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Nachito Herrera: Bembe en Mi Casa

Nachito Herrera is from Cuba, where he received an extensive classical music education. He also studied traditional Cuban music with masters like Chucho Valdes and Ruben Gonzalez. Herrera is now based in Minneapolis, and Bembe En Mi Casa is his recording debut as a leader. If it is not exactly a concept CD, it is an album with a plan: to create a “sampler” of important Cuban rhythms and styles, updated with “contemporary” pop/jazz/fusion elements. The 11 tracks acknowledge such sources as bolero, pilon, guaracha, bembe and cha-cha.

The music is executed with technical skill and wild enthusiasm. As a pianist, Herrera is beyond bombastic, and his sweeping flourishes and machine-gun runs become predictable. But he has the chops to do exactly what he wants–which seem to be hammering you into submission. The blaring intensity of this music is so unrelieved that its excitement begins to dissipate after a couple of tracks. For all of its musicianship and sincerity and “contemporary” updates, it also sounds generic. To continue to heap on praise, the recorded sound is harsh and two-dimensional.

If they didn’t live in the coldest large city in America, it would be tempting to tell these cats to chill out a little.

Originally Published