‘A Toda Cuba Le Gusta’ the debut album by the Afro-Cuban All Stars was the first in a trilogy of extraordinary albums recorded by World Circuit in a single two-week session at Havana’s Egrem studios in 1996. The other albums, which share many of the same personnel, were ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ and ‘Introducing… Ruben Gonzalez’.
The All Stars were brought together by musical director Juan de Marcos González (who was previously the leader of the son group Sierra Maestra) as a backing band for his heroes: the legendary soneros (singers) from the 1940s and 1950s – the ‘Golden Age’ of Cuban music. González had long harboured a dream to put together a band combining the ‘old masters’ and the new generation of Cuban musicians. His meeting with World Circuit’s Nick Gold revealed a shared passion and the fuse was lit. With his contemporary arrangements and his choice of musicians and repertoire combined with the all-acoustic ensemble’s extraordinary power and exuberance he succeeds in paying homage while demonstrating the vitality of the music.
The thirteen-piece band is made up of four generations of some of Cuba’s finest musicians. The list of lead vocalists is a virtual ‘who’s who’ of the greatest Cuban soneros; the octogenarian great Pío Leyva (Estrellas de Areito) and septuagenarians Raúl Planas (Rumbavana, Celia Cruz), Manuel ‘Puntillita’ Licea (Sonora Matancera) and Ibrahim Ferrer (Pacho Alonso) are joined by rising stars from a younger generation, Antonio ‘Maceo’ Rodríguez (Sierra Maestra) and Félix Valoy (Alberto Alvarez).
To back his heroes González brought together a very special group. As pianist he coaxed the legendary Ruben Gonzalez, once of Arsenio Rodriguez great 40’s band, out of retirement. On double bass is Cuba’s finest, Orlando ‘Cachaito’ López, who learnt his trade as part of the extraordinary bass playing López dynasty which includes his father Orestes López and uncle Israel ‘Cachao’ López.
The six-piece horn section (three trumpets, two trombones, sax, flute) is made up from the Havana’s celebrated Tropicana Orchestra. The trumpet solos are by the great Manuel ‘Guajiro’ Mirabal on trumpet (Orchestra Riverside, Estrellas de Areito). The album also features guest solos from Ry Cooder on guitar ‘Alto Songo’, Orchestra Aragón’s legendary flute player,Richard Egües ‘Havana del Este’ and Barbarito Torres on laoud ‘Amor Verdadero’.
In a country renowned for its percussionists, the All Star’s six-piece section is beyond compare and includes the 13 year old phenomenon Julienne Oviedo on timbales and the great Miguel ‘Angá’ Díaz on congas.
In a celebration of the diversity of Cuban music the album’s ten songs run through a range of Cuban styles including danzón, son montuno, guaguancó, mozambique, afro, mambo and guajira.
The atmosphere at Havana’s EGREM Studios was electric. The younger musicians were playing with their heroes, the older players were inspired by the energy surrounding them, and the singers, renewing old rivalries strove to outdo one another. Visiting musicians arrived daily to crowd into the control booth to watch the proceedings as the entire recording was completed in under a week. The next day work started on the Buena Vista Social Club album.
US LIVE SHOWS:
The Hamilton Live / Washington, DC / 4th August 2018 / TICKETS
Long’s Park Ampitheater / Lancaster, PA / 5th August 2018 / TICKETS