Carlos Placeres

A los Ancestros

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This is a beautiful production of non-purist Cuban music. Living in Montréal, singer/guitarist Carlos Placeres has teamed with Québec musicians, stating they are more flexible and open to unorthodox ideas. Unorthodox they are, but still very respectful of tradition and easy to grasp. A man of eclectic tastes, Placeres borrows from jazz, West African folk, and even pop music to cross-pollinate his rhumbas, boleros, sons, and danzons. Central to this album is his voice: warm, inviting, seductive, and at the same time supple and precise. His guitar playing is less impressive, but it remains confined to an accompanying role; so does the piano. The saxophones and flute of Guillaume Adan take care of most of the solos and group punches (overdubbed once). Bassist Sylvain Lafrance, drummer Kullak Viger Rojas, and percussionist André Martin form an infectious rhythm section. "El Tema" opens the disc with an irresistible call to dance. The "Rumba en el Solar" is among the most conventional tracks of the album -- and works out very well that way -- while "Ancestros," despite its title, includes a heretic swinging finale. "Bolero Recuerdo" and "Manantial" provide the other highlights of the set. On the other hand, whenever Placeres tries to adopt a crooner attitude, he misses the target (especially in "El Zunzún," which is yawn inducing). But these rare moments aside, A los Ancestros offers a very satisfying platter of Cuban songs, modern while staying true to traditional forms and instrumentation. Recommended.

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