Angel d'Cuba's Heritage is a collection mostly of vivacious South of the Border good-times music and swingin' funky cross-collateralizations upon traditional modes carried forward to New Orleans and elsewhere. However, he's also not one to pass by a good ballad, as Hombre de Color del Barrio and Amor Anonimo attest, but I think it's the exposition of cumbia, samba, timba, and other modes that are going to cause ears to perk up. Though these are styles at once both familiar—thanks to decades of fusionists; gracias, Hermeto!—and exotic, d'Cuba manages to wrangle them to his own vision, which I suspect is why he emigrated to Chi-town. What started in teenaged break-dancing (and, man, was that ever a cool era!) has ended in a constant thirst for hybridizing anything he can lay his hands on. Nonetheless, I'm finding Al Jarreau, Milton Nacimiento, 70s soul, Gato Barbieri, Paquito D'Rivera, ranchero, Scott Martin, and many others in a blend that infects the ears the moment it starts up. Too, the recording is such that it imbues a more naturalistic atmosphere than other CDs boasting antiseptic studio refinement. Much of Heritage sounds completely natural, from a gig somewhere in a Cuban or Brazilian nightclub.
Una Samba de Chicago brings the knowledgeable listener back to the day when Airto Moreira and Flora Purim were getting Los Norte Americanos and others acclimated to the wondrous jungley sounds now bounding across borders—and one of the hippest cats of the time, Lonnie Liston Smith, was quite influenced by the tropical rhythms and ornate percussive, brass, and vocal efflorations as well. Una Samba is a marvel that makes you want to pick up a charango or cuica and join in, a swirling swingin' Mardi Gras type composition sure to fire up happy feet on Saturday night dance floors. When Steve Eisen comes gliding in with his birdflight flute…well, that's the icing on the cake, bub.
Though d'Cuba poses a daunting figure straight out of a Blade movie cut with the smiling pirate cartooned inside the liner, he'll have you head bobbing and finger-snapping in short order indeed, a convert to the cumbia, a gaucho for guaracha, and a soca sweet-stepper. Should you be a denizen of The Windy City, make your way posthaste to wherever the guy's holding court, you owe yourself the good time you're sure to have. And my fave cut of the CD? Juana la Cubana knocks me flat out and then some…and James Cornolo's Ernie Isley guitar playing in various places on the disc is a treat as well.