Juan Pablo Torres

Romantic Cuba

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The opening tracks of Romantic Cuba are culled from the November 1975 sessions where master trombone player Juan Pablo Torres puts his instrument down to orchestrate and direct the EGREM Orchestra in a compelling and substantial way. It's as exotic and exhilarating as the best moments of Paul Mauriat, heavy orchestration over the piano of Pedro Coto. Why this material wasn't exported to the world is the real question, significant "space age bachelor pad" music that would make Esquivel proud (though sans any of his experimentation and with none of Ferrante & Teicher's playfulness). "Cuenta Conmigo" is as invigorating as "Terrible Sueño" is stimulating, the percussive precision as no-nonsense as the guitar, piano, and strings. Marvelously inspiring track after track, these once hidden sounds recorded in San Miguel, Havana, delight in the same way that Percy Faith's "Theme from a Summer Place" and Peter Nero's "Theme from Summer of '42" are immortal memories for fans of pop radio in the early '60s and early '70s, respectively. This music made a mere four years after Nero's 1971 hit is like an undiscovered sequel. Don't expect the type of music found on the Algo Nuevo: Súper-Son/Con Todos los Hierros compilation, also released on the Malanga Music label, to show up on the first half of Romantic Cuba, which is the re-release of the orchestrated Mangle: Instrumental LP. It's the second half of the disc -- a re-release of the album Grupo Algo Nuevo -- that returns listeners to the traditional trombone-meets-percussive sounds found on Súper-Son. And in this context it works very well, the superb orchestration a not-so-odd doppelgänger to this rhythmic Cuban excursion, at times displaying a bit of what made Hugo Montenegro such a splendid moviegoing experience. The packaging is excellent, with detailed liner notes by Helio Orovio, full-color LP cover reproductions inside the booklet, and flawless sound on the CD itself. A definite treasure.

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