¡Sin Rumba no hay Son!
Without a doubt the sound of Cuban music has made its mark far beyond the island’s shores, and at the helm of its defining forms is the son. For over a century this vital Creole music has moved listeners and dancers alike, and one of the illustrious pioneers of the genre, bassist and composer Ignacio Piñeiro, was responsible for innumerable innovations along the way. His name and signature septeto are proudly carried forward with a new generation of faithful interpreters, happy to bring this joyous music to any and all who care to listen and, of course, dance. Despite the many changes to Cuba’s musical tapestry in the post-modern era, Septeto Nacional has remained firmly implanted in the roots, and for all the nostalgia created by the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon, it is this classic group that paved the way for countless others in the course of Cuban music history. With this new recording we get a clean, crisp and swinging collection of classic pieces and newer compositions, all wrapped in the beauty that is the son.
The opener “Embale tiene la llave” is a lovely tribute to one of Cuba’s unique and versatile voices, Carlos Embale, who sang with the Septeto Nacional for three decades. Other stand-out tracks are “Bella Criolla,” “Recapacita,” “La Mulata Rumbera,” “Me Dieron La Clave” and a very funky and grooving guarapachangueo-rumba in “La Rumba No Es Como Ayer,” a clear example of the inexorable link between the son and rumba that defines why this group – and its founder – were right on target in the merging and intermingling of genres from the start. The repeated refrain “La rumba no es como ayer” (rumba is not like it was in the old days) is certainly relevant to the underlying theme of Cuban music: there can be no son without rumba. Well-recorded and exquisitely played, this is an album for all lovers of sweet and gentle music. The vocal harmonies – sometimes in three parts – are expertly performed and include that undeniable “sabor.” Sprinkled in are even a few jazz standard references, including “Autumn Leaves” on the son “Mueve La Cintura.”
The current musical director and lead vocalist Eugenio “Raspa” Rodríguez is joined by veteran players such as tresero Enrique Collazo and guitarist Dagoberto Sacerio Oliva, along with special guests Bertha Portuondo (lead vocal on “La Mulata Rumbera”) and the folklore ensemble Rumberos de Cuba. If you love old-school Cuban music, you will love this recording.