Los Van Van

Live in America

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It's an auspicious pleasure to be present for the long-awaited U.S. debut performance of Cuba's favorite dance band, thanks to this CD for the AJ label, Live in America. The energy in the room and the fire of the performance are palpable and jump out through the speakers. With the inclusion of crowd favorites like "Que le Den Candela," "Sandunguera," and the aptly named set opener, "Ya Empezó la Fiesta" (meaning "I'll start the party already"), the repertoire plays like a best-of list. Though the live sound leaves a bit to be desired, as each instrument takes its turn dominating the mix, there is much to be said for hearing this band live, an opportunity that will prove precious to North American audiences. The arrangements are extended by painfully funky percussion breakdown sections and brilliant vocal improvisation. Each tune features either a manic piano solo or incendiary timbale/drum set feature, and sometimes both. In either case, the infectious groove laid by this towering giant of Cuban music is captured in all of its glory. Los Van Van take the stage with confidence, complexity, and style as only a group with 15 years of constant touring and recording could. At long last, the U.S. audience can hear los Van Van as they were always mean to be heard, in the heat of live performance.

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