Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez ranks with the most innovative, versatile, and masterful drummers on the international music scene. His recording debut as a bandleader and composer -- Italuba -- accentuates this standing with every beat he plays. The title, a double-edged form for Italy and Cuba, reflects Hernandez's appreciation for both the countries and the cultures which shaped his predominant Latin fusion style that melds the steady folkloric clave with the fierce punch, snap, and grooves of today's jazz and world music genres. The record is ripe with Afro-Cuban rhythmic structures that have traveled through time and arrived at Hernandez's creative doors which he has thrown open for all to hear. Eight great songs including "Free Latin," "Tropical Madrid," and "90 Miles to Miles" offer his listeners a solid dose of rumba, danzon, mambo, and timba, in addition to his dynamic drumming skills. His free improvisations and solo on "Free Latin," is in one word, awesome! Every drum and cymbal in his kit receives a fierce workout on this song. "Tropical Madrid" is knee-deep in a funk groove while "90 Miles to Miles" assimilates fiery Latin fusion figures and beats with a wealth of cool, muted influences à la Miles Davis. Hernandez has come full circle since winning Grammy Awards for his dynamic drumming and percussive work with Crisol on Roy Hargrove'sHabana; his unforgettable performances with Carlos Santana on the guitarist's masterpiece Supernatural; his superior comping with pianist Michel Camilo on Live at the Blue Note, and with Alejandro Sanz for No Es lo Mismo. With Italuba, Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez is poised for legend-in-his-own-time status because of this extremely strong breakout as a bandleader.
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AllMusic Review by Paula Edelstein