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Angel d’Cuba has never shied away from dropping everything he can into his music. A native Cuban, Angel came up in a rich musical melange where James Brown and Jackson 5 grooves mixed freely with red-hot Afro-Carribean traditions. And Angel never hesitated to add new flavors–funk, R&B, soca, samba,–to this eclectic sonic mix.

As a youth in Havana, singer/composer/multi-instrumentalist Angel d’Cuba (born Angel Luis Badell) was already exploring music from the rest of the world at the same time that he was absorbing and sharing his own rich heritage. He even got into breakdancing as a teenager. His early career on the island included work with several bands including the group formerly led by the late, great Emiliano Salvador, but by his own account, his time as lead singer with the supergroup Mezcla, which performed a broad spectrum of world music, soul, rock and jazz in addition to the more “traditional” Cuban styles, was the experience that probably had the strongest influence on his future approach to music.

Coming to Chicago (an unusual choice at the time for a Cuban performer, but Angel tells me that it was all about love) meant leaving an established, reasonably secure career to pay a new set of dues all over again, but he persisted while developing a following and attracting some of the city’s finest talent to his ensemble.