Sometimes a narrow niche is exactly the place to be. The most notable proponent of the Cuban lute-like instrument called the laud, which descends from the Middle Eastern oud (la-oud), Barbarito Torres has found a place among the finest folkloric musicians the island has to offer. Having performed music with regionally known groups in the guajira style for a number of years before international notoriety came his way, Torres was already quite widely recorded and well-seasoned before his debut release in 1999. Havana Cafe features a number of lesser-known heroes of the son genre, including Frank Emilio Flynn, Manuel "El Guajiro" Mirabal, and Oliva Pedro Vargas. Torres' group could rival any performing today for authentic flavor, musicianship, and elegance, including Sierra Maestra, Buena Vista Social Club, or the Afro-Cuban All Stars (Torres has been a member of the latter two). It is difficult at times to find an artist who so gracefully presents the rich string tradition that exists inside the often percussion-piano crazy Cuban scene. Havana Cafe offers a delightful variety of vocalists and song selection. In a scene that is actively scrambling to make good on the doors opened by Buena Vista, there are few bandleaders as deserving of attention or esteem as Barbarito Torres.
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AllMusic Review by Evan C. Gutierrez