Enrique Chia

La Cuba Eterna

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Cuban-American pianist Enrique Chia worked for much of his life as an engineer specializing in gold wire. He played piano on the side and developed a distinctive style, somewhere between Cuban jazz and easy listening piano, and flexible enough to be applied to almost any popular music. Chia switched to music after giving a tape to a friend who owned a record store and learning that customers were demanding to be able to buy it. Later, he remarked that he didn't get letters from people telling him how much they liked his wire. Chia has issued dozens of albums and has by no means confined himself to the classics of Cuban song and instrumental music, but this disc, drawn from a 2005 special shown on Miami Public Television, covers well-loved Cuban melodies. Chia is accompanied by a small orchestra here -- not an ideal backing for him (he often plays solo) -- and the music was apparently extracted from the television soundtrack somehow, with unspectacular results. On the other hand, Chia is a superb interpreter of Ernesto Lecuona classics like Noche Azul and La Comparsa. It's hard to pin down exactly what makes Chia's music so instantly attractive, for he doesn't do anything terribly fancy. It has something to do with his ability to maintain a very strong rhythmic sense while adding layers of ornamentation, and there's a fine balance between traditional Cuban rhythms (the program offers a maximum variety of these) and Chia's elaborations. You might pick a different disc if you've heard about Chia and want to sample his music, but if you're after an introduction to Cuban music, this may fill the bill.

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