There are very few groups regularly touring and recording today who show the same fidelity to, and depth of knowledge about, Cuba's folkloric African musical traditions as Clave y Guaguancó. Going far beyond the implications of their name, their 2001 release Noche de la Rumba includes styles as diverse as yambú, guarachapangueo, catumba, and of course, guaguancó. All performed with careful attention and love, each different style offers a different perspective on the dark, mysterious black Cuba from which they come. Even the straight-ahead rhumba present is performed by a musically inventive ensemble, and the traditional melodies are twisted or elusive. Unlike fellow rumberos and musical historians los Muñequitos de Matanzas, Clave y Guaguancó's players experiment with and push tradition. Guest vocalist and Cuban music legend Celeste Mendoza adds a rich, mature quality with her improvisational work. Though cacophonous at times, with up to six percussionists bearing their musical souls at once, the cohesive, ethereal quality of the chorus goes far to smoothing the roughed edges. With up-to-date sound quality, something often lacking in recordings from folkloric groups, Noche de la Rumba is an enjoyable listen. Though a difficult listen for the uninitiated, the sometimes impassioned, sometimes melancholy Clave y Guaguancó boldly carry forth their precious tradition into the next century.
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AllMusic Review by Evan C. Gutierrez