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Jane Bunnett: Alma de Santiago

Leave it to Canadian Jane Bunnett to continuously discover something new and beautiful in Cuba. Why not? Long before Ry Cooder created global Cuban fever with the phenomenon of the Buena Vista Social Club, this acclaimed flutist and soprano saxophonist had already been in Havana several years, interacting and recording with greats like Frank Emilio Flynn, Guillermo Barreto, Merceditas Valdes and a young Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Now she heads East to Santiago de Cuba for her latest offering, Alma de Santiago, and once again finds folkloric beauty and musical virtuosity for all to appreciate.

Santiago is renown as the birthplace of the rural son tradition as well as having some of the island nation’s richest carnival troupes. Collaborating with the old school son group Los Jubilados, a group of musicians whose trajectories date back to the late 1930s, and the carnival comparsa (troupe) Los Hoyos de Santiago, she creates spirited renditions of classics like “Son Santiaguero,” “Camaroncito Seco” and others. But it’s teaming up with the Santiago Jazz Saxophone Quartet that is a jazz lover’s delight. As rich harmonic textures and pirouetting counterpoints pour out on reworkings of “Almendra,” “La Comparsa,” “Mambo Shin Shin” and Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee,” the beauty of these soulful sounds add to a memorable journey that only a knowledgeable guide can provide.

Originally Published