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Maraca: ?Descarga Total!

With his superb fourth album, ?Descarga Total!, Cuban flute prodigy and former Irakere member Orlando “Maraca” Valle continues to downplay his stunning virtuosity in favor of drum-tight ensemble precision. Retreating from his Latin-jazz past to embrace an infectious, rhythmically diverse strain of traditional Afro-Cuban dance music a la Cubanismo, Maraca’s giddy solo flights arrive more as succinct, expert punctuations than grand statements.

Complemented by the dynamic, soulful singing of Wilfredo Campa, Felix Valdes and Yumuri, Valle’s crack band, Otra Vision, deftly assembles myriad partial patterns of percussion, brass and piano into one unstoppable puzzle-piece groove dotted by subtle accents, shifts and the occasional knock-down solo. Whether delving into less common rhythms like pilon on “Pa Gozar Pilon,” navigating danzons like “Havana Danzon” with stately grace or colliding hard-core son with retrofitted rap on “La Pelea” the band is always in remarkable control, brilliantly reconciling instrumental flash with its dance-floor priorities.

Originally Published