When Gregor Huebner launched his El Violin Latino project, it seemed innocently transnational, an opportunity for the German-born violinist to show his appreciation for (and mastery of) a wide range of Latin music: tango, bossa nova, son, charanga, and so on. With Vol. 3: Los Soñadores, however, Huebner seems less a musical tourist than a player who has become deeply involved in a musical community and its concerns.
“Los Soñadores” translates as “the Dreamers,” and indeed, the title tune addresses the impact that the fight over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has had on the lives of young Latin American immigrants to the United States. (It even boasts bilingual lyrics, to reflect the dual status of the Dreamers.) Movingly declaimed by the group’s vocalist Yumarya, the song engages our sympathy, and its politics are more human than partisan, speaking to the universal longing for security, hope, and freedom.
For the rest of Los Soñadores, Huebner moves away from the pan-American approach of the previous Violin Latino album to focus on Cuban rhythms and forms, although with an eye to how those ideas apply to jazz. The playing is not dissimilar to what the late Jerry González did with his Fort Apache Band (“Obsesión” is, in fact, dedicated to González). Huebner makes his jazz intentions plain by opening the album with John Coltrane’s “Equinox,” done as a sort of Cuban blues. In case we miss the point, there’s also a tune called “Cuban Blues.” And though Huebner does show off his chops at points, particularly on the churning “Yoruban Fantasy,” he devotes most of his efforts to staying in the groove—which he does, deeply.