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Bill Laswell: Imaginary Cuba: Deconstructing Havana

Bill Laswell: bassist, situationist, music lover with a dreamer’s vision, or appropriationist/opportunist? Detractors have made the case for the latter, but for some of us, the aim is true, and broad. He seems obsessed with the idea of alluding to and borrowing from traditions around the world-and the block-and reshaping those found impulses into something fresh, even if inchoate, searching for closure. He is, in a sense, the perfect post-ambient musician, creating atmospheric works less about neat conclusions and narcissistic solos than they are about open-ended ideas.

So it goes with the quixotic brew he calls Imaginary Cuba: Deconstructing Havana (Wicklow 09026-63514; 57:17), its pieces culled from sessions with musicians such as singer Raul Planas, pianist Frank Emilio, Clave y Guaguanco, and percussionist Tata Guines. Just as he recently burrowed into the Columbia vaults and carefully pieced together pieces from Miles Davis’ electric era into pastiches, here, Laswell takes recordings and jams from Cuba and stitches them together in a dream tapestry that is, at once, vivid and vague, like a pleasant dream in which the rhythm never quits, even when the musical structure remains aloof. You are there…and yet you’re somewhere else entirely.

Originally Published