La Timba Loca

Mas Alla de la Habana

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Relative newcomers, la Timba Loca may have recorded the most daring and important timba record of 2002. Lead by pianist and vocalist Gonzalo Grau, the group's arrangements, groove, and instrumental performance are among the best in the genre. Mainly comprised of graduates from the famed Berklee College of Music, la Timba Loca stands alongside Irakere for both their inventive stylistic mix and conservatory heritage. Their musical sophistication, perhaps thanks to the hothouse environment in which they were forged, sets them a few steps ahead of peers. Vocalists Grau and Alex Alvear hearken to great soneros gone by. The powerfully funky percussion section of Pablo Bencid, Omar Ledezma, and Ernesto Diaz creates a lush blanket of sound that both kicks and swings. These elements in communion, with a punchy, raw horn section and the occasional bizarre sample, make for a riveting record. Mas Alla de la Habana, meaning "beyond Havana," makes quite a boast. It contains so much variety and excitement the listener will delight in every track. With more virtuosic talent, carefully sculpted charts, and painfully funky breakdown sections than a sane person would count, it's a boast they make good on.

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