J.P. Torres

Cuba Swings

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Cuba Swings is the third of Juan Pablo Torres' off-and-on series of conceptual albums dealing with the popular music of his native country. After 1979's Estrellas de Areito and 1995's Super Cuban All Stars, Torres decided to salute the influence of American swing on the Cuban son with an album of ten standards. His nine-piece lineup -- spanning the 70-year-old conga player Tata Güines to the 30-year-old trumpeter Julio Padron -- translates the swing era very well, from vocalist Maria Elena Lazo's sweet version of "Autumn Leaves" to Padron's clear high-note solo on "In the Mood" to the highlight, an irresistible tribal reworking of "Rhapsody in Blue." Obviously, Torres gets plenty of solo space as well, and sounds solid throughout. All these Latinized versions of American standards comes off more like a '50s crossover record than Buena Vista Social Club, but the first-class musicianship and excellent song selection make for a catchy, fun album. Only one caveat: the sound isn't quite up to par, occasionally breaking through on some of the more powerful notes.

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