Before Afro-Cuban music was embraced by Puerto Ricans and came to be called salsa -- before Beny More, Tito Puente, Machito, Xavier Cugat and Tito Rodriguez led large dance orchestras -- Cuba was known for the trova. Playing an abundance of ballads, Cuban trovadores favored simplicity and went for small, minimalist groups. Some of the early trovadores didn't use any percussion whatsoever -- strictly guitar and vocals -- and that type of minimalism prevails on this excellent CD. Recalling the trovadores of pre-salsa Cuba, Trio Yagua consists of singer Joel Diaz and guitarists Feliz Valera and Francisco Salbon. Cuba -- The Trova was recorded in Cuba's Santiago Province in March 1997, but much of the material could have been recorded in 1927, 1937 or 1947. Diaz, a warm and expressive singer, contributed a few songs of his own to the session, but Trio Yagua's primary emphasis is on trova classics like Sindo Gray's "La Tarde," Maria Teresa Vera's "Veinte Anos" and Ernesto Lecuona's "Aquella Tarde." The composer that Trio Yagua pays the most attention to, however, is Miguel Matamoros. "Juramento," "El Beso De Tu Boca" and "Olvido" were all written by the prolific Cuban, whose Trio Matamoros was best known for "Son De La Loma." Being an effective trovadore requires a certain charm, and Diaz brings plenty of it to this heartfelt recording.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson