Orquesta Aragón

En Route

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The venerable Orquesta Aragon has seemingly been around since the dawn of time (well, since 1939), and their influence covers many faces of Cuban music, including the popularity of the mambo in America in the '50s. But in spite of their history, they're far from a nostalgia act, as they prove with En Route, which offers a nod to the old doo wop style of rock & roll ("Guasabeando el Rock and Roll") but also takes in the present on "Cha Cuba," which includes the contributions of three young rappers. While the basis of their charanga style hasn't changed much over the years, still relying on the vocalists and front line of violins for its sound, the arrangements offer much more subtlety and freedom than their older material, keeping pace with the popularity of acts like the Buena Vista Social Club. The playing standards are, of course, impeccable throughout, whether on the cha cha, traditional son, the more countrified guaracha, or a formal danzon. These are past masters of every Cuban style, and are not afraid to show their versatility with real sparkle and flair. As an illustration of the breadth of the Orquesta's art, albums don't come any better than En Route. En route? More like arrived.

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