Various Artists

Cuba: I Am Time

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For such a small island, Cuba has had an enormous musical impact both inside and outside of Latin America. Salsa is the music of choice among Cubans and Puerto Ricans, and Afro-Cuban music has influenced everyone from American jazz players to Dominican merengue artists to Spanish nuevo flamenco stars. A four-CD box set, Cuba: I Am Time spotlights Cuban artists past and present. Ranging from tribal-type chanting inspired by Santeria and the Yoruba faith to dance bands to modern Afro-Cuban jazz, this package shows us what a wealth of music the island has provided. Disc One focuses largely on traditional sounds that are closely related to African tribal music, and material by Pancho Quinto, El Clave y Guaguanco, and others consists of only percussion and vocals. Meanwhile, large and small bands playing son, mambo, guaguanco and other styles that make up salsa are the focus of Discs Two and Three, which boast classics by such greats as Beny More, Miguelito Cuni, Merceditas Valdes, and Tito Gomes. And finally, Disc Four illustrates the ways in which Mario Bauza, Cachao, Irakere, Chico O'Farrill, and others have successfully fused improvisatory jazz with Afro-Cuban music. Regrettably, the set's 111-page booklet fails to list recording dates, though it does boast an extremely informative essay. This set would be too much for casual listeners, but those with a deeper interest in Afro-Cuban music will find it a gold mine.

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