string guitar make for a welcome change from the more standard fare in Latin jazz recordings, instead providing harmonic richness and rhythmical variety in an intimate setting. The powerful opening track, “El Carbonero,” takes the Cuban tradition of the pregoneros (street vendors) into the 21st century in this wonderfully re-harmonized rendition. Pianist Durán lends his masterful touch to eight of the nine tracks, with stirring solos and a wonderful balance of fiery montunos and rock-solid jazz comping.

Ochoa’s originals include a haunting guaguancó entitled “Si La Rumba Va a Empezar,” while Lecuona’s classic “Canto Siboney” appears here as a bolero/funky cha-cha, and Piloto and Vera’s timeless “Y Deja” blends a bit of samba into Cuban jazz, with Ochoa’s vocal reminiscent of a young Pablo Milanés. His and Durán’s instrumental solos here feel authentic and unassuming, and the mastering of the album overall gives the listener the impression of being up close and personal to the quintet.

Originally published in September 2008
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