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Cuban Legends: The Essential Ruben Gonzalez

Rubén González

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Album Review

Considering this otherwise commendable two-CD anthology is titled The Essential Ruben Gonzalez, it's unfortunate that the package doesn't even include what most listeners would consider essential information. Such as: when was this stuff recorded? Dates (for either the mid-'50s, 1976, or 1989) are given for most of the stuff on the second CD, but not a single year of origin is given for the 17 tracks on disc one. Too, be aware that these are not exactly Rubén González solo recordings; he didn't make his solo debut until the late '90s. Rather, these are 31 tracks, covering (says the back sleeve) "four decades of his career" — presumably, at least the mid-'50s through the mid-'80s — that the pianist recorded as part of bands at Cuba's Egrem Studios. Those bands include Orquesta América (on the '50s tracks) and (on tracks of much later vintage) Raul Plana and Orquesta Enrique Jorrin. It's a shame the documentation isn't more enlightening, but putting that aside and simply concentrating on the music, it's pretty fine Cuban cha cha (much of it with vocals), with liberal swabs of jazz and other varieties of Latin rhythms. The piano isn't always the most prominent instrument, but the swing of the up-tempo items is contagious, and the more romantically inclined numbers often have a dreaminess that usually avoids schlock. And there are some tracks that give González the spotlight, though he's often part of an ensemble here rather than being a featured soloist. With nearly two hours of music, it's a good sampling of vivacious music that hasn't been often heard outside of Cuba. But there's got to be more information available about these tracks; the liner notes offer a brief career overview, but don't even offer basic speculation as to the specific nature of either González's recording career or the material on these discs in particular.

Biography

Born: 26 May 1919 in Encrucijada, Cuba

Genre: World

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Rubén González was one of the last of Cuba's great Afro-Cuban piano players. Although he had played and recorded with the band led by Enrique Jorrín, the creator of the cha-cha, for a quarter of a century, he had retired from music by the mid-'80s. Things began to change when González recorded with the Afro-Cuban All Stars in 1996. The album, A Toda Cuba Le Gusta, released the following year, helped to inspire an international fascination for Afro-Cuban music and brought González to the attention...
Full bio
Cuban Legends: The Essential Ruben Gonzalez, Rubén González
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  • 9,99 €
  • Genres: World, Music
  • Released: 21 May 2006

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